Events in 2020 have forced us all as educators and humans to consider not only issues of public health but also, far too late, issues of equity and justice. At One Schoolhouse we are part of that reckoning.
Part of our stated mission is to empower learning, and cultivating student choice, agency, and self-advocacy are core learning objectives in all of our online courses. Students can even take their personal interests and values to a very sophisticated level by choosing the “Activism” track in our semester elective course program. We understand the need to promote these skills and values across our programs.
Most independent schools’ missions and values, taken at their word, make huge promises and offer visions of a better world for everyone. Right now we have the opportunity to start teaching and running schools as if our work truly is what our missions say it is: the quest for a more just and equitable world.
We may be social distancing for a long time, but that must not stop us from using our classrooms to end immediately the socioeconomic distancing that has nourished the lethal plagues of prejudice, injustice, and income inequality whose results we see all around us, every day. Teaching that can respond to a medical crisis must also be crafted to respond honestly and passionately to the pandemic of systemic racism and injustice that has been staring us in the face all our lives.
Independent schools can do better. But, where does “better” start? We can do better in our hiring, training, retention, and promotion of teachers and administrators. We can do better as we balance what we know to be the right thing against the temptation to do the expedient thing. We can do better when we make choices to give our students confidence and strength, every day and on into the future. We can do better when we opt to support and affirm students who struggle to access learning fully.
We join school communities because we believe in their missions and values and want to further them. Designing, building, and delivering an education that truly flows from these missions and values is how we can demonstrate and live our shared faith in students, in the power of learning, and in ourselves.
As we prepare for the uncertainties 2020–21, let’s start by embracing our missions and values not as interpreted by history, expediency, and brand-building but as words of promise to our students, our communities, and our world—a promise that is ours to keep or break.
And then let’s keep this promise.
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Brad Rathgeber (he/him/his)