The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character – that is the goal of true education. --Martin L. King, Jr.
This month, January, is always a moment of new beginnings and resolutions to improve, perhaps this year more than ever. I want to use this opportunity to look ahead and take what we’ve learned about education in recent months and build resilience, compassion, and character into our school in new, deeper ways. On the occasion of the holiday honoring Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and his work with others to secure more civil rights for more Americans, I have been reflecting on the school’s work on the following pillar of the James River Day School strategic plan:
Broaden our community of excellence while creating a culture that values diversity, equity, and inclusion.
Last summer, our faculty and staff read Robin DiAngelo’s White Fragility. At our opening faculty meeting we engaged in a daylong seminar to discuss the diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) issues raised in the book, with Leslie King, a highly experienced diversity educator, facilitating. Teachers were challenged to examine their beliefs and attitudes about race and to consider how their self-knowledge and cultural knowledge could best be used to improve their teaching. One result of this work was a re-examination of our Social Studies and Literature curriculum, with an eye to the diversity of text choices. The second and third grade classroom libraries made a number of acquisitions this year to ensure diversity of protagonists and topics. The seventh and eighth grade Literature teachers have reviewed their literature choices with a DEI lens and a goal of asking students to consider seriously the topic of social justice.
Looking ahead, I am planning to launch a DEI Task Force, made up of interested parents and teachers, whose first task will be to craft a DEI mission statement that can guide our school’s progress. If you are interested in participating in this effort, please contact me via email.
Democracy is a messy process, especially in a multicultural nation. I want to be sure that our school prepares students to participate in the democratic process with full knowledge of our country’s DEI challenges and that our graduates care deeply about ensuring liberty and justice for all Americans.