At our rally last October, guest speaker Rep. Stephen Webber described our public schools as a key part of what makes us “Americans”. This got us talking about all of the ways our public schools work to support ideals that are uniquely American – something that is easy to forget with the regular onslaught of negative news about schools. What makes public schools so American? They are where people go to find opportunity. They reflect the creative energy that diversity generates – an energy that has led to many of our country’s historic advances in a range of fields, including science, music and literature, and to our country’s economic successes. Public schools are also a place that help build a sense of community, particularly among citizens who move often or come from different countries and backgrounds.
PPS has long recognized diversity as a key strength and benefit of our public schools. Here our children learn who they are and how to work with others. Being in a diverse population can help our children learn compassion, to articulate what they believe and why, and to value and learn from experiences and viewpoints different from their own. Public schools are also a place where students (and parents) are challenged by diversity and forced to confront behaviors and values that they don’t accept or agree with, and meet others that they may fear. How we as parents help them navigate that challenge makes a difference in how they view their own place in the community and in our country.
One way we help our children learn to navigate the larger world is through telling stories. The US Department of Arts and Culture, this year hosted “story circles” in conjunction with the President’s State of the Union address. The purpose of these circles was to generate stories that could be woven into a “Peoples State of the Union, 2015 Poetic Address to the Nation” to be delivered on February 1 by a diverse group of poets from across the US. Local nonprofit Jabberwocky Studios, Inc. hosted one of the 150+ Story Circles that registered nationwide with the USDAC. Participants in the story circles were asked to respond to one of three invitations: Tell a story about a moment you felt true belonging – or the opposite — in this country or your community; Describe an experience that showed you something new or important about the state of our community; or Share about a time you stood together with people in your community.”
Using a similar theme of “Harmonious Voices in A Diverse Community”, this year’s Columbia Values Diversity Celebration, invited students to share their thoughts on diversity and community. The student writings were featured as part of the celebration. The thoughts shared by the students were challenging and hopeful.
Inspired by these events we want to invite you – both parents and students – to share your stories and thoughts on the theme of public schools and community. Although our invitation is not limited to the following, we offer the following three invitations to help you get started.
Tell us about a time that your public schools helped you feel a sense of belonging – or the opposite – to a community or to your country.
Describe an experience within your public schools that led you to new awareness of and sense of unity with others in our community, or gave you new insight into challenges faced by others.
Tell us about a time when you spoke-up for your community’s public schools.
We look forward to your stories! Share them in the comment section below or send to firstname.lastname@example.org and we will post them for you!