Reflection: Dirty Kitchens

By Mary C. Garvey, MS

I dislike cleaning. There are so many things I’d rather do – binge watch This Is Us, read, play volleyball, lay on a beach, nap…But I clean, and regularly so, because my desire for a clean and comfortable living space trumps my momentary dislike.

At The Dalton School’s 9th Annual From Diversity to Community Conference that I recently attended in New York City, Professor Jerry Kang likened equity and inclusion work – specifically the treatment of bias – to that of cleaning one’s kitchen. He prompted us to always ask, “Is the kitchen clean?”. Professor Kang further noted that even if you cleaned the kitchen yesterday, it may very well be dirty again today. As a result, methods, policies, and procedures need to be put in place so that cleaning happens regularly as we anticipate that the kitchen will soon be dirty again.

One such method of keeping the kitchen clean or tackling inherent and/or common bias is to develop a pre-commitment strategy. Professor Kang used the analogy of Ulysses and the song of the sirens to demonstrate this strategy. Knowing that he would pass by an area with the enchanting but deadly song of sirens on his way home, he prepared his men by filling their ears with wax and himself by being tied to the ship’s mast. Having been warned of the danger, this was Ulysses’ pre-commitment strategy. He and his men survived.

Professor Kang’s analogy begs the question: Do you have inherent biases or equity blind spots, internally or externally, that threaten to dirty your kitchen? What pre-commitment strategies can you put in place to tackle these issues and be more mission-driven?

Over the last two years, ICS has significantly increased our attention to equity and inclusion, both programmatically and internally. Our Equity and Inclusion Initiative includes both specific projects focused on these goals as well as a commitment to these principles across our work.
With a mission focused on the success of ALL young children, ICS understands that:
1) Systemically marginalized populations often require different and consistently informed approaches in order to reach a place of equity.
2) Seeking out and including the voices of these populations are necessary steps in early childhood research and policy work.
3) When parents, grandparents, guardians, and other caretakers are doing well, the young children they support will be better equipped to thrive.
4) Committing to inclusive and equitable internal operations fosters an environment through which ICS can serve authentically and with integrity, maximizing and sustaining our impact.

There is no shame in a kitchen that gets dirty, only in one that we don’t clean.

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