Lexicon for Pluralism

Teacher talking to class

A common, working language facilitates greater communication, deepening our understanding of each other, our ideals, pedagogy, curriculum and practices. This list of terms is designed to help establish a shared understanding of the ideas essential to our pluralistic community. No list can be comprehensive, and we recognize that both denotation and connotation change over time. We will iterate this lexicon to reflect the evolution of the community’s needs, current practices and aspirations. In 2018-19, Blake’s Common Language Task Force developed this lexicon reflecting the school’s commitment to pluralism.


Having the mental and/or physical power or capacity to engage in one or more major life activities (e.g., seeing, hearing, speaking, walking, breathing, performing manual tasks, learning or caring for oneself). Ableism: Prejudice and/or discrimination against people with mental and/or physical disabilities.


Refers to the ways Blake strives to ensure that students and other members of the Blake community have equal and equitable opportunities to take full advantage of Blake’s education, services, facilities, programs and employment.

Affinity Groups

A bringing together of people in the community with a shared identity or experience, typically related to race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation or gender identity. The purpose of the group is to build community through support, resources, and opportunities to engage more deeply with that identity or experience and develop positive identity.

Community Engagement

An approach to teaching and learning in which students connect with individuals or communities beyond their classrooms –– in the school, in the Twin Cities, or around the world –– with the goal of better understanding self and others. Community engagement offers new perspectives, encourages respect and empathy, and can lead to paradigm shifts essential to achieving intercultural and global competence.


The unequal treatment of individuals and groups based on race, gender, social class, sexual orientation, physical ability, religion, and other categories. Discrimination can come from individuals or institutions. Discrimination is an action; prejudice is an attitude.


Balancing two dimensions: fairness and inclusion. As a function of fairness, equity implies ensuring that people have what they need to participate in school life and reach their full potential. As a function of inclusion, equity ensures that essential educational programs, services, activities, and technologies are accessible to all. The principle of equity acknowledges that there are historically underserved and underrepresented populations; dimensions of diversity such as ability, ethnicity, or socioeconomics should not be barriers.

Gender Identity

One's innermost concept of self as male, female, a blend of both or neither, including choice of personal pronoun (he/him, she/her, they/them, etc.). One's gender identity can be the same or different from their sex assigned at birth.

Global Competence

The capacity and disposition to understand and act on issues of global significance. Global competence encourages local citizenship and recognizes human and societal interdependence. It also encourages community engagement and explores the causal flow between local interactions and global trends, an understanding of which is necessary to thrive in today’s interconnected world.


How people understand themselves, what they call themselves and often whom they connect to and associate with. Each person has a unique diversity of social identities based on their lived experience and other important parts of who they are. Those identities develop over time, intersect with each other and help give meaning to a person’s life. Some identity characteristics include: gender identity, ethnicity, race, religion, socioeconomic status, home language, relationship status, family size and composition, sexual orientation, education, career.


Taking every individual’s experience and identity into account and creating conditions where all feel accepted, safe, empowered, supported, and affirmed. An inclusive school or organization expands its sense of community to include all, cultivating belonging and giving all an equal voice. Inclusivity also promotes and enacts the sharing of power and recognition of interdependence, where authorizing individuals and community members share responsibility for expressing core values and maintaining respect for differences in the spirit of care and cooperation.

Intercultural Competence

The capability to shift cultural perspective and adapt or bridge behavior to cultural commonality and difference. It involves deep cultural self-awareness, behavioral shifting across these various cultural differences, and deep understanding of people from different cultural communities including perceptions, values, beliefs, behavior, practices, history, and power differentials.

Learning Difference

A term used to describe a difference in how an individual is able to "learn" in an academic setting as compared to the majority of students. Learning differences are brain-based and are a lifelong condition.


An acronym that groups lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer/questioning, intersex, and asexual or allied individuals into one group based on their common experience as targets of heterosexism and transphobia and their struggle for sexual and gender freedom. This term is generally considered a more inclusive and affirming descriptor than the more limited “gay” or the outdated “homosexual.”


The energetic engagement with diversity, the active seeking of understanding across lines of difference, and a commitment to dialogue. It means holding our deepest differences, including our religious differences, not in isolation, but in relationship to one another.


Systemic favoring, enriching, valuing, validating, and including of certain social identities (e.g., white people, heterosexual people, men, people without disabilities, etc.) over others. Individuals cannot “opt out” of systems of privilege; rather these systems are inherent to the society in which we live. One pervasive form of privilege is white privilege, which indicates the institutional set of benefits, including greater access to resources and power, bestowed upon people classified as white.


The belief that racial differences result in the inherent superiority of a particular race over others. Also, a system of advantage that is supported intentionally or unintentionally by institutional power and authority, to the advantage of one race and the disadvantage of other races. Racism can also be an unfair attitude towards another racial group and can operate at multiple levels: individual, institutional, structural, cultural, etc.

Sexual Orientation

Feelings of attraction toward other people — same sex, opposite sexes, both sexes, etc. Sexual orientation can be fluid, and people use a variety of labels to describe their sexual orientation.

Socioeconomic Status

An individual’s or family’s economic and social position in relation to others, as measured by factors such as income, wealth, education and occupation. Examinations of socioeconomic status often reveal inequities in access to resources and issues related to privilege, power and control.
Sources for these definitions include the ADL, American Psychological Association, GLSEN, Dr. Mitchell Hammer, Lakeside School, Middlebury College, National Association of Independent Schools, Dr. Eboo Patel, Seattle University, UNESCO, University of Houston, and World Savvy.