One of the benefits of the summer pace at The Walker School is the opportunity to spend time planning and working ahead. This summer, I worked on titles for several blogs I plan to write this year. This blog, written in July, speaks to the kind of culture we are working to cultivate at Walker. In light of this past weekend’s disturbing events in Charlottesville, Virginia, this message of who we are and what we believe is all the more pertinent. Thank you for taking the time to read this blog.
My wife used to have a sweatshirt with an artist’s rendering of a fish going “against the flow” as other fish were swimming in the opposite direction. I often think about the image and how the symbolism represents the way I see The Walker School. In a sea often filled with enormous and overcrowded public schools or exclusive religious schools with admission policies that forbid religious diversity, The Walker School’s educational philosophy runs counter. As Cobb County’s only non-sectarian, Primary through Grade 12 independent school, Walker seeks to be a school where families of all races, religions, and backgrounds are welcomed, embraced, and treasured in an environment that is intimately scaled and where learning is the chief priority.
Such an approach to education is admirable. President Ronald Reagan agreed when he said, “America is a melting pot, and education has been a mainspring for our democracy and freedom, a means of providing gifts of knowledge and opportunity to all citizens, no matter how humble their background, so they could climb higher, help build the American dream, and leave a better life for those who follow.” Such an approach is also challenging. In a political and social environment that is increasingly polarized, it is difficult to foster a climate where there is civil disagreement characterized by mutual respect and active listening, and where alternative perspectives are valued and thoughtfully considered. Difficult, yes; but incredibly important.
Today’s students must be prepared to live in an increasingly diverse world, work with people from many other backgrounds and cultures, and consider other perspectives as they respectfully share their own. Perhaps at no time in our history has such an approach to education been so important. We find a perfect example of this in Walker alum, Josh Zuckerman, pictured at right, who was profiled in the New York Times for his efforts to promote respectful dialogue on the Princeton University campus. When asked for his advice to current Walker students in a recent alumni video profile, Josh urged students to listen to one another.
Ultimately, The Walker School seeks to be a place where people with different backgrounds learn from each other; where our diversity makes us stronger; where, politically speaking, liberals, moderates and conservatives thrive. Our differences and approach to diversity help us create empathetic, culturally competent students who become leaders and well-functioning members of a multi-faceted world. Three of our school’s Core Values form the foundation of this educational approach. We believe that the school:
- plays an important role in teaching students to value themselves and others.
- should provide the foundation and framework for giving students the skills and the flexibility that are necessary to thrive in a changing world.
- should encourage students, faculty, and parents to develop a perspective that embraces diversity and enhances global awareness.
For too many of our nation’s students, this exposure doesn’t happen until college or after, when students have left home. Because The Walker School fosters such a positive but academically challenging learning environment for students still living at home, parents are a vital component in the education process and can give feedback on all that their children learn. It may make for interesting dinner table discussions or even disagreements; but it represents the best in the parent-school partnership as we collaborate to give our children the confidence and experience to navigate complex, difficult, or challenging waters.
This is the climate we strive to create at The Walker School.