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Friends School of Baltimore Private School Blog

How can schools foster safe spaces and freedom of expression?

Posted by Heidi Blalock, Director of Communications on Oct 18, 2017 9:39:53 AM

This week we are thrilled to launch our newly reimagined school magazine, simply titled Friends. Among the editorial innovations readers will discover is an opening Query, in which we have posed a compelling question and invited members of the community to weigh in. Their thoughtful (and thought-provoking) responses, excerpted below, represent a wide range of viewpoints and are meant to be just the beginning of the conversation. We invite you to read more and then share your thoughts on the Query using the "Submit Comment" form below. Here, again, is the Query:

How can schools simultaneously foster safe spaces and freedom of expression?

Kaitlin Toner Raimi '02, assistant professor of at the Ford School of Public Policy"I teach at a public policy school, so it's incredibly important that my students engage with the full range of perspectives on controversial topics that they will face after graduation. But it's not easy: In many classes, the students don't come in with a great deal of diversity of political views. And, as my own research has shown, both liberals and conservatives are really skilled at ignoring information that doesn't fit their own worldview (what psychologists call 'motivated reasoning.') ...More 

Deloris Jones, Friends Middle School social studies teacher since 1983: "It would be superb if teaching at a Quaker institution made this question moot. Those unfamiliar with Quaker education may imagine peace and tranquility govern our campuses, and we all wear gray garb Earth Shoes. Perhaps they believe, as my own parents and siblings suppose, that I teach in a stronghold of liberalism, where alternative viewpoints wither and die, and people always talk using library voices...More 

J.H. Verkerke '77, professor of law and director of the Program for Employment  and Labor Law Studies at the University of Virginia School of Law: "You might expect me as a law professor, to emphasize how legal rules determine the limits of free expression. Instead, I hope to persuade you that the law -- and even university policies -- should play merely a peripheral role in establishing the conditions for a productive exchange of ideas. To be sure, various sources of law prohibit falsely defamatory statements, protect individual privacy, and outlaw discriminations, threats, and harassment...More

Jennifer Kneebone '13, admission counselor at Earlham College: "There seems to be a misconception lately that creating a safe learning environment will hinder a free discourse of ideas, because it requires that some voices will be stifled or censored. I would argue that the opposite is true: There can only be open and dynamic academic discussions in environments were all participants feel safe...More

Molly Smith '82, Friends Upper School History Department chair: "I think this may be the biggest challenge we face today in our classrooms. Tackling discussion topics that invite a range of opinions, many of which are deeply held and intensely personal, can feel like a minefield. I can recall times when we set down the road of a difficult conversation in class, got to the point where it was messy and unsettled, only to have the bell ring...More

Elijah Muhammad '12, teacher in Baltimore City Schools through Teach for America: "It has been very helpful watching the debate surrounding safe spaces on high school and college campuses evolve. Some take 'safe spaces' to mean 'repressing speech,' leading to the hotly debated term "snowflake culture." This is bemusing, as creating learning environments where debates don't devolve into insults is hardly repressing speech...More

What are your thoughts? Be a part of The Thinking Cap's online discussion group. Weigh in on something you've read or add a new insight in the Comment section below. 

 

 

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Community partnership is the new service learning

When I was growing up, community service was not really a “thing,” or rather it wasn’t a thing we did at school. Sure, there’d be the occasional food drive for which we’d bring in our donations of canned peas and tomato soup, but there was no context for these collections. Our teachers never engaged us in conversations about who our gifts would benefit or why people become homeless.

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How a Friends school approaches Charlottesville

Posted by Steve McManus, Upper School Principal on Aug 28, 2017 5:40:17 PM

Upper School principal Steve McManus likes to check in with the student body and help set a positive tone for the week ahead by sending a weekly Sunday evening “McMessage” – even when School is out of session. Often these are upbeat, lighthearted and infused with humor. But not always.  Here’s what he shared a week ago following the events in Charlottesville, Virginia. 

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Genius Time inspires student led learning

Posted by Heidi Blalock, Director of Communications on Aug 17, 2017 10:00:00 AM

When 4th graders Laya and Alexandra learned that a tent encampment beneath a West Baltimore overpass had been removed by the City, the children asked Lower School Assistant Principal Cynthia Barney what would become of the homeless men and women who had lived there. Barney couldn’t provide a simple answer (there isn’t one), but connected the girls to Adam Schneider, community relations specialist at Healthcare for the Homeless, who responded to that question and 12 others they sent him about homelessness in Baltimore. Such curiosity and enthusiasm are at the heart of Genius Time, a student led learning initiative that engages Lower Schoolers in researching a topic of their choice and then demonstrating their knowledge through a variety of community service projects. With the support of the Lower School, Laya and Alexandra held a “crazy jeans” day on behalf of Healthcare for the Homeless and collected over $400. In a follow-up letter Schneider wrote to Barney: "If we are to have any chance at addressing the problems we face as a community, society, and world, we will need thoughtful and committed young people like, Laya and Alexandra.”

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Taking healthy risks on the playground

Posted by Meredith Schlow, associate teacher, Pre-K on Jul 27, 2017 9:32:00 AM

“Watch this, Ms. Schlow, watch!

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What these times demand of our schools

Posted by Matt Micciche, Head of School, Friends School of Baltimore on Jul 11, 2017 9:55:08 AM

These are interesting times for schools. Increasingly, and appropriately, parents are looking to us as educators to provide their children with the skills they need in order to navigate the noisy, fractious, and divisive culture we inhabit.  As with all skills, these can only be developed through disciplined and intentional practice in communities of learning, which makes finding the right school more important than it has ever been. And schools, in turn, must decide how we will respond to the challenges of our era: We can seek to shelter students from the contentions and controversies that have roiled our society, or we can harness the energy unleashed in these momentous times to deepen our children’s learning and prepare them to be the leaders we will need going forward.  Friends schools have, for more than 300 years in America, reliably chosen the latter course, helping to guide students and families through a revolution and a civil war, through astonishing accelerations of scientific and technological innovation, and through a host of other triumphs and tragedies, all with a clear-eyed willingness to frankly acknowledge and engage our struggles and a relentless determination to make the world a better place.

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