There is much work to be done when it comes to achieving racial justice, defending democracy, and ensuring equity--and our children will inherit what is left of the challenges we cannot resolve. We owe it to them to amplify our own commitments to these priorities. I feel re-energized to continue my efforts toward social change as one person among the multitudes working to “bend the arc of the moral universe more towards justice,” in the metaphor first envisioned by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and referenced by President-Elect Biden.
As we take a moment to appreciate where we have been, I think we must state the truth: that persistent racial inequities in myriad institutions in society are the result of systemic racism, and independent schools are not exempt. We charge tuition and can have practices that benefit those with financial resources. I believe we must use our position of privilege to redouble on our efforts to identify and address injustice both inside and outside our community and commit to embracing antiracism as a guiding tenet of our work.
Yesterday morning I hiked to the top of a peak in the Santa Monica mountains. After spending this past week facing a wall in my bedroom office, helplessly following the news while working on wrapping up this school year and scenario planning for next year, I needed to see the horizon and a broader panorama in order to reflect in and synthesize the wide-ranging feelings and thoughts that had collected during this agonizing week. This morning, I am looking at a very different panorama, and I am shaken by the images of rage, pain, and destruction that we all are seeing in our beloved city and cities across the nation.
When we cannot stop where we are and address feelings in the moment, they tend to come out sideways as emotions or actions far removed from the original feeling. They can show up as a grumpy spouse who snaps at a simple request, a call from a teacher when your child has an outburst in class, your own lack of patience with co-workers or friends. By the time the feeling has become an expressed emotion, you may not be able to find your way back to the source. As parents, modeling calm, approaching emotions with curiosity, and giving yourself and your children permission to feel will go a long way toward reducing anxiety. These life-long, invaluable skills lay the groundwork for the courage, flexibility, and compassion we will require to re-envision our world as a better, more equitable, more beautiful place.
Children develop positive self-identity through open conversations, being valued by peers, experiencing supportive relationships and settings, and by seeing other people with similar identities be appreciated and valued. A recent study by Sesame Street and the University of Chicago demonstrated that children as young as preschool notice and talk about difference in race, class, gender, culture, and religion. Open conversations with even our youngest children can help them learn about themselves and others.
Creating a school culture where we all understand and embrace differences is ongoing work which requires us to first see and acknowledge difference. When we nullify differences in favor of likenesses, the “likeness” is often anchored in culturally dominant norms. This invites “color blindness,” a well-meaning gesture that attempts to find commonality among different groups but instead can further divide us through its use of a single lens. It is crucial that as adults we develop the self-awareness and humility necessary to have courageous conversations with our children about differences and diversity.
At Turning Point School, we know the best way to optimize meaningful learning involves considering and attending to all facets of our students’ well-being – intellectual, social, physical, ethical, and emotional. By inspiring and challenging each student to find their unique equation within these five areas, we help them discover the core elements that fuel motivation and success.
This year's Summer Community Read is Second Nature: How Parents Can Use Neuroscience to Help Kids Develop Empathy, Creativity, and Self-Control. At Turning Point, we use research-based methodologies to shape our pedagogy and programming, so we are always eager to learn more about how neuroscience can translate into better teaching and parenting, and in this case, “to raise a successful child who can make a positive difference in the world.”
As human beings, we are comforted by the familiar, so it is not unusual that we turn inward or silent when we see hate, especially when it seeps out of the cracks and crevices and becomes almost part of the daily vernacular. But we absolutely must remember that the wonderful diversity in our ecosystem and among people throughout the world is what is responsible for the innovations and evolutionary successes that make our world rich and awe-inspiring.