Last weekend, when we formally acknowledge the work and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., I was grateful. Certainly, I’m grateful for the change that Dr. King, his family, friends, colleagues, and collaborators brought about through the work he led and influenced—fifty years ago and into the future. More specifically, I’m grateful to our students, my colleagues, and our families at Wildwood for so consistently continuing to move that work forward for a new generation.
Wildwood’s K-12 multicultural programming has long been celebrated, both at our school and, in fact, in the broader independent school world. I’ve been the proud head of school at conferences in Washington, Houston, Philadelphia, and Seattle to name just a few—watching or facilitating with others sessions on how best to create effective and inclusive multicultural communities.
2014 and—it appears—2015 have and will continue to provide us with evidence that the work of understanding and internalizing a multicultural skill set is increasingly important. That’s especially the case for our students. They will be well-served by being in the habit of seeing situations broadly and equitably. The Habits of Perspective, Common Good, Evidence, and Ethical Behavior come to mind, although all of the Habits and Life Skills come into play.
We’ve heard and read about the events and ramifications in places like Ferguson, Cleveland, and New York City. Sadly, in these weeks before we honor Dr. King, we broaden our concern to include the people of Paris and other cities. There’s work to be done as we prepare for an increasingly integrated, multicultural population in our city, our country, and our world.
Students at Wildwood have been engaged in this work for years, in age-appropriate ways. Our programming this school year has certainly been influenced by—and in situations with older students, especially—directly related to the conflicts that have been brought to light by recent events.
As Dr. King has been quoted:
The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character—that is the goal of true education.
My colleagues and I will continue to thoughtfully engage students in measured study and dialogue around issues of multiculturalism in the coming months and years, always in intentionally objective and age-appropriate ways. The work of building our multicultural and, thereby inclusive, community is central to the ongoing work of teachers and administrators and is the focus of professional development programming throughout the school year.
Our Parent Multicultural Collaborative is yet another resource, providing parents with a vehicle for understanding the hows and whys of our multicultural work, and is an opportunity for constructive and illuminating dialogue.
The parent of a recent Wildwood graduate and current Duke University student emailed me just last week, writing of a conversation she’d just had with her son who began at Wildwood as a kindergartener:
…we were talking about what it was like to make new friends from all over our country and different parts of the world who had various views on political and social issues…He said something that I wanted to pass on to you…one thing that Wildwood taught him from the very beginning is the language to express differences. He went on to say that some kids really didn’t have the vocabulary to express themselves and have meaningful conversations about subjects that can incite strong feelings…I was truly touched by his awareness of that specific gift that his Wildwood education gave him.
Although our current and future students benefit from our shared sense of purpose, anecdotes like this one provide evidence that our impact extends far beyond our campuses.
Our robust and ever-present conversation around diversity is woven into the Wildwood ethos. When we hear how our graduates are in fact deeply absorbing these values and skills, we are filled with pride and hope. What more could we want?
Head of School