Tag Archives: politics

Friends Council on Education Statement – August 15, 2017

The violent expressions of hatred, racism, white supremacy, and anti-Semitism in Charlottesville, Virginia were directly opposed to the values our schools stand for. These events serve to deepen our commitment at Quaker schools to teach our students habits of heart and mind that insist upon a disposition of openness and respect for every member of our community regardless of race, creed, religion, sex, sexual orientation, place of national origin, gender identity or gender expression.  

As we wrote in November:

William Penn founded the first Quaker school in 1689, one hundred years prior to the formal addition of the Bill of Rights to the United States Constitution.  Penn directed that the school educate students from all walks of life, genders, religions, and ethnicities to prepare them to be moral leaders within the Commonwealth no matter what profession or trade that they might someday pursue.

Penn’s school created a program of study through which these young people might together imagine a more ideal society. Today all Quaker schools strive to serve this critical public purpose just a Penn imagined it in the earliest days of what would become the United States.

In time of uncertainty, and deep distrust, Quaker school communities turn to the Quaker values of peace, integrity, equality and community, as well as the longtime practices of peaceful conflict resolution and nonviolence, as touch points for navigating these turbulent waters.

It is our sincere hope that as children everywhere return to school that they may come together, in the spirit of respect for all, to find a way to listen deeply to one another, to value the gifts that all students bring with them to school everyday, that they might, together, imagine an ideal society.

Each of the 78 Quaker schools across the United States is founded on core Quaker values and practices. These principles strive to address issues of societal injustice. Friends schools seek to create inclusive and diverse communities and to live into the Quaker values of peace, equity, and social justice.

Friends Council on Education supports schools in their efforts to teach for justice and equity. To that end, we lift up just a few examples of how Quaker schools and Quaker school educators are actively working to provide students with skills in mediation, conversations about differences, and peaceful ways for resolving differences.

Upper school students have a social justice collective where they meet weekly to engage in conversations utilizing the model of Intergroup Dialogue. (Germantown Friends School)

Students participate in a Peer Facilitator Training Program that strives to provide students with skills in asking open ended questions, clarifying and summarizing what you have heard, giving respectful feedback – all with the goal of preempting conflict. (Media-Providence Friends School)

The social curriculum serves as a foundation for a Social Justice Unit as early as preschool focusing on fairness, inclusion, and community. (Friends School Haverford)

Upper school students team up with students at other independent schools to host a student-led Mid Atlantic Regional Diversity Conference. Students explore issues of identity (sexual orientation, race and ethnicity, age, ability, socioeconomic status, gender, and religion) through activities that encourage building community and leaning into discomfort. (Abington Friends School)

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An Ongoing Commitment

by Sam Houser

At a time when transgender rights are again in the news, I am writing to affirm George School’s own commitment to welcoming and including students and employees who are transgender or gender non-binary, or whose families may include members who identify as transgender or gender non-binary. Similarly, we welcome the presence, active engagement, talents, and support of our graduates who identify as transgender or gender non-binary.

In April of 2015, the George School Board approved a policy stating the school’s intention to welcome and include transgender students in our community. This included providing appropriate accommodations and a supportive residential environment for those who are boarders.

In February of 2017, the Friends Council on Education issued a statement affirming that, consistent with the Quaker testimony of equality, Friends schools strive to create communities inclusive of all students, including transgender and gender non-binary students.

Last spring, the Friends School League (FSL) also adopted a similar policy regarding the inclusion of transgender and gender non-binary students into athletics programs among FSL schools.

All of these developments reflect a deep commitment on the part of George School and other Friends schools to foster healthy and diverse educational communities by valuing, respecting, and drawing upon the richness of differences to strengthen our education. This commitment stems from the very underpinnings of Quakerism that include teaching there is that of God in every person, that all people are equal and deserve equal respect and treatment, and that healthy communities are those that accept and nurture differences.

George School is a rare place. Here, people of many identities, from around the world, live, learn, and play together. Being a George School community member entails engaging with new and sometimes uncomfortable perspectives. This can be hard work, but the effort is an important one that will help us diligently mind the Light and prepare us to do good inside our school community and beyond.

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In The Mind of a George School Student: Voting for the First Time

holdyn

by Holdyn Barder ’17

Any member of the George School community can affirm that politics is a big chunk of the current discussion trends within the school, especially in the wake of the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election. As a George School senior, I stumble upon various opinions from my peers, teachers, and other sources regarding the election and I am forced to think one thing: “Wow!” I believe that one of the more important lessons George School has taught me is being able to consider all sides of any spectrum and then consciously form my own intellectual and meaningful opinions after looking at all of the facts. Personally, the origin of perceiving situations in this way comes from the still nature of the values and morals that guide George School, the backbone of Quakerism. Although I do not affiliate myself with The Religious Society of Friends, the ‘Quaker Way’ has been the cornerstone for my decision-making and motivation in my life. Let me take you on a brief journey to show you how my experience in Friends education relates to this election and why it is special to me as an American.

Looking back to when I was a little boy, I can clearly remember the cheers, the rallies, the campaign signs, the news, and everything that had to do with the elections (of the four in my lifetime, excluding this election). I regarded the Presidential Elections as the biggest events in the entire world (keeping into perspective the large scale of reality from a child’s point of view). Now, after examining this 2016 Presidential Election, I have come to the conclusion that I wasn’t too wrong after all–this very well could be the biggest electoral decision ever made in our country’s, or the world’s, history.

Let me take you back to when I was about seven or eight years old. Around that time, my father began his involvement with politics in Bucks County. As a young boy, I remember going to rallies, campaign events, and living the tiny political dream world of Holdyn Barder. I cannot exactly pinpoint the origin of my strong national pride. It could be my father’s service in the United States Marine Corps, the childhood memories of attending political events with my parents, my vague remembrance of September 11th, or simply my citizenship…but what I do know is that there is something different about this election than any other: My voice matters now.

This simple fact is exciting and true, but what is also correct is that I will be voting in the 8th Congressional District of Pennsylvania, which, by many, is considered one of the swing regions of this swing state. My vote matters…a lot. The idea that the outcome of the national popular vote falling into the hands of a small portion of Pennsylvania residents is mind boggling. There is pressure, and for an eighteen-year-old voting for the first time, I know that it is best to connect back to my cornerstone of Quakerism in these turbulent times.

Lately, I have been pondering over the recent drama, and adversities circumambulating both major campaigns, and I find that the most beneficial method to handle that drama is to simply shut off the station or device broadcasting it. I have discovered that the media strongly influences lives and opinions, as seen in the 2016 Presidential Election. It is important to stay true to who I am and to not be swept away by the drama which is something I believe many can agree on. I have seen all three 2016 Presidential Debates, attended several campaign events this year, and nothing has brought me more clarity than shutting out the noise simply by being.

This election is special to me – not only because it is my first time voting, but it reflects the forgotten beauty and freedom of democracy in this country. November 8th, 2016 is the day that I will be casting my first vote and I will be joining millions of other fellow Americans citizens. God Bless the United States of America.

 

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