Posted on December 6th, 2012 by Zane Cagle
On Election Day, I got up early and took my little girl to school. I was excited and so was she. Our election site was also my little girl’s school. At school, the teachers and staff had impressed upon her the importance of Election Day. At four and a half, she understood that it was an important day for decisions and the grown -ups got to decide. Upon entering the school and seeing all of the voters in addition to the number of parents dropping their children off at school, it occurred to me that a school also being an election site is quite a challenge. Certainly, all of those strangers in the building has to be disruptive to children and their routines.
An experience that I had that morning caused me to reflect while on my drive to work and I thought it might be interesting to share with you. As I was waiting in line to vote, the head of the school greeted the voters and passed a basket with “respect” pins. On the stand next to the basket was an explanation of the goal that the school stressed. The goal/objective was for each student to gain appreciate for other individuals and their differences and respect varying viewpoints. How appropriate on Election Day! Diversity of children including their various ideas is emphasized daily at my daughter’s school which is one of the reasons I love to send her to that school. Working to gain an appreciation for other individuals and their varied perspectives and opinions is an objective that we, as adults would do well to learn. I have to remind myself daily to respect another’s political standpoint when it doesn’t coincide with mine. There has not been a better time in the last few years to really see the importance of “respect” for all than in the months and days leading to our most recent Election Day.
The real irony of the day and experience of watching the head of school/principal pass out the “respect” pins/buttons was the fact that many declined the button and some declined somewhat disrespectfully—-interesting. The irony was not lost on me. And the principal’s response was not lost on me either. He was respectful and thanked them for coming in and proceeded to the next person in line, greeting them and offering the buttons. I felt good knowing that the principal of the school was practicing the very concept of “respect” that was reinforced in the classrooms. Not always an easy thing to do when emotions are running high as they were that Election Day Tuesday.
So, I talked with the principal, Dr. Thomas Hoerr, and asked if he could share some of his thoughts from his experience as host administrator at a voting site during the school day. He gave me an explanation of what they are trying to accomplish every day, not just on Election Day. I know I am better for listening and I hope that you will find his comments as interesting as I did!
By Thomas R. Hoerr, PhD
Head of the New City School
“Voters entering New City School on the recent national Election Day were greeted by the usual party advocates distributing political flyers, the typical polling-place workers checking names, and something new: a basket offering free red, white, and blue buttons with RESPECT in the middle, in big letters, and New City School written below. The buttons were our gifts to our neighbors, and they were gifts with a purpose.
Our school embraces diversity; I often say that we appreciate a diversity of diversities. Children need to learn to read, write and calculate, but that’s just the beginning. They also need to learn to accept challenges, take responsibility, become good people, and to appreciate others. That includes appreciating others who are different than they are in many different ways: racial, socio-economic, sexual orientation, ability/disability, and learning differences. In addition, for some time now, our faculty has been talking about the importance of political diversity. That is, we should respect others even when we don’t agree with them politically. Clearly, that’s not always easy!
Sadly, all too often, the courtesy and respect that we show to others who are different than we are is thrown out the window when those differences are political. Somehow it’s become O.K. to be rude, to call names, and to denigrate those who hold different political views than those we find acceptable.
Our faculty has talked about this and decided that we need to teach our students – and ourselves – to embrace political diversity too. It’s been a topic in classrooms, and I’ve talked about it at Open Houses and in my weekly parent letters. We had these really cool RESPECT buttons made, and distributed them to all of our students and staff members. From there, it seemed only logical to give the buttons to voters too. Our hope was that the buttons would serve as a reminder that respect should be the norm.
The feedback from everyone – students, parents, and voters – has been quite positive.”
So, now that the election is over, reminding ourselves of respect for diverse political opinions cannot be forgotten. Let us all remember the lessons of our childood and “respect” those with differing and alike opinions and perspectives. The informatoin shared by Tom is helpful to not just children but all adults as well. I thank him for sharing his school’s vision and goal regarding “respect”.
Trying to put myself in another’s shoes is critical in my job as a trial attorney. In order to understand my clients, I have to be able to at least imagine their life from their perspectives. I don’t always like their perspective and sometimes, I struggle with it. But, when I’m able to successfully understand them a little more, I cannot help but like them more—it’s human nature. It is hard to really dislike someone when they share of themselves, thus sharing and really getting to know others is definitely a way to gain appreciate and respect for them. In union with New City School, I think that seeing the special attrributes we share as diverse members and appreciateing how we are all different and unique is a sacred goal. I’m glad that my 4 yr old is learning about respect for diversity at home and at school, so that she can constantly remind our family and me, specifically.
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