SHAPE America: Diversity Inclusion Equity

Preface: I support SHAPE America. I am a part of SHAPE America. This should be read with a critical lens not a negative one. Our organization is making strides in the right direction. This brings me hope and joy.

SHAPE America is THE national organization for Health and Physical Education Teachers.

“We provide programs, resources, and advocacy to support health and physical educators at every level, from preschool to university graduate programs.”

The organization is very interested in diversity, inclusion, and equity. I approach this initiative with some hesitation. The reason for this is that people have been fighting this fight for at least 20 years! There was mostly silence from them. I was at the national convention in Boston where they placed a social justice 6-hour panel on the far side of the hotel. There was not a representative there to even greet the presenters. It was apparent that no thought or effort went into supporting the speakers.

SHAPE America did not seem to want to challenge the white, cisgendered, hetero, patriarchal culture in the past. This may be changing. The CEO is a woman (first woman CEO of SHAPE I believe) and the President is an openly gay woman. It still puzzles me that we (I am a member of SHAPE) have not embraced the LGBTQIA community when we have so many members from it. I know sexuality is still taboo in some areas. This makes it even more important for the organization to be explicit in its support of the community.

Look at the vision and mission of our organization:

Our Vision

A nation where all children are prepared to lead healthy, physically active lives.

Our Mission

To advance professional practice and promote research related to health and physical education, physical activity, dance and sport.

You will not find a broader less defined vision and mission out there. Dillon Landi pointed out that there is nothing about diversity, equity, or inclusion in either the vision or mission. Where does it address diversity, inclusion, and equity? This push cannot be something that is a checkbox or a one year mission. This must be an ongoing journey that never ends. That means major changes must be made. SHAPE has been notoriously slow-moving on everything in its history. School is funneling students into prison and SHAPE has to figure out if the comma should go before or after the phrase. The red tape of an organization is hard to cut through. Most of the time it is necessary in order to ensure quality products and resources are created. Other times it just allows the system to bury anything that challenges the white, cisgendered, hetero, patriarchal, wealthy culture. It will drag its feet waiting years to act on anything. By that time either someone has created that resource or they have successfully buried that idea into the ground.

SHAPE has created a diversity, inclusion, equity Voxer group and already has special interest groups you can join when you become a member. I joined the special interest groups but have no idea what they are or what they do. I don’t receive emails nor have I saw any evidence that they have produced anything. I may be wrong and if people do show me that I will update this with the appropriate evidence showing that. I personally know that I have never been contacted about these groups and I have checked them off in my profile.

Some people want to majorly disrupt the sytem. They see there are problems from the vision to every resource that does not authentically talk about power, gender, race, sexuality, socioeconomic status, and ableism. I agree that there is a problem when the most powerful organization does not consider intersectionality when it produces their standards and resources. I do not believe that a major disruption to the system is feasible nor do I think the organization is ready to be a phoenix and rise from the ashes stronger and with more purpose than their past.

Dillon Landi lays out this vox where he talks about 5 major points that he feels SHAPE America can take actionable steps in order to meet their goal of diversity inclsion and equity. Here are the 5 main subjects he addresses.

  1. Keynotes
  2. documents
  3. citation of PETE
  4. research council
  5. grants

I would listen to this. There is a lot of widsdom right there.

Here are some actionable steps I would like to see happen:

  1. Everyone from the CEO to the board of directors to the social media specialists is required to take basic courses on the history and impact of intersectionality. This will not solve the problems that SHAPE is having but it will give everyone a solid base to see how individuals and systems conspire against anyone considered outside the norm. You can not address any part of intersectionality if you don’t understand the big picture.
  2. Kennedra Tucker is given the resources to create a podcast on social justice. She is willing and there is a need. There is no need to create obstacles. Find the right people willing to work and get out of their way. Also, pay her.
  3. Keynotes should look like the students that are being taught by Physical education and Health teachers. This means black and brown speakers, speakers that are not Olympians or athletic champions. The speakers should also be explicit about their message that furthers SHAPE’s goal of #die. Dr. Martha James Hassan would be someone who understands that message and can package it in a way that resonates with people. She works at an HBCU! (historically black college/university) That alone is all the proof you need.
  4. The vision and mission need to include diversity, inclusion, and equity.
  5. SHAPE should reach out to GLSEN and to create resources for teachers. The resources could link to those organizations or others. The bottom line is that SHAPE doesn’t need to reinvent or invent the wheel. Organizations are already doing great things in regards to intersectionality. USE THEM!
  6. Create ways to get BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) involved in the organization. This may mean creating grants to get to the national convention or free memberships for Title 1 schools.
  7. It’s not enough to get marginalized people to the party. We have to create a culture where every marginalized group has piece of the organization. How can we create the safe space for peopel to voice their opinion and than change actually occur. It can’t be solely on the people being harmed to lead us to become a better organization. We need to understand and support #blacklivesmatter #metoo and the various other social justice movements created to protect marginalized people. Teaching is not neutral. We are either anti-racist, anti-bigot, anti-hate or we allow the system to keep oppressing marginalized people.
  8. Produce resources that Physical Education and Health teachers can use tomorrow. Get the people doing fantastic things out there and bring them in.
  9. If you are affiliated with SHAPE America Read the books Social Justice in Physical Education and White Fragility. #ClearTheAir will be discussing White Fragility in the fall on Twitter. Come join us!! These will give you a nice base to address intersectionality in Physical Education and Health. You are the leader in your own growth. Read and learn.
  10. My final actionable step for SHAPE America is …. DO SOMETHING!!!! DO ANYTHING!!!! Don’t let this become another check box!

My final thoughts are for the SHAPE America affiliates that will read this. I am here to provide what I believe is necessary critical feedback for us to grow. I am doing or have done everything I am asking of you. Please learn about intersectionality and change the organization for the better. Our teachers and students need you to. If not, you as an organization, will continue to harm the 50 million (students) strong you are trying to reach by continuing to be complicit in the system of oppression you have participated in for the last 133 years. Stephanie and Judy I place this burden squarely on your shoulders. The buck starts with you. Where will SHAPE be in one year? What steps will they have taken. You have started to talk the talk. Now when the rubber meets the road let’s see if you will walk the walk.


3 thoughts on “SHAPE America: Diversity Inclusion Equity

  1. Pingback: The PE Playbook – August 2018 Edition – drowningintheshallow

  2. Judy LoBianco

    Thank you Justin for your thoughtful comments. Your contributions are always so very valued by me and our leadership. The Board of Directors and staff have decided that the time is now to be able to forge forward in this area. I cannot speak to the past in terms of how we have handled these issues as an organization—- but I can speak to the future. We welcome feedback, we welcome partners, we welcome guidance. We are in a fantastic place! The voxer chat is just our first step, but many other steps will come in the future, thanks for the thoughtful voices of many! Thx again Justin!



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