Welcome to 2020!—a new year full of promise and excitement and lots of contentious shouting from all sides of every issue. In a mere 10 months, we will finally see the beginning of the 2024 political campaign season…. With all joking aside, this will be a year to remember, and here at the beginning, I wanted to send out our community expectations for open and respectful dialogue and some of what we are trying to create here at ESA, both inside the classroom and out. The principles found below are deeply rooted in our Episcopal identity and school values. Will we be perfect? Doubtful, but these are the values that we will strive to hold ourselves accountable to. With gratitude (and permission), the idea for this and some of the words come from one of our fellow ISAS schools in New Orleans. Areté!
Episcopal School of Acadiana Principles for Civil Discourse
ESA values each individual
Bishop: Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?
People: I will with God’s Help.
This question and response, from the Book of Common Prayer, offers us a guidepost as we work to create a diverse and inclusive school that honors and respects every individual. ESA values each individual’s ideas, experiences, and worldview. The ESA community does not discriminate and welcomes individuals without regard to physical handicap, race, color, gender, religion, national and ethnic origin, or sexual orientation. As a result, our community is rich and diverse, with many opportunities for its students to learn from each other and to enhance their own understanding of the world around them. ESA is committed to remaining a place for the healthy expression of diverse ideas, the exploration of various viewpoints, and the idea of civil discourse centered in the guiding principles of loving God and neighbor.
Civil Discourse is a conversation based upon respect and civility; its purpose is to enhance understanding, trust, and learning. ESA encourages its community to follow the guidelines for civil discourse at all times.
Guidelines for Civil Discourse
As members of the ESA community, we should:
- Respect everyone’s right to hold individual ideas
- Approach social and political conversations with a willingness to listen to ideas that differ from our own
- Ground discussions in fact and reason
As members of the ESA community, we should avoid:
- Direct antagonism (insults, demeaning or discriminatory language, mockery)
- Hostility (ad hominem attacks, uncontrolled emotion, threats)
- Inappropriate persuasion (misrepresentation of facts, emotional manipulation, logical fallacies)
Civil Discourse: Core Values
As a community grounded in scholarship and honor, we should adhere to the highest standards of behavior when engaging in all discussions especially those involving social or political topics, always seeking to mirror those values described in our school prayer: “make us gentle, generous, truthful, kind and brave.”
- Gentleness: When engaged in conversations that contain differing viewpoints, all parties should maintain and show respect for others.
- Generosity: We should be magnanimous in in our efforts to understand the other side of any position.
- Truthfulness: We should represent ourselves and our views with honesty and truth, and avoid manipulating or misrepresenting factual information for the advancement of an agenda.
- Kindness: Because political or social disagreements often lead to feelings of animosity, it is critical that we keep kindness in the forefront of all interactions.
- Bravery: Members of the ESA community are responsible and accountable for their words and actions.
Role of the Teacher
Because we believe that it is the role of teachers, coaches, advisors, and administrators to encourage students to think deeply about complex topics, we endeavor to foster civil discourse with and between students in these specific ways:
- Make clear that it is our responsibility and intention to create a school community where civil discourse is the norm. Model this behavior for our students in our classrooms and on campus.
- Remember that our goal is to create active citizens who can engage in thoughtful civil discourse. Our goal is not to create the conservatives, liberals, or libertarians of the future.
- Make clear and reiterate often that students should take their own reasoned positions when responding to discussion prompts and that students will not be penalized for disagreeing with what they perceive as the teacher’s viewpoint.
- Be deliberate and purposeful whenever discussing social or political topics with or in the presence of students and mindful of the impact that our comments can have on students.