Beyond Division

Friday, November 11, 2016

We are emerging from a presidential election that tapped into the economic insecurity and alienation felt by so many in the United States and resulted in intense polarization on both sides of the political spectrum.  It was all too easy in the ideological divide to forget our shared humanity and to lose sight of what is most important in our lives.

At No Bully we partner with educators nationwide to build inclusivity and compassion in our schools. In this past year this required a relentless attention to keeping the rhetoric of bullying and social intolerance out of our places of learning.

We will not know until the sound and fury passes what actual damage this election season has caused to the fabric of our school communities. We also do not know whether the rhetoric will result in actual policies that impact inclusivity in our places of learning. I suspect though that just saying no to bullying will not be enough. 

We have in our care a generation of students that are increasingly fearful about their belonging and their family's status in society.  The day after the election, No Bully was working in a San Francisco High School where the fear of uncertainty was the topic of corridor conversations and facilitated student circles. Normal high school banter of tests and friends replaced by heavier issues that gripped the country. Students wondering what the election meant for them and their families.  What we heard were students worried about losing  healthcare, of being deported, and for one Muslim American student the wonder, if she would have to endure another simulated grenade toss and being called a terrorist.

We need to move beyond talk of differences and what Rumi described as "wrongdoing and rightdoing" and to facilitate conversations in our classrooms and as a school community about what it means to see each other as fellow humans on a shared journey through our schools.

Attending to the culture of our schools is not an abstract goal but a calling to invest in practices that support an undivided community. This newsletter suggests three immediate steps.

  • Initiate a discussion with your teachers and staff about signing the Charter for Compassionate Schools.  No Bully brought together the coalition that wrote the charter as a place where schools can find shared values beyond party, race and religion.
  • Hold a classroom peace summit.  Give your students a platform to express the ways that they hurt each other, including bullying, and to activate them as changemakers in creating solutions.  
  • Lead your students through the "just like me" exercise. Have them reflect as a class on what this practice means to them and their sense of 'other'.

As we move forward let us truly work together to bind the wounds of division.