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One School, One Book

Monday, June 29, 2015

Each spring the division heads and I choose a book that we invite the entire school community to read as part of our "One School, One Book” program. Our goal is to choose a book that corresponds with our year-long theme. Come fall, parents are encouraged to attend book discussions with fellow parents, faculty and staff, and deepen their understanding of the theme that will provide a continuous thread through the school year. This past year's theme was kindness, and we read Wonder, an incredible young adult novel about difference and kindness, written from the perspective of a middle school student. (If you still haven't read it, I highly recommend it!)

This spring we have chosen the theme of courage. Over the past year our faculty and staff have been diving into work around allyship and microaggressions. (Microagressions are remarks, comments or actions that can marginalize, belittle or alienate members of nondominant groups. They may include brief, everyday exchanges involving subtle racism, sexism and heterosexism.) As we worked to uncover the many ways we may or may not realize we're communicating unkind and unwelcoming messages to each other, we have been thinking about all the ways we can create a more thoughtful and courageous community.

At the same time, this year has been permanently marked by police violence against people of color that we as a nation have witnessed, again and again. And as I write this note, we are once again confronted by violence inflicted upon African-Americans, this time in Charleston, South Carolina. Issues of marriage inequality and immigration status also flood the news. It is clear that we still have a lot of work to do, and imperative that we teach our students to stand up for the rights and safety of all people.

It takes courage to stand up for our beliefs in the presumption of innocence and justice for all Americans. As we reflect on our commitment to social justice and our deep distress over the violence perpetrated upon people of color in America, we want to build within our community greater courage to deepen our own commitment to change. Along with the work our faculty and staff have done this year on allyship and microaggressions, we will continue to ask the question: What kinds of courage can we show as individuals and as a community, both for our own beliefs and as allies?

The administrative team has read a number of books hoping to find one book that would resonate for the entire CDS community. In the end, we couldn't choose just one book and instead have two book recommendations that provoke us to think deeply about privilege, equity, race and racism in America, along with several Ted Talks that do the same. We hope that you will have time this summer to read at least one of these books and watch at least one of the Ted Talks. We've also included a list of SPEAK events that will be held next year that touch on the theme of courage in unique ways. As always, we will gather in book discussion groups in the fall to talk about what we have learned.

Speaking about the recent tragedy in Charleston, President Obama invoked the 1963 speech by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in response to the Birmingham church bombing. Dr. King called upon citizens to "substitute courage for caution” and urged people to ask not just who did the killing but ask "about the system, the way of life, the philosophy which produced the murderers.”

I invite us all to think deeply about how we can substitute courage for caution whenever possible, and I look forward to coming together in September to discuss these books and their themes with you.


Ted Talks

SPEAK Events (locations TBD):