Over the past weeks, we have undertaken intentional conversations both as a faculty and with our students about the importance of the upcoming election, the ideals of our Constitution, and the practice of civil discourse. When I reached out to Watkinson employees about planning for the day after the election, and how we would plan for a meaningful school day in the aftermath of this important election, I received 41 extremely thoughtful responses. Yes, you read that right: 41.
The responses were potent, reasoned, and varied, ranging from expressing support for using the day after Election Day as a day to “lower the temperature”, to those who believe that among Watkinson’s strengths is our capacity to be in community and use that strength to educate, engage, support. While a clear election result is not likely to emerge immediately, we recognized that we have an important opportunity to gather in All-School Meeting to do some learning about the procedural matters ahead, and to recommit to the principles of Civil Discourse we’ve been focusing on and practicing. Others shared the thought that using our experience “the day after” the 2016 election would be our best teacher in helping us to plan for a meaningful day at school. Some faculty were thinking about class time and Watkinson’s impending move to intentional virtual schooling, hoping we’ll strike a balance between necessary space to educate around the election and return to the safe and productive classroom structures that are so important for our students.
All of this is at the center of our planning and thinking together about the morning of November 4.
We will create meaningful structures that will invite our students to ask the questions they may have about the outcome of the election, gain insights about the vote, and share their thoughts and perspectives as we put into practice the tenets of civil discourse and dialogue we’ve been studying this fall.
Every election is important. Our students themselves voted two weeks ago to elect a student representative to Watkinson’s Board of Trustees, after listening to speeches and determining how to cast their virtual ballots. It is not a far distance to see in them, through this local act, the future of our democracy. Engagement is a habit of learning that we consciously seek to foster and develop in our students, and informed participation never goes out of season, irrespective of the particulars of the issues or the scope of the election. A vote is never to be taken for granted.