Friends School of Baltimore Private School Blog

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. 

No doubt you have heard and read a lot of commentary on the events in Charlottesville last weekend and the ensuing national debate over the removal of Confederate monuments, some of which were right on our doorstep here in Baltimore.  If we were in school, I imagine we would be talking about this in Collection and offering space and venues for those who want to process these events more fully.  Maybe we would be watching or reading something together in advisory or (I hope) taking a pause in a class or two to take the temperature on how people are feeling and what they are thinking.  This is what we do at Friends.  We talk about stuff.  We ask questions.  We challenge each other's opinions.  We make space for controversial ideas and politics to become part of the teaching and learning.  We don't always do it perfectly and things can get uncomfortable and feelings can get bruised in the process-- but we keep trying.  We have to keep trying.

Let me be clear on one thing: being a school that invites diverse views into this "marketplace of ideas" does not mean that we will permit racist, anti-Semitic, white supremacist voices of hate into our community dialogue.  Our Statement of Respect requires us to oppose and actively addresses words or behavior  "which demeans or discriminates based on race, ethnicity, ability, sex, gender, sexual orientation, religion, age or any attributes of identity."  We won’t allow it.  We will oppose it and actively address it.  As a Quaker school, we believe that the education we provide is a process through which we attempt to build the just, peaceful, and sustainable world we envision.  Building that world takes work, action, a "willingness to be disturbed," to listen, to face uncomfortable truths, to examine assumptions, and actively seek out ways we can be of service to others.  I believe we are committed to these goals at Friends and I hope we can renew and strengthen that commitment this coming year.

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