It is clear from the bustle around campus and the change of weather, that fall is officially here. As I begin my second year at The Bush School, I look back on the whirlwind that was the 2014-15 school year fondly. My work with the Board of Trustees this summer and fall has been focused on maintaining and enhancing the school’s remarkable programs and reputation as a leader in progressive education, analyzing the comments and recommendations from the parent and student survey about ways in which we can improve as a school, and communicating a clear and compelling vision for the school’s future.
One of the casualties of a culture that demands immediate feedback is the loss of time to pause, reflect, deliberate and respond thoughtfully. Most of us have fallen victim to the sensation of stopping a colleague, friend, or spouse as we pass them in the hall and commenting, “I sent you an e-mail about an hour ago…” While we will let this phrase hang in the air as if it were merely a declarative statement, a part of us wishes and expects them to have read our e-mail and responded. This expectation denies us the opportunity to be careful and measured in our responses and causes us to respond in a way we might not otherwise, and may not represent our most civil selves. Continue reading “Giving Space for Civil Discourse”
Paramount Pictures released the movie Selma, by first-time director Ava DuVernay, on December 24. The movie tells the story of the social forces, political obstacles, as well as the strategic and tactical planning efforts that lead to the historic march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama in March 1965. In the months prior to the march, and with the support of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was engaged in a voting rights campaign in southern states to register blacks to vote. The ability of SNCC and SCLC to mobilize African-American volunteers, King’s political acumen, and the media’s coverage of the vitriolic reactions to segregation by local whites and the city’s police officers—including the events of March 7, 1965 which came to be known as “Bloody Sunday”—brought sufficient pressure to bear on President Lyndon Johnson to push for passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
The movie reminds the audience of the immense sacrifices African-American men, women, and children made to secure the right to vote. Enfranchisement, they believed, carried with it the promise of full participation in our democracy and legal recognition of their rights as citizens. Selma’s release, at the end of 2014, was timely. Our nation watched as a series of protests—some of which were marred by senseless acts violence and destruction of property—dominated the news following the grand jury decisions to not prosecute officers involved in the deaths of unarmed black men. The protests generated lively discourse at home and schools about race in our country, the relationship between police and the communities they serve, unconscious bias, the grand jury system, and our collective humanity. These conversations continue in the hallways of our Upper School among teachers and students, and through moderated talks with student groups like our Student Awareness Council.
Selma is a powerful and resonant reflection on our recent past, and an important reminder that the struggle for justice, equality, and for some mere visibility is long and arduous, but ultimately worthwhile; the arc of the moral universe does bend toward justice. In re-telling the story of the brave yet ordinary individuals who marched, sat, protested, and endured threats of economic insecurity and physical harm, Ms. DuVernay underscores the message that the power to change the course of history is within all of us. The past century is replete with examples of everyday folks using nonviolent, civil disobedience to raise our consciousness, galvanize our spirits, and call us to action, whether in Selma, Atlanta, Oxford, Kiev, Delhi, Beijing, St. Louis, or Paris.
This year, The Bush School will be joining thousands of Seattleites at the annual Dr. Martin Luther King Rally and March Monday, January 19, to walk in support of human rights for all. We hope that you will join us—look for The Bush School banner, and those wearing Bush apparel on the northeast corner of 23rd and Jefferson—on Monday as we share in the tradition of Selma and honor Dr. King and the countless others who blazed the path on the long march to freedom.
I have always approached Halloween with a hint of skepticism and apathy. As a child, I was very clear about the reason—I DON’T LIKE BEING SCARED. Sure, like most kids, I enjoyed gorging myself on Pixy Stix, Big League Chew, Nerds, Sugar Babies, Dum Dums, Sweeties, and Zagnut bars after my parents inspected them.
As I grew older, and candy became less of an attraction, my friends turned to silly pranks and ghoulish stunts meant to frighten our peers and wreak havoc on our neighborhood. Again, this seemed to me to be destructive and SCARY, albeit for different reasons. Now, Halloween seems to give some adults license to publicly engage in silly or even debauched behavior. This can be a whole different kind of frightening.
The Halloween practice of trick or treating derives from the medieval tradition of “souling,” in which children would sing and say prayers for the dead in return for cakes. It is interesting how customs and practices morph (especially in culturally heterogeneous societies like ours) and take on new rituals and interpretations.
We are often uncomfortable with acknowledging death; it brings up memories of painful losses and reminds us of our own mortality. For many cultures, including the Mexican tradition of Dia de los Muertos, remembering loved ones publicly and being confronted with the inevitability of death also offers the opportunity to be grateful.
Like you, I read about the tragic deaths of two Marysville high school students at the hands of a fourteen year-old boy with feelings of dismay, anger, and helplessness. Each time I hear about a school shooting, I am reminded how precious and fleeting life is. Perhaps this Halloween we can spend a few minutes with our own version of “souling,” giving our heartfelt thoughts (if not prayers and song) for those who lost their lives last Friday.
Although I have never been much of a fan of Halloween, this year as I roam the streets amidst the costumed children I will be reminded of those innocent victims and generous souls who are no longer among us, and I will hug my children in gratitude before they head off to collect their treats.