Friends School of Minnesota’s 2014 Martin Luther King Celebration took place last January 17, 2014. This year students explored the Quaker value of community through a variety of songs, dances, multimedia, and spoken word performances. Thank you to everyone who joined us! In case you missed it, here are Head of School Lili Herbert’s opening remarks:
“Good evening! I am Lili Herbert, Head of School, and it is my privilege to welcome you to Friends School of Minnesota’s Martin Luther King Celebration! I want to extend a special welcome to those of you who are new to Friends School events; we are glad you are here!
Tonight’s celebration is an important tradition for us. This is our big event, when everyone comes together to see the students share their perspective about the values and teachings of Dr. King. This year’s celebration centers on community, and its role in building a just and equitable world. I am sure you will enjoy it.
At our admissions open house last Thursday, among the many things shared about Friends School, was this:
We actively and explicitly teach students how to be members of community.
In reflecting on this statement, I am convinced that what we teach about community at Friends School is countercultural, and may even be the most important thing we do. If you Google individual freedom and collective good, the huge list of hits reveals a long and deep tension between the two in philosophy, history, and politics. It seems to me, however, that in our time, individual freedom has been so emphasized, that to talk about collective good is seen as extreme and radical.
In Quaker worship, Friends gather together in silence to access “that of God.” A critical process in worship is that of discernment; does this leading come from the divine or is it my own ego talking? One way Friends test this, is through sharing in community. The community helps identify what matters.
At Friends School of Minnesota, we help students experience a similar process. We develop strong individuals who have a keen awareness of the importance of community, and who know that sometimes its needs come first. They listen to and respect the feedback and wisdom of the whole, even when it seems to conflict with their personal ideas, desires, and wishes.
How do we do this? Five examples:
1) Gathering together for Daily Morning meetings where every child is greeted by name, and a few children share something special.
2) Being expected to pick up a pencil off the floor even if it isn’t yours.
3) Participating in group gatherings, where problems affecting a group are discussed, feelings shared, and solutions sought.
4) Being partnered with a student who is either more skilled or less skilled than you are, fostering learning for both.
5) Experiencing that community does not revolve around just one child, unless that child needs special care and attention, and then the community does indeed revolve around her.
Through living in that balance between individual freedom and collective good, Friends School of Minnesota students become skilled members of community.
Our 8th grade capstone project provides a framework for students to put their experience to work to make a positive difference to FSM. It is an annual effort of the eighth grade class as a whole.
This year the 8th grade class has chosen to focus on our conflict resolution program. They will observe daily conferences, share their perspectives about the process, and make suggestions for improvements. Then, working with Fellowship of Reconciliation, the nation’s oldest interfaith organization, they will train others in our approach. To me, this is an excellent outcome of a program where students actively and explicitly learn to be members of community. This is how our students will change the world!
And so on behalf of the world, thank you for sending your children to this radical school! And thank you for coming; enjoy the show.”