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Message from Head of School: Human Dignity and Equal Opportunity

The following message was sent from our Head of School to our community on Tuesday, June 2, 2020:

Dear Families,

This is the most difficult end of year message I’ve ever given, and it comes at a difficult time for both our students and our country. 

If you believe in the importance of human dignity as I do, the images that came out of Minneapolis were more than heartbreaking and left a stain on our shared humanity. I believe that all humans are entitled to live a life that allows them to have dignity; not wealth, but certainly they can achieve it, not fame, but certainly they can achieve it; they deserve dignity, which comes from the equal opportunity to achieve all that they can during their short time on earth.

When we see such a blatant disregard for a human’s dignity, it rightly rattles us. How we react is a timeless question; as Hamlet thought;

Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles
And by opposing end them.

To help answer this question for myself, I have always returned to Dr. King:

Let no man pull you so low as to hate him. Always avoid violence. If you succumb to the temptation of using violence in your struggle, unborn generations will be the recipients of a long and desolate night of bitterness, and your chief legacy to the future will be an endless reign of meaningless chaos. 

We need to invite the outcry and protest that an event like this brings, and we must realize that the overreaction is often a cry from those not allowed their dignity. Ultimately balance needs to be restored, anger heard, violence ceased, and that is where we need to direct our discussions and energy. 

Each of my kids had a PYP unit in school that ended up covering different leaders and ideas. They each brought home Dr. Kings “I Have a Dream” speech and were asked to read and discuss it with us over the long weekend dedicated to him. Laurel and I still tear up as we see them reading it and telling us what they thought and asked our opinions. I have always been moved by words, but there was something so powerful and amazingly hopeful hearing those words from our young children.

As I have grown older, and reflected on where I look for guidance in how I live my life, I am so often brought back to the “color of their skin versus the content of their character” line. For me, the great genius of that line is its universality.  “Color of their skin” is a variable, “content of their character” is a constant. I substitute ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, political view, etc for the variable. I then am drawn back to making my decision based on my admittedly not always perfect “content of their character” judgement. When looking for meaningful and thoughtful ideas to consider, this is how I separate noise from wisdom.

This decision process is what schools like ours teach better than any other. It comes from discussion, questioning, and having thoughtful ideas challenged. I’ve dedicated my time in education in schools like ours because I believe our students can have the most impact. They will have the opportunities to make their impact, where others, who have less opportunity can’t. In our schools, all thoughtful ideas are important, noise is a waste of our time and we need to teach students the difference. 

As you look for ways to talk to your students about this, please take a look at this video from our student counselor, Annie. It is also imperative that in any discussion with your children you need to inspire them that they, perhaps more than any group of students, can make a difference in the world. They must listen to ideas, have theirs challenged, and reflect and refine. I also ask that you ensure that they begin to see a link between the opportunity they are being given and the responsibility that comes with it. 

Not a typical end of the year message, I know. I just want to once again thank you for all of your support and partnership this year. It was wonderful having students back on campus and you can rest assured that I will do everything possible to have all our students back on campus in the fall. Tomorrow I will be sending out a final end of the year video, which will talk about our views on the summer and opening in August.


Thank you,

Bob Carignan
Head of School


Resources: Discussing racial inequality with your children



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