A Letter to a Parent After the Election

I'm publishing this with permission from the parent I sent it to, in the hope it might be helpful to parents and educators in divisive political times.

* * *

Dear XXX,

First off, it's so good to hear from you! I had my eye out for you on Parents' Night as well, and I was sorry I didn't get a chance to at least say hello. I also just want to say that R appears to me to be thriving in all the right ways. We don't connect as often as we did last year, but she's a special one who I keep my eye out for. 

It's exactly students like R who I worry most about -- what will happen to their lovely innocence and naive goodness? An Egyptian friend of mine sent me a note after I sent him a picture of my little one in my arms last night. He said: "It starts from here, and we build outward."

To your email: I think that your instincts are right -- this is a human issue, not a political issue (though of course the two are always deeply connected.) It hits independent schools hard because we work at the human level. Our task is deeply value-laden. We have to have a vision of the good life and be brave and noble in its defense. The alternative is nihilism.

Our responses, therefore, must be human as well and not crassly political. We do what we have always done -- meet our young ones, our parent community, and each other where we are. We speak frankly about our concerns, and we listen earnestly. We model expertise in inquiry and the value of learning patiently. 

We model this "politics of the small" for our students, not just as a way of coping with this unexpected moment, but as the ethos of democracy as a way of life. We have ears and eyes and brains and hearts, and we have each other. These are the raw materials of every community; most of the time they are enough.

For all these reasons, I found myself grateful to be going to a school on Wednesday morning. I was reminded in so many ways to take the long view, and I could see in so many ways the working reality of good people making small change through hard and daily effort.

Thanks so much for reaching out,
Jeff

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