Staying Grounded and Connected Through Election Season

Conversations began over a year ago at Bosque regarding how to best plan for and navigate this fall’s upcoming elections. The splintering of communities that occurred in schools across the country after the last presidential election caught many educators off guard.  Having experienced firsthand how detrimental an election can be in eroding a community, we have been proactively planning for how to best support our students and our staffulty through education, discussion, and application of our mission and core values. 

Last year’s comprehensive process of updating our mission and core values and collaboratively creating our Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Principles and Best Practices has provided us relevant, reflective, and responsive philosophical underpinnings to guide our engagement through moments big and small. These core documents reflect who we are as a school today and will drive us into the future. They illustrate how we seek to exist in relation to our students, our colleagues, our families, and through the contributions we each make within the broader world. As we looked toward the elections, we revisited a document created by former Bosque Head of School, Billy Handmaker, and updated it to reflect our Guiding Principles for the 2020 Elections. These guidelines are introduced by the following preamble, taken from our DEI Principles and Best Practices document:  At Bosque School, we commit to creating a learning environment that respects and dignifies the diverse identities and lived experiences of our students, their families, our colleagues, and the many communities that we engage as an institution. This commitment is grounded in our belief that an inclusive and equitable learning environment is essential to fulfilling our school’s mission and our mandate as educators to enable our students to make a positive difference in a diverse and changing world. 

Through our core value of inspiring academic excellence, it is important that we engage our students in thoughtful and developmentally appropriate curriculum and conversation about the elections and democracy. Here are some examples of how this is currently happening in the classroom: 
  • In 7th grade, social studies students are learning about systems of government, identifying an election issue of personal passion, researching the candidates’ stances on that issue, and developing compelling arguments to hypothetically pitch to the candidates through written and Flipgrid form. 
  • In 8th grade, social studies students are studying the history of the election process, the electoral college, and enfranchisement/disenfranchisement. 
  • In 10th grade history, students created definitions of civil discourse; two examples include:
    • “Civil discourse is a respectful and informative conversation between two people in which the opposing sides attack ideas (respectfully) rather than the people who hold the ideas.”
    • “In a civil discussion, you should always respect and listen to what the other person is saying. You should also provide reliable sources with what you are saying. If something that the other person says is bothering you, you should express your thoughts calmly to provide information, rather than raising your voice and escalating  the situation.”
    • In 11th grade history classes, students will be discussing how the power of each individual’s voice and vote extends far beyond election day and the significant ways that students can exercise democracy.

    Beyond the classroom, morning meetings have always been an important space for education and idea-sharing. Our staffulty are creatively curating content to share with students through our electronic morning meetings on the topics of democracy, voting history, absentee ballots, and a brilliant video made by Ms. Alvarez on the difference between enemies and rivals that I encourage you to watch and enjoy. 

    This curriculum and these conversations will continue to occur in the months to come and will be grounded in our mission, values, and election guiding principles. At Bosque, we intentionally deliver a Challenging Education, and we recognize and appreciate that these conversations and the heightened tensions surrounding any election can be difficult in a variety of ways. First and foremost, we seek to create a safe and brave space for all of our students and staffulty to embrace our mission and to “...lead lives of intellectual curiosity, personal integrity, and compassionate contribution to a more just world.” I hope that the lessons learned through the 2016 election prepare us as a community and as a nation to model the definitions of civil discourse so thoughtfully shared by our 10th graders and so critically important to our future.

    With gratitude,

    Jessie Barrie, PhD
    Head of School