Here’s the conundrum. We want our students to be active, vocal participants in their communities and governments. At the same time, we want to protect them from highly charged politics and events that would frighten them. So what is a school like Mirowitz to do about an event like Ferguson?
That was the topic of a recent faculty meeting. We considered why and how we should address the events in Ferguson, and spent time in study, reflection and planning. We listed the global issues associated with the local tensions, and ran an audit of how we already address those issues in various grade levels. We discussed how we prepare our students to handle issues of complexity, and how our Jewish tradition reminds us that “we are not obligated to finish the work of repairing the world, but neither are we free to refrain from trying.”(Pirke Avot)
In the middle school, our students are learning directly about the events in Ferguson. They are reading different journalistic accounts and noticing that reporters infuse their stories with their own perspectives. They are discussing how to discern accurate information and how to form opinions based on evidence. They are discussing effective ways to communicate when having an “argument for a higher purpose” — in Hebrew, a machloket l’shem shamayim.
In other grade levels, teachers are not focusing specifically on the events of Ferguson, but rather on the skills that prepare students to respond to issues of social complexity. We discuss and practice peaceful conflict resolution in kindergarten, and contemplate the role of government and the historical events that shaped social justice throughout elementary school. We encourage students to articulate their opinions and to write about them. Respect for diversity within and outside of our school community is an overarching theme that connects us.
The leaders of the future are right here at Mirowitz, and their teachers are preparing them to lead with confidence, a commitment to justice and the ability to positively affect social change.