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Fundamental to civil discourse is respect for one another, and being willing to listen to the experiences and perspectives of others. An example of how important this is arose out of a discussion in our ½ classes. We were preparing an all-school holiday video greeting card. Each class was asked to come up with one word that they would wish for everyone in the new year. In Teacher Jill Bean’s class, many children suggested joy, happiness or some similar sentiment that is often expressed at Christmas. But there were several students, African-Americans, who wanted safety to be the word that expressed their wish. For many of the students who were not African-American, this was perplexing. It did not occur to them that this would be something that was in short supply or a worry for anyone. They wanted to express their own ideas. The other children were just as insistent that this was something that was very precious to them. The class spent the time listening to one another’s reasons and experiences. Very persuasive was the testimony of several students of close relatives who had been shot and killed, something outside the experience of the other children. Having a thoughtful, respectful conversation like this enabled the entire class to unite around the word safety.
In the larger adult world, where many cannot understand the motivation of the Black Lives Matter movement, and the conscious-raising goal of the White Privilege conferences, it would be helpful to follow the model of our first and second graders, who were able to see with great respect and listening how our experiences shape our views of justice and peace. Our Quaker sense that each person has within him a piece of the divine truth, which truth each of us is obliged to answer, is a model for the larger world. Rather than see someone as the other, we can model that each of us is part of a larger organic entity.
John McKinstry, Head of School
As seen in Friends Council on Education's Chronicles of Quaker Education