“For some reason, when I was watching what was happening, it really hit me. Democracy is an experiment. We have the power to derail all that we’ve worked for. We are the people.”

—Cessa Lewis, St. Luke's Sophomore

 

The attack on the Capitol and our cherished democratic values was a painful kick to the gut.  No doubt each of us is processing what we witnessed differently, through the lens of our own lives and experiences. Yet I’m certain we share a profound sadness. The behavior of these rioters, our fellow citizens, was appalling, seditious, and downright frightening. 

I read recently that teachers are the nation’s first responders to world events. It will come as no surprise to St. Luke’s parents that our first responders gathered on the evening of the insurgence and then again first thing in the morning to ensure children were met that day by a faculty ready to help them navigate the turmoil and, most importantly, listen to them as they struggled to process what’s unfolding. 

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St. Luke's students in Stephen Vehslage's Advanced Constitution Class

Teachers across the nation jumped into action to provide historical context and illuminate the significance of the insurgency—even as they struggled with their own intense reactions and emotions. They quickly found their bearings and the courage to ensure this teachable moment was seized.

The quotation above came from a sophomore participating in one of St. Luke’s Dive-In discussions. She was one of many students and faculty who shared shock, confusion, anger and fear. Shared being the operative word. It’s critical that schools be well-prepared and frequently practice tackling difficult topics. St. Luke’s has had many years of Dive-Ins, student-led CGL discussions, and speakers such as constitutional law expert Nadine Strossen. As a result, we have strengthened our Civil Discourse muscles while reinforcing the core CGL habits of mind: curiosity and seeking truth and understanding.

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Michael Powell, St. Luke's Upper School History Teacher, speaks to students in class.

The ability to have these discussions with caring educators supports students’ sense of well-being and creates understanding that they are part of what is happening in the nation. They have their own minds and values and voices. They are indeed the people, and they have the power and responsibility to positively influence the world they inhabit. 

I cannot imagine a more appropriate mission to serve as our beacon throughout these turbulent times. As I watch St. Luke’s teachers help students discover their own moral compasses, I’m struck by the fact that there is no higher calling than mentoring the next generation of leaders and citizens. 

Thank you to this country’s intrepid teachers. I shudder to think where we would be without you.  

 

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St. Luke's is a secular (non-religious) private school in New Canaan, CT, for grades 5-12. St. Luke's mission is an exceptional education that inspires a deep love of learning, a strong moral compass, the commitment to serve, and the confidence to lead. St. Luke's Center for Leadership advances our mission by helping students develop exceptional leadership ability. 

 

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