A couple of weeks ago I read that the city of Tucson was banning Shakespeare’s The Tempest in its schools. This piqued my interest on two levels. First because I went to graduate School at the University of Arizona in Tucson. And second because The Tempest is one of my favorite Shakespeare plays.
The reason cited was that some teachers were using The Tempest as a way of introducing ethnic studies and multiculturalism into the classroom. Seems that folks in Arizona are very worried if other cultures are presented as having equal validity as that of White middle America. All ethnic and multicultural studies are prohibited in the Tucson classroom.
I once took an ethnics studies course in College. It was required and I thought it would be a waste of time. That it would be trash talking about western European ideals, genocide, and many things I would find uncomfortable. I’m sure this is the same fears Arizonans have. Instead it was one of the most fascinating and memorable classes I ever took. We read The Autobiography of Malcolm X which gave me a very different perspective on the civil rights movement. We studied per-Colombian history and I came to appreciate the accomplishments of the first American Societies. Rather than challenging my own cultural identity, it gave me a broader context to understand who I am and why the cultural I grew up in exists.
It also gave me a greater appreciation of multiculturalism. Multiculturalism is one of the many reasons I love doing startups. When working at Nortel most of the people around were just like me. White, middle class, looking for the safe and secure path. In startups I’ve found a much more multicultural environment. We noted at Distil that most of our employees were immigrants. While I don’t know the reason for this, we hypothesized that immigrants were more likely to embrace risk. They have left their country of birth and are creating a new life in a foreign land. Compared to that what is the risk of taking a job with a small startup that could fail?
Personally I embrace multiculturalism. I love the diversity of views and culture in the work place. If we take a narrow view, if we don’t want to learn about other points of view, I think we are missing one of the great opportunities life affords. I hope that others embrace this point of view in their work place. Rather than banning The Tempest as the city of Tucson has done, we should embrace it in our lives and our workplace.