Currently in our country the level of civil discourse is neither civil nor discourse. Respectful disagreement and compromise has reached a new low, which is true regardless of which side of the aisle you occupy. As this has, unfortunately, become the "new normal," many are becoming numb to the persistent one-sided outrage—from multiple directions—which results in people not speaking with or listening to one another.
Here at Brentwood, if we do not remain hypervigilant to living our Core Values, this same numbness may overtake us. While we may struggle with and against a variety of beliefs, political and other, we must remain courageous and persistent in the shared values we hold near and dear because, more than ever, we need these values to frame our daily lives. They are the cornerstone of the Brentwood experience. This courage and commitment to our Core Values was never more evident than this past Sunday afternoon in the Student Life Center. The Black Family Association (BFA) had a regular meeting to which we were invited. The topic was the N-word incident in the Middle School. During the meeting—attended by more than 40 parents/guardians—there were varied perspectives along with universal agreement about how damaging this incident was to our entire community. That is, no matter your race, religion, ethnicity, or sexual orientation, when an incident like this happens in our community, we all suffer.
As we walked away, we knew we had just experienced our Core Values in action. Everyone was engaged in courageous and vulnerable conversations about difficult topics. These opportunities are more important than ever with the knowledge that incidents of hate words are on the increase in independent schools across the country—Trina was just back from the People of Color Conference representing over 1,000 schools nationally and Mike recently returned from a conference of 50 school heads from around the country where this was a topic of concern for all. We also know that if we do not stand up to this trend, our values will be reduced to mere words on a poster.
At school, we are creating additional forums for more conversations on multicultural perspectives, cultural competency, and our Core Values. For example, our senior Peer Leaders are leading grade level workshops with all of our Lower School students next Wednesday: "The Power of Words." Our Middle and Upper School faculty and students are preparing workshops for this year's Diversity Day, and the students who recently attended the Student Diversity Leadership Conference are lending their voices to our student SEED conversations, as well as in other spaces around campus.
Our admissions process is becoming more intentional in emphasizing our commitment to cultural competence with new families. We continue to refine our hiring procedures to both recruit and retain a more diverse staff and a staff that is culturally competent. As a result of this effort, we are co-hosting a diversity hiring fair in February 2019.
You may ask yourself what you can do at home to reinforce the Core Values. Talk with your children about values by giving them examples and asking them in return to give you examples: Trust is when your faith outweighs your doubt, like when I trust that you are doing your homework and not watching YouTube. What's an example in your life of when you trust someone? How does trust help to develop a strong community? And know that as topics arise with your children, we are here to support them here at school. When you have questions, please come to us directly so that together we can shape a more positive experience for your child.
Specifically, since the use of hate words is on the rise, talk to them about diversity and inclusion. That is, the only way to plumb the depths of diversity is through the practice of the other six Core Values. Without trust, respect, responsibility, honesty, caring, and community any discussion of diversity will remain, at best, superficial. The Core Value of diversity is where we get to practice, deepen, and own the other values. And by all means, end with something on the value of responsibility. When they hear or see something that is hateful make sure they understand it is their responsibility to say something.
Finally, by the end of the BFA meeting there was definitely the feeling of We in the room. We can do better. We must do better. We need to do this together.
Have a wonderful weekend.
Dr. Trina Moore-Southall and Dr. Mike