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8. The Death of DEI
  • Writer's pictureAntonio Da Veiga Rocha

Take a Toddler to Work!

Would it be strange to have a university level class for directors, supervisors, managers, and other individuals of leadership positions, on toddlers and how they attend to their surroundings? I often humor my workshop participants with such a scenario. Are there tools we can pull from their behaviors? We here at KSCC tend to think so. In fact, all the Diversity and Equity references we champion can be found in the natural behaviors of toddlers. Something we find quite interesting!

In a toddler’s daily go-abouts, you won’t find culturally constructed behaviors on race, sexism, homophobia, bigotry, fear, irreverence, hate, calculated ignorance, and all those other ingredients that unfortunately make some of our social sites toxic. For these young citizens such landscapes are spaces of wonder and exploration; they are playgrounds of serious play.

Toddlers are intrigued about what sets one thing apart from the other, and they explore such sensations not so they can build up their levels of fear (that which holds many of us from exploring), but to build understanding. And what is further amazing is that toddlers do this through a checklist that organically arranges itself in their minds.

Worthwhile Characteristics.

We all generate mental checklists to move through our environments, it's kind of hot-wired into our thinking patterns. At the beginning of our life journeys we do this more organically, but as we shift into adulthood we begin to construct and edit such lists, inevitably moving away from what we did as toddlers. Some of this shift is warranted, but still, there are bullet points we can take away from these young masters that would serve us quite well in adulthood and in leadership. Here are three we selected below.

1. Toddlers don’t ignore their list. Interestingly, toddlers truly look at their checklist as a list that needs to be checked off. Just as important as checking the items on the list is how they move through them, with full sensation and with no reservation, constantly building their knowledge base of differences.

2. Emotion guides their prioritization. Essentially, the first items explored are usually the brightest, biggest, and most out-of-place things - the most attractive. They are those elements that create the strongest chemical reactions in the body. As we get older, we become more aware of the things that surround us, yet our natural chemical responses to differences don’t go away. Regardless of our age we are all still attracted to the biggest, brightest, and most out-of-place things in our environments. What we do as adults though is minimize such stimuli so as to maintain a sense of control over our spaces. This interrupts the learning possibility and the learning potential, something that toddlers don’t allow to stand in their way.

3. An instinct of kinship. Toddlers, when together and exploring each other for the first time, show their interest for differences openly. They express and explore such stages by using all their senses, touching, smelling, speaking, etc. They are vulnerable at such times, which is a needed stage when learning and absorbing lessons on differences. Such organic states, that included openness and willingness, allows toddlers to move past interferences that stand in our adult way, to move right onto the other sphere, the world of kinship.

To Play is to Grow

These are just some of the lessons that toddlers give us. The organic checklist, and its attention to the environment, is something that unfortunately diminishes over time. This is truly an inopportune event. As we get older we generate these checklists more out of fear and self-perseverance, when we should be building them out of curiosity and exploration, attending to the Play side of our intrigue. The playground can - and should - still be present in the adult learner, and especially for the adult leader.


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