John Donne, No man is an island, entire of itself...
The Island. At the confluence of the Farmington and Connecticut rivers, surrounded by ponds and marshes, and subject to periodic flooding, it’s easy and perhaps even seductive for those of us on the Loomis campus to see ourselves as cut off from society, removed from the world’s problems, free to follow our own educational pursuits, safe from outside troubles. But we do our students and ourselves a disservice if we carry this analogy too far. We must pay attention to what is happening in the world around us, and we need to ensure that our students are educated about current events.
The killings of Michael Brown and Eric Garner have made this responsibility especially pressing. While people may dispute the facts in either case, these events make clear that large sections of our society have little faith in the police and in the legal system. It follows that as a nation we are not living up to the promise of our democracy.
How do we at Loomis talk about these cases? How do we mirror the dinner conversation that surely all families should be having? How do we help students to understand both the particulars of these cases, as well as the broader context of race relations, policing, and civil disobedience? How do we create the sort of environment where students can ask questions and explore their own reactions, while also understanding the varying reactions of other students and faculty around them? And more broadly still, how do we encourage a civic-minded engagement with current events? As teachers and as parents, we must help mediate our students understanding of events and teach them their obligations to become informed citizens.
We have had a series of conversations about these cases and issues—in classrooms, in the dormitories, and in more formal forums. In many ways, as a boarding school, we have an advantage over many families because we are such a diverse community. Not surprisingly, students have expressed a range of opinions, knowledge, and emotions about the cases. Students have listened respectfully to one another and have helped each other to understand varying perspectives. But this is and needs to be an ongoing discussion.
Here are some suggestions for resources:
I would also urge parents to encourage their children to sign up for a news service and to read a daily newspaper of repute. Sign them up with a subscription to the New York Times or the Wall Street Journal or any other newspaper that you like to read. And think about a daily digest of the news. I use The Week: 10 Things You Need to Know Today but am particularly fond of The Rooney Report because author Brian Rooney is a member of the Loomis Class of 1970. An outstanding journalist who worked for ABC News based in Los Angeles, he puts together a snappily written synopsis of the day’s news. Both The Week and The Rooney Report arrive in my email inbox sometime each morning. They keep me connected to and part of the world in which we live.
When it comes to issues of race, Thomas Jefferson was wrong about almost everything, but he was absolutely right when he proclaimed, “An educated citizenry is a vital requisite for our survival as a free people.” We owe it to our students to ensure that they are indeed educated in the broadest sense of that word.