It may be that independent schools are just beginning to find their real voice for expressing their public purpose--the real work, as partners and working exemplars, of turning their resources and their ideas to aims beyond the education of their own students. I'd like to believe that the best of schools' environmental work may just be the sound of the voice of public purpose clearing its throat.
I suspect we will all start school in a somewhat chastened state of mind after the Trayvon Martin verdict; Trayvon could have been our President thirty-five years ago, yes, but he could have been any of our African American students this morning. However utopian we might wish our schools to be, our streets are not.
You would be somewhat hard-pressed to find more than a handful of independent schools whose mission and values statements do not contain at least one word like "diverse," "multicultural," "global," "inclusive"--words that, as mission statements are intended to, commit the school to preparing students to live in a world in which everyone is not going to be just like themselves.
Sexual orientation and gender identity were always present as issues of diversity, as were religion, cultural heritage, and even just plain gender--many of these varieties of "invisible minority" status. From the perspective of "the work," though, most schools tended to focus on race, the mantra being "If you can talk about race, you can talk about anything."
In Part 2 of this two-part interview with new National Association of Independent Schools president John Chubb, he addresses the role that independent schools might play as model "schools of the future," what he looks for in a school, and some of his personal experience as an independent school parent.
In Part 1 of this two-part interview, new National Association of Independent Schools president John Chubb discusses the role NAIS might play in developing new educational approaches and shaping the national conversation on education. He also addresses some of the challenges NAIS schools face--and share with other sectors--going forward.
It fairly quickly sank in that a more diverse school photo might be a good thing in a highly abstract way, but that diversity alone--especially if largely confined to the student body--was not going to ensure that a school was going to become the "multicultural community" that its viewbook promised. The mere presence of students of color might change a few things--many of them out of sight of the adults in the school--but it did not a community make.
We don't need automata in our classrooms, meting out learning in doses prescribed and prepackaged by giant publishers and testing companies. We need teachers who are confident being fully and energetically themselves, expert in designing for their students demanding, exciting curriculum that inspires and challenges and in developing assessments that measure in-depth understanding, not just rote knowledge or received interpretations.
Sometimes working understaffed and just about always working on tight if not strangled budgets (and thus probably often underpaid), buildings and grounds crews are unsung heroes of the educational programs we deliver.
Somebody started your school because they believed in something worthy, and the school has evolved in certain ways because of those beliefs. Sometimes the beliefs get lost, sometimes they get transmogrified, and occasionally a school has had to stop and then start all over again in a new direction. But believe me, those worthy beliefs are fundamental to the enterprise.