Graland is dedicated to equipping students with the ability to collaborate across lines of difference while seeing the humanity in every person. As we prepare our students to be engaged citizens and thoughtful leaders during a global pandemic and racial, civil, and political unrest, civil discourse is a necessary skill to ensure students are ready to make a difference in an interconnected and interdependent society.
In Oren Jay Sofer’s article, “Every Voice Matters: Stability Through Diversity,” he shares:
“There is a simple yet profound principle in environmental science: diversity increases stability and resilience.
“Originally observed on a large scale in ecosystems, the principle applies to a range of other contexts. Diversity in the human microbiome increases overall health. Genetic diversity of a species increases the population’s ability to adapt to change.
“The same is true at the community level.
“A diversity of voices and perspectives increases the richness and resilience of a society. Excluding voices makes it a dry landscape: unstable and flammable.”
Whether we want to control the raging wildfires or create a rich and resilient learning environment, we must embrace diversity as a value-add and establish and sustain an institution that fosters inclusivity. Students must be seen, valued, heard, and respected.
With the presidential election just weeks away, students are empowered to actively explore human, social, political, and civil rights issues on every level. Naturally, there will be varying viewpoints that stem from different backgrounds, belief systems, and political leanings. We seek to create a space where students feel a sense of belonging and can show up as their true, authentic selves; a place where all perspectives and voices can be heard.
Teaching Civil Discourse
Whether students have the terminology or not, they see how social hierarchies play out in society from an early age. For this reason, we lean into discomfort and engage students even at an early age to teach the concepts of civil discourse.
- First, we listen and ask questions to see what children know and think.
- We then tell the truth and share facts in an age-appropriate and developmentally appropriate manner using simple sentences and accurate information.
- Next, we check in and see what children understand, think, and most importantly, feel. We state the justice issues by asking what is fair or unfair, kind or hurtful, and how we know.
- Finally, we share our values of respecting everyone and engaging in productive conversations through civil discourse. Students disagree with ideas but do not criticize others for what they think.
Ground rules that structure discussions help teach students to make assertions while backing them up with reasoning and evidence. Students learn to be curious and open-minded while thinking critically and clearly explaining their opinions. They develop the key leadership skills of active listening, deep reflection, analytical thought considering evidence and counter-evidence, effective communication, and the ability to see, understand, and hold multiple perspectives.
As we collectively pursue intellectual excellence and strong character, we must prepare our graduates to be competent in cross-cultural communication. At the same time, we honor individuality and exist as a mosaic where every member of our community shines in their own unique manner. One person’s light doesn’t have to dim for another’s to shine. We can all shine together.
Oscar Gonzalez works to make sure everyone at Graland feels welcome and included. Day to day he educates our community -- students, faculty, staff, and parents -- about issues surrounding social justice, equity, and inclusion.