Navigating a School Through the Political Season
Presidential elections create an incredible learning opportunity for our students. This morning at assembly, I talked about how this is done at Gould. No surprise, it all comes back to core Gould principles: kindness, respect, and inclusion. You can read the text below.
Thanks to Pat Donovan, Tom Whittington, Denise Manning, Brad Clarke, and Pete Hedden for their help in crafting this message.
We have an incredible opportunity over the next few months.
Whether you are from the U.S. or abroad, you have the opportunity to observe, discuss, and engage in the selection of the next leader of the United States and the peaceful transition of power from one leader to another in a major world power and republic.
Election season is a time when we test our ideas in public and have a responsibility as citizens to take positions and ultimately make a choice. This is an exciting process that demands our best thinking.
We haven’t been together during such a momentous election, so it seemed like a good idea for us to talk about how this happens at Gould.
First and foremost, this is a community based on kindness, respect, and inclusion. No matter how big or small the issue. No matter the circumstance, our words and deeds must abide by these principles. There is no exception.
Unfortunately, out in the world, we see these principles violated daily, in every country and on every political front. In words and sometimes horrible deeds.
Such violations have no place here because we’re a family. We live together. Learn together. Work together. Each of us has a responsibility to ensure that we live these principles. Just as Sam challenged us in his assembly on Saturday, each of us has a responsibility to say something when we see something wrong.
Now, let’s talk about how this will work for us.
In your conversations, seek understanding not victory. People of good will can disagree. How you respectfully handle ideas that you don’t understand or agree with is a mark of your character and the quality of your intellect. Any closed mind can argue or take a position. Only open strong minds can bridge divides and create understanding.
In studying the issues, read and listen to the best thinkers on both sides of a matter. Open your mind and seek to have your own assumptions challenged. Don’t fall into the trap of only getting information from those who agree with you. Don’t get trapped in your social media feed.
Know when to engage, know when to disengage. If people are getting upset, the time for learning has passed. Stop the conversation and help others stop. This builds trust that lays the foundation for further conversation and understanding.
Know that you have a right to your thoughts and to express them. You don’t have a right to an audience. It’s OK for people to walk away from a political conversation. If someone walks away, don’t follow. They don’t want to talk.
Don’t be rude.
And, at Gould, all forms of expression – speech, writing, clothing, drawings, social media – must comply with our code of conduct and values. It doesn’t matter what the source is. The bar is always kindness respect, and inclusion.
So, what’s next?
We’ll take time in advisory to talk about this and we’re lucky that the History Department has planned three assemblies and a mock election to help us become educated political thinkers. We’ll have one assembly on the Maine election, its’ referendum question, ballot initiatives and statewide races. We’ll have another assembly on the U.S. general election and electoral college, and a post-election assembly to review the results of the U.S. and Maine elections as well as the Gould mock election.
I’d like to close with thoughts inspired by a 1959 interview of mathematician, philosopher, and Nobel laureate Bertrand Russell. I think he captured both the intellectual and moral sides of our values of kindness, respect, and inclusion.
Intellectually, always seek the truth and don’t be diverted by what you wish to be true. Look at the facts and the truth that the facts bear out.
Morally, know that love is wise and hatred is foolish. In these interconnected times that amplify our voices and amplify our capacity to do good and harm, we have to learn to understand each other.
Let’s take this opportunity to engage with each other and the great questions of the day.
Let’s show the world how young people can lead from a principled place of kindness, respect, and inclusion.
Finally, approach all matters with an open mind, an open heart, and the deepest humility.
That is what great minds do.
That’s how we do it here.