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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SAS Women's Network Welcomes Sophie Stenbeck '98
SAS Women's Network Welcomes Sophie Stenbeck '98
etorrey

On Friday, November 11, St. Andrew's Women's Network welcomed Sophie Stenbeck '98 back to campus to give a talk to the School community on how students can determine what kind of good works they want to do in the world, and on her own good work fighting human trafficking around the globe. In addition to her professional career as a social entrepreneurship investor, Sophie is a significant philanthropist through the Sophie Stenbeck Family Foundation, which focuses on furthering child rights, education, and the fight against human trafficking.

"Sophie is an inspiration to people all over the world, so it was particularly wonderful to have her at St. Andrew's connecting with our students and faculty and articulating her vision for change," said Women's Network Co-Chair Elizabeth Roach. "Because she is so gracious, warm, and empathetic, Sophie's call to action was even more powerful and resonated more deeply with our students. She touched us all with her stories, her presence, her humility, and her urgency to change the lives of the disempowered."

Sophie opened by acknowledging that she had to rewrite her talk after the results of Tuesday's presidential election. "I thought that I would be here speaking to you all today, as a member of the Women's Network, under different political circumstances," she said. "I believe in my facing my fears. I am not an adrenaline junky, but I do carefully look at what I want to turn away from, and I can tell you that this Wednesday morning, when I woke up, I wanted to run away. But, here I am and it's not out of obligation. It's because I believe that we have to stand tall and choose courage and connection, especially now."

Sophie's talk continued in that spirit, and focused on her anti-human trafficking work and how students can get involved in that work. In conjunction with the Reach for Change, a social entrepreneurship investment organization that works to improve the lives of children, Stenbeck founded the Child10 Awards in 2014 to raise awareness of and provide funding for grassroots efforts to protect vulnerable women and children the world over. This year's Child10 Awards funded ten organizations and individuals who have been working to prevent child sex trafficking. Fighting human trafficking is a cause in which the Stenbeck Family Foundation has long been involved, but Sophie cited the birth of her first child in 2013 as her motivation for becoming even more deeply committed to this work.

Sophie shared stories of communities, families, and children who had been affected by or lost to trafficking, as well as ways that grassroots organizations have worked to prevent trafficking (by building infrastructure in communities that improves local economic stability and lessens a given family's need to sell a child to traffickers, for example). She also encouraged students to participate in the Red Sand Project, an international art project that raises awareness about modern slavery, and to this end distributed 150 bags of red sand to students so that they could get involved. (Students will scatter the red sand in a location of their choosing, take a photo, and upload it to social media using the hashtag #RedSandProject. Follow the project at instagram.com/redsandproject.)

Near the end of her talk, Stenbeck offered a keen nugget of advice to students: "You are allowed to fail. I wish that I had learned this at St. Andrew's when I was here... but I can tell you that since then, I have learned that when we fail, what we see as a failure, is actually where we're going to learn the most. If we really look at what went wrong, and what didn't work, that's going to have the most valuable lessons."


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The St. Andrew's Women's Network was founded in 2010 with a goal of connecting, celebrating, and harnessing the power of the School's alumnae through events held both on and off campus. When alumnae gather for Women's Network events, they share their experiences and insights with students and faculty, and reconnect with each other and with the School. Since its inception, Women's Network events have expanded in size and scope, and have become central to our mission to provide community, inspiration, and mentorship for all members of our community.