by Julia Carrigan ‘20
The George School Mission Statement claims that Quaker tradition is the school’s “touchstone”–the testing point for any discussion of values or policy that goes on here. Quite simply, at George School, Quaker values are essential, including Quaker practices and, especially, attendance at Meeting for Worship.
George School’s website claims, “We don’t try to turn students into Quakers,” but the importance of Quakerism at George School was reaffirmed by students themselves recently, when sixty-six percent of students polled by The Curious George said their desire to be involved in some way in Quakerism has increased since attending George School.
One student even stated that the strong Quaker vibe at George School was “one of the major reasons I chose to go to here instead of Westtown.” Overall, it is clear that George School’s strong Quaker program has influenced the spiritual lives of many students.
However, George School is not the Bodhi tree, and let us not pretend that every student has been spiritually enlightened sitting on the firm wooden benches of the eighteenth-century meetinghouse.
What is important is that every student has sat there.
During the school year, day students spend thirty minutes a week in Meeting for Worship, and boarding students usually spend an hour and fifteen minutes. In addition to Meeting for Worship, we often pause for moments of silence and use Quaker consensus in meetings. In addition, many of our religion classes also focus on Quakerism.
Overall, it is pretty fair to say that Quakerism is central in the lives of students during the school year, but how does it affect their lives during the summer?
Fourteen percent of respondents told CG that they attend meeting over the summer. Even more significant, about a third of students take time out of their summer to practice Quakerism on a smaller level. For example, they might pause in their day to take a moment of silence.
This is incredible given the busy lives of teenagers in the summer, the relatively low number of Quaker identifying students, and the growing rate of non-religious teenagers. According to a recent study done of teenagers in Chicago, for instance, thirty-six percent of teenagers are “religiously unaffiliated.”
The approximate third of the George School student body who practice Quakerism in different smaller ways throughout the summer shows that while they may not be able to drag their families (or themselves) out of bed every Sunday morning, “Quaker tradition,” as the Mission Statement puts it, has a profound spiritual effect on them.
Although a hundred percent of those who answered the survey attend a Quaker school, only six percent attend or work at a Quaker camp over the summer. Some Quaker camps George School students spent time at over the summer include Camp Dark Waters, Camp Onas, and The George School Day Camp, which “emphasizes Quaker philosophies.”
Three George School students also attended Philadelphia Yearly Meeting’s annual session, a gathering of all Quakers in the Philadelphia region.
While George School does not try to “turn students into Quakers,” apparently the school does a good job of exposing them to the values and practices of Quakerism. The students themselves decide how much of it they want to bring into their lives outside of school.
That’s a win-win proposition!