The administration of the Elementary•Middle School published a letter outlining its commitment to address and repair the impact racism has had on our community. The following are answers to questions related to the initiative.
Is this commitment to racial justice going to change Landmark’s mission?
No. Our commitment to racial equity will not be at the expense of Landmark’s mission. The two are not in conflict. It will benefit all Landmark students to expand their worldview and critical thinking skills. We will continue to be an institution with a mission of empowering students with LBLD to reach their full potential.
Is it a school’s responsibility to teach about this material?
It is our civic responsibility as educators to learn and teach the basic facts of this modern movement for racial justice. We are in the midst of a historical moment of social change and our students need to understand, in developmentally appropriate ways, what is happening in the world around them. Families can (and should) complement this education with conversations and guidance about their own family’s particular belief system.
Will our kids feel shame about their races?
Howard Stevenson, a clinical psychologist and professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education, explains, “You’re always communicating about race, whether you talk about it or not.” Despite the fact that we often aren’t explicit about race/racism at school, kids may already feel shame about their race. Our goal of making our curricula more diverse/representative and our classrooms more responsive to race and racism means that we will create a safe place for students to ask questions, and learn. Teachers will learn how to help students share the intensity of what they feel to know how to tread and where to take the discussion. When students have a safe space to ask questions and explore, the shame around their identity or their lack of knowledge/understanding is actually minimized.
How does this benefit students, educationally speaking?
We had feedback from parents of white students and students of color who wish we did a better job showing more diverse representation in our curricula and trained staff to better understand implicit bias and the experience of people of color in our largely white institution. Our families of color can’t avoid talking about race—that is not a privilege they have because their race makes them different at Landmark. The reality is that many of our students of color don’t feel seen and many of our white students notice the racial differences but feel uncomfortable talking about what they notice and asking the questions they have. We are mission-focused in wanting to empower students with LBLD to reach their full potential. Part of this is ensuring that students ask questions, advocate to better understand themselves and the world around them, and speak up when they see injustice. If we don’t give students the tools to respond and have these conversations, we are missing an opportunity to help our students learn about topics that their peers in other public and private schools are learning, too.
Are elementary students are too young for this heavy topic?
Children as young as 2 are internalizing messages from the adults and the world around them about race. By age 5, children can show signs of racial bias. Our students of color do not have the luxury to learn about this when they are older; they live it each day. There are age-appropriate ways to talk about race so that even young children (of any race) can understand and begin to challenge implicit bias. Some also suggest that when older children and teens learn about race and racism they feel frustrated that they were not made aware of the realities of the impact of race of our society when they were younger. Children inherently want to do well and if we give them the tools to talk about this topic at an early age, they will feel more adept at addressing its realities as they grow.