Brunswick resident Heather D. Martin wants to know what’s on your mind; email her at

The Legislature’s Education and Cultural Affairs Committee is debating several bills. Among them is LD 618, “An Act to Eliminate Critical Race Theory, Social and Emotional Learning and Diversity, Equity and Inclusion from School Curricula.”

It is quite a perplexing bill.

First, Critical Race Theory is a deeply complex and nuanced theorem taught at the college and graduate level. CRT is not the basic, ethnically sensitive programming seen in K-12. I think when people complain about CRT, what they actually mean is “history.” And I get it, it makes me uncomfortable, too. But not talking about it doesn’t make it go away.

As for Socio-Emotional Learning, defined by the national nonprofit  Committee for Children as “the process of developing the self-awareness, self-control, and interpersonal skills that are vital for school, work and life success,” it is nothing more than a new phrase for the age-old work of teaching kids how to get along. Why would we want to ban that?

Which leaves Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. I think the issue here boils down to folks maybe not understanding what DEI is, or what it looks like, which is ironic because it’s exactly what the name implies. The reality is we are diverse, there should be equity and everyone should feel included. Everyone. DEI work makes sure that the reality of our diverse community is represented in the decisions being made, that decisions are equitable, and that everyone is included. Because we are not (yet) a perfect world, learning how to make situations equitable is not always easy. Schools are natural places to practice.

Getting to fairness can be frightening.  Making change is fraught with potential mistakes, mistakes that are tied to massive cultural messages and judgments about who we are at our core. No one wants to get it wrong, or to be “canceled.” Therefore, some of us would rather not try. But that is not a viable option.


As I was stewing on this, understanding exactly why this issue had me so upset, I realized it’s because I myself have failed at it. And it was painful.

I talk a good game about failure as an essential part of growth and learning, and I believe it. I support it in others, and I am aware of it in myself. Nevertheless, it does not feel good when you’re in the middle of it. It feels like shame.

In my case, I was doing a big job I loved that came with a title that I thought I understood. I was the person “in charge,” and I was very, very focused on doing it right.

Which is what led to me doing it very, very wrong.

The reality is, to actually do the work of DEI, we have to abandon the ways we were taught things work. We must relinquish control and decentralize power. All decisions need to belong to the group, and that is both messy and scary.

To attempt DEI within a hierarchical system with centralized authority is like trying to make cake with the ingredients for tuna casserole. The process is the product. Therefore, if the process itself is not diversified, equitable and inclusive, the product simply can’t be.

Of course, in schools, the adults sometimes have to make decisions. DEI teaches us how to make that a part of the group agreement.

I learned, the hard way, that even with the best of all intentions, you can still get it wrong. I also learned that in that moment, what matters is what you do next. You can build a wall against it, or you can take stock of lessons learned, make yourself some tea, and get back to work and try to do better.

We all have the capacity to get it wrong. We also have the capacity to learn and try again. What we don’t have is the luxury to pretend the work is not before us.

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