Mr. Key addresses our community about to recent national events.
I have struggled to write this letter, but believed it was important to address the community. Even though we aren’t on campus, national events still impact our students. As a school, we can’t ignore or compartmentalize them. They influence and affect us. And the events this week have been staggering. I certainly don’t have any special insight into these events, but I can tell you what I see and feel.
The murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officers was abhorrent. For me, watching the video of his fatal arrest was more than painful and appalling—what I saw was inhumane and merciless. But if you have seen it, you don’t need me to tell you that.
For 25 years, I have taught the history of the United States and always believed I was presenting a balanced view of the country’s virtues and vices, including our shameful history of racism. No longer do I believe that I ever provided a balanced picture of our past because I did not tell the stories of black Americans as much as I should have. I have now come to understand that racism in America has deeper roots than I supposed. As a white man, I can never comprehend the suffering and pain inflicted on people of color, but I can commit to listening, learning, and taking action.
As a school, we have a responsibility to teach academic content, but we also have a greater obligation to nurture compassion—compassion for those mistreated and ignored. Honoring the dignity of the individual has been a long-standing value of our community. When sacrosanct universal values of human fairness and dignity are violated, we all must rise to the demands of the moment.
I have asked myself this week, What is our responsibility during a time like this? It starts with incorporating more diverse voices in our curriculum so students can better understand our history and how we have come to this place. It is also an opportunity for us to have more honest conversations about race and its role in American society. Fundamentally, this isn’t about our politics, it is about our common humanity. The treatment of black Americans is not a political issue, it is an issue of human decency. The future health of our democracy—of our communities—depends on our students becoming passionate and judicious citizens, equipped with the habits of mind and willpower that promote justice. Acceptance of others isn’t enough; we must also embrace change.
I have worked in independent schools for over twenty years because I believe that they can offer students hope. The hope we have for our students is to develop them as independent, creative thinkers, but implicit in that goal is that they will also become problem-solvers. Because we continue to struggle with racism in our wider-communities, it is necessary for us as an educational institution to enable our students to fulfill our mission and allow them to uphold the universal values of equality by helping them subvert intolerance.
Finally, what I want our students to realize is this: there is no predetermined future. The future is determined by our choices. We have many choices to consider, but when there is a choice that will lift up those in need, we must make it as a faculty, as a staff, as students, and as individuals.
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