“In most cases, the blessings of our resources afford us the opportunity to stay comfortably tucked in our enclaves insulated from the messiness of our world… Put challenging issues before [your children] at a level appropriate to their age. Text them editorials on contrary sides of an issue; share informative video clips. Discuss all of this at dinner. Do what you can to help your children become aware that they are part of a larger, complex global community – not above it, apart from it, or absolved of responsibility for it.”
– Parent’s Night Comments, September, 2016
A lot can happen in six months.
When I wrote and delivered the statement above as part of my Parents’ Night remarks in September (referenced in my September 2016 blog post), Colin Kaepernick had just a week earlier kneeled for the first time during the national anthem. An already divisive election season – to which I also alluded in my comments that evening – was still two months from yielding a generally unexpected result. The drumbeat of headlines and news stories on domestic Executive orders, travel bans and immigration policies had yet to register a social media click.
Indeed, our children live in a complex global society.
In this space throughout the year, as well as in my chapel talks to the community, I’ve highlighted boundless thinking. I’ve pondered the characteristics of individuals and organizations that, like Parish, embrace such a mindset of hopeful optimism and possibility. I’ve offered examples of how our program, alumni and community demonstrate it.
While some may find my musings uplifting, I recognize that for others, a bleaker world view may prevail. Images of society riven by divisions and boundaries flood our senses from a variety of sources.
As educators (and parents), we’ve been presented an opportunity. I would frame it using questions:
- Will we watch our children slide passively into one of the isolated and insulated ideological camps which characterize our present national profile?
- Or will we explore and evaluate with them the contours of today’s knottiest issues so that they become bold standard bearers of civil discourse and architects of collaborative solutions?
In my September remarks, I offered my answer as both a dad and Head of School:
“I want my sons and the students who graduate from Parish to live and lead with a boundless spirit, unencumbered by fear; I want them to modulate ambition and empathy; I want them to be guides to the middle ground where solutions, compromise, and steady – if at times deliberate – progress is made.”
– Parent’s Night Comments, September, 2016
No one would mistake “deliberate” progress for boundless accomplishment. But when it comes to building intentional, mission-aligned programming to prepare our students to navigate and mend the evident fissures in our complex global society, I think a steady advance is noteworthy.
At Parish, three interwoven programs buttress the formation of impactful leaders.
First, daily chapel instills time-tested lessons in love. Love for one another, love for our neighbor, love for those with opposing views and, yes, even love for our enemy.
Second, a robust homeroom, advisory and experiential learning program complements the ethical foundation chapel establishes, using the ParishLeads framework to build student capacity for relationship building, empathy and awareness of difference.
Finally, as I wrote in January 2016, we have initiated complementary programming in the area of Diversity & Inclusion. Guiding this effort has been the revised mission and diversity statements approved by the Board of Trustees in 2015. Now in her second year, Director of Diversity & Inclusion Tyneeta Canonge has convened several groups to assist in the development and implementation of initiatives in this space: Divisional Diversity Committees, The Diversity & Inclusion Advisory Board – comprised of parents, a school Trustee, and faculty and staff members – and a thriving Student Leadership Diversity Board in our Upper School.
Together, these groups have helped craft action steps in several key areas identified in the accompanying chart.
In doing so, we have kept in mind the developmental needs and readiness of our students. We have also evaluated closely the time allocation deemed appropriate for the work.
The below visuals offer a summation Diversity & Inclusion programming developed and implemented thus far this year.
This work of forging bold leaders with inclusive mindsets has – especially in these unsettled times – left segments of our constituency uneasy. Some feel chapel need not be every day, or that it is too Christian, or not Christian enough. Others think an advisory period committed to ParishLeads usurps time from our academic purpose. Some believe we are not moving swiftly enough to be a more inclusive school community – defined as one which is whole, unified and loving, but at the same time sensitive to and respectful of opinions and backgrounds of difference in our midst. Meanwhile, others believe we are moving too quickly or that our program content serves more to divide than to unify.
We accept this feedback and appreciate it. We will continue to improve our communication on programming in this arena. Notably, I am pleased to introduce a new blog resource within our Diversity & Inclusion webpage – Voices & Views – where you will find resources, examples of activities in which students have been engaged, and news on upcoming programming (third trimester activities are now posted).
Enriched by this feedback, our mission-driven commitment to this work will remain steadfast. Tomorrow’s complex world demands the boundless, collaborative and attuned leaders we believe it will yield.