How Long?
Tad Roach

 

It is August, a time of anticipation, preparation, and excitement for schools across the country. Students are buying back-to-school clothes and supplies. Parents quietly hope that their children will soon meet teachers who are skilled, kind, accepting, and thoughtful.

As educators, we have enough time in August to remind ourselves of the sacred and inspiring mission and work of schools.

We teachers prepare our courses and classrooms. We know we are sharing the wisdom, habits of mind and heart, recognitions, discoveries, and explorations that have led our country and world into both miracles and disasters.

We try to help our students find their way to creative expressions of peace, humanity, and solidarity as they study the human story in all its complexity.

We pledge on these August days to educate in such powerful ways that our students will succeed us with courage, grace, and honor. Maybe, just maybe, they as citizens will love fiercely enough to begin to heal and rescue a fallen world. 

We start by building cultures within our classrooms and schools, emphasizing the dignity of all in our communities and especially looking out for anyone who seems uncertain, insecure, invisible, or frightened.

Our students in this generation seem remarkably eager to respect and honor one another; they actively seek others who have different experiences, cultures, viewpoints, identities. They seek unity in diversity. The are impatient with ideologies of hatred, division, intolerance, and fear. They look at the adult world of paralysis and fear with growing contempt and impatience. 

It is August, and we could say that the events in El Paso last weekend remind us of what we witnessed in Charlottesville two years ago when ancient and poisonous hatred, prejudice, and violence suddenly sought expression and erupted on the streets of a town dedicated in large part to education. We sadly are not surprised at the early designation of the massacre as a “hate crime”, for we know that we in America continue to deny or forget just what happens when we demonize, objectify, and scapegoat the Other.

We have declared victory again and again in this country against these forces of hatred, only to find that as long as we have despair and desolation in our land, the sparks of hatred and division can always be ignited again. Those who worship hatred, intolerance, racism, and violence find affirmation from one another on the internet and yes, they hear, honor, respond to mainstream voices that deliberately or foolishly encourage and profit from vitriol and violence.  

We have held celebrations of how much we have learned and how far we have come in America, only to return to moments like these.

We put guns into everyone’s hands.

As schools open in the wake of these shootings this month, I say again to the politicians on the left and right that it is completely unacceptable for children to be arriving and schools to be opening this year with the ever-present threat of shootings in our midst. 

It is contrary to a free society, to our democracy, and to the principles of education.

It is unspeakable to ask a generation of children to run, hide, or fight in a school dedicated to learning, collaboration, and engagement in the community. 

It is a complete failure of our democratic government to ask teachers to awaken young minds and at the same time prepare for the violence of warfare in the hallways. 

It is appalling that law enforcement personnel know that at any moment they must put their lives on the line to protect our community’s precious and innocent children.

Our colleagues in education throughout the world wonder why American schools operate in a culture of lockdowns, gates, and security screenings. They wonder what happened to the promise and spirit of the world’s greatest democracy.

Yet here we are again, lighting candles of mourning, solidarity, and sympathy, preaching love and peace, while the threats remain unaddressed, unmentioned, and untouched. For over twenty years now, our schools and colleges, churches, mosques, synagogues, concerts, movie theatres, malls, stores, and public spaces have been subjected again and again to violence and human carnage. We do nothing.

St. Andrew’s mourns the deaths caused by shootings in Dayton, El Paso, and Gilroy.

We again ask, “How Long?"
 

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David Orr Visits Campus, Delivers Annual Environmental Lecture
David Orr Visits Campus, Delivers Annual Environmental Lecture
Isabel Austin ’18

The St. Andrew's community had the privilege of hearing environmentalist Dr. David Orr speak on Friday, September 15, to kick off its annual Environmental Weekend. Orr is the Paul Sears Distinguished Professor of Environmental Studies and Politics at Oberlin College, and has written seven books on ecological design, environmental education, and sustainability policy.

Dr. Orr began his talk by comparing our current environmental crisis to the crisis of the Civil War. He argued that both events required more than simple acknowledgement and sympathy from their citizens. In order for the Civil War to have been prevented, Orr noted, members of society should have and could have taken a more proactive role earlier on in the crisis. He then argued that the same can be said for the environmental crisis: although the majority of the world claims to recognize the issue, we need to be much more active in actual dealings with the crisis, to make concrete changes in our own lives, and to encourage sustainable changes in the lives of others. Orr described the importance, above all, of living an altruistic life: a life in which we each possess a constant respect for everyone and everything around us.

Expanding the idea of vigilant selflessness, Orr also argued for the importance of putting aside political ties. He described in detail the ways in which we allow our Republican or Democratic preferences to cloud our best judgement and our true values, noting that "there are no good guys in the war." Orr compared our current government to that of the 1960s through the 1980's, a time at which Republicans and Democrats could manage to put aside their differences to address issues of environmental change. He urged our community to make a difference through not only our habits, but also through by advocating for bipartisan politics and principled politicians.

Orr then gave St. Andrew's students and teachers the opportunity to reflect with him, and to ask questions about environmental change and global warming. In answering audience questions, he gave further ideas about how we as St. Andreans can make a difference, and spoke about the importance of "connecting the dots" and seeing past global warming and into the "larger issue" relating to human nature. Although he acknowledged the fact that small things really do make a small difference, he spoke about the strength of masses, and our ability to create change together and through each other. "We are visual creatures", Orr said, urging us to fight our desire to "see before we act" and the importance of using education make ourselves "dangerous for the status quo."

Although St. Andrew's aims to be environmentally sustainable in its operations and to raise the environmental consciousness of its students, Orr's informative and engaging talk clearly created a heightened sense of awareness of environmental issues on our campus: in the days that have followed, both Orr and his talk have been a topic of conversation, and have sparked interest in and curiosity about sustainability both in and out of the classroom. After the talk, Orr went up to Hillier dorm to do duty with Green Council co-chair and biology teacher Peter McLean and ended up talking with the freshman boys on Hillier until 11:00 p.m. On Saturday morning, at 8:00 a.m., he met with the Science and Math Departments to talk about the pending Amos Hall redesign and expansion project. From 9:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m., Orr toured a few of our Pond Day (formerly known as Environmental Orientation) activities with McLean, including meditation with Dr. Johnson, and Andy Goldsworthy-style art with Ms. McGiff and Ms. O'Connor. Finally, he joined us for lunch in the Dining Hall, where lingered for a long discussion with students, faculty, and Headmaster Tad Roach.

"In his short visit," said Director of Sustainability Diana Burk, "David Orr left our entire School inspired to make our community and world a more sustainable place by living more thoughtfully with our natural world and our fellow humans. Peter and I especially enjoyed sharing with David Orr our incredible School. After his visit, David wrote us both to say: 'I am very impressed by the school, the students I met, and your colleagues. Care and dedication show everywhere.'"

You can watch David Orr's lecture on our Livestream page.

Written by Isabel Austin '18