It’s bouncing around a few Quaker listservs, but I haven’t seen it posted online anywhere except (oddly) Marketwatch, so I’m posting it here. Bolded is the part I like the best.
(Small pity they repeat the myth/oversimplification of George Fox being “the founder” of Quakerism.)
CAMBRIDGE, MA, Dec 09, 2008 — By selecting Sidwell Friends as their daughters’ new school, the Obamas have touched off a flurry of questions — and editorials — on their choice of educational institution. Founded by religious dissenter George Fox in 1652, Quakers (members of The Religious Society of Friends) have long advocated for peace and social justice across race and culture, religion and gender. Actively engaged in the abolitionist and women’s suffrage movements of the 17th-20th centuries, the Quakers’ involvement in education is another extension of their commitment to seeing “the light within each person.” From Washington Post Foreign Correspondent Anthony Shadid, whose book about the Iraqis’ perspective of the war in Iraq earned him international acclaim, to Harvard College Professor Caroline Elkins, whose research on genocide in Kenya led to an award-winning book and a BBC documentary film, many educators and authors who are deeply committed to social justice have chosen a Quaker education for their children.
Anthony Shadid, a Pulitzer Prize-winning foreign correspondent for The Washington Post and author of the book, “Night Draws Near: Iraq’s People in the Shadow of America’s War,” addressed the connection between Quaker education and social justice: “If there was one lesson I learned from reporting in Iraq, it was that differences in culture, traditions and even history paled before our commonly held values. Like Americans, the people I interviewed there want their children to eat well, to be safe, to be educated and to live in a just world. More draws us together than keeps us apart. I chose a Quaker school for my daughter because I wanted her to understand that there are principles that join us as citizens of the world, and those principles — justice, tolerance and equality — matter.”
Caroline Elkins, Associate Professor of African Studies at Harvard College and author of the 2006 Pulitzer Prize winning book, “Imperial Reckoning: The Untold Story of Britain’s Gulag in Kenya,” shared her opinion: “I can only believe that if more schools were guided by Quaker philosophy, that there would be far less intolerance in our culture — and far fewer atrocities in our past and present. If we can teach our children to understand that difference is not the same as inferiority, we will be far less likely to demonize any population which is not a carbon copy of our own.”
A leading scholar on the history of race in science, Evelynn Hammonds, Dean of Harvard College, offered her view of Quaker education: “We chose a Quaker school for our son because the environment stimulates students’ intellect and creativity but also engenders an awareness of the larger world, encourages personal responsibility, and celebrates human difference while affirming the dignity and value of each human being.”
Don McNemar, Board Member, American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), former president of Guilford College and former Head of Phillips Academy at Andover, described the Quaker philosophy of education: “Quakers sometimes talk about the role of education as ‘awakening the inner teacher,’ encouraging the student’s curiosity about his or her own spiritual and social values. That approach to education is good for children from all different families, religious backgrounds and social outlooks. Like the vast majority of families who send their children to a Quaker school, the Obamas are not Quakers — and yet they value this approach to education.”
Helen Elaine Lee, Associate Professor of Writing and Humanistic Studies at M.I.T. and a member of PEN New England’s Freedom To Write Committee, recently completed the manuscript of her third novel, “Life Without,” about the lives of a group of people who are incarcerated in two neighboring American prisons. Professor Lee described the experiences of her son, now in his fifth year at a Quaker school:
“I come from a long line of people who worked to transcend and demolish barriers to full participation in American society. My great grandfather was born a slave and became a university president. As a writer and teacher I create narratives of African American experience which criticize and resist social injustice, and celebrate culture and identity. For the last seven years I have been writing about and working with prisoners because the crisis of incarceration is one of the most pressing issues of social justice before our society. I chose CFS for my son because it is academically rigorous while embedding social criticism in its curriculum and instilling engagement, activism and leadership in its students. CFS develops students into critical thinkers and provides an outlook which they would not get anywhere else.”
Mr. Shadid, Professor Elkins, Dean Hammonds and Professor Lee are all parents of children attending Cambridge Friends School. Mr. McNemar is chair of the Cambridge Friends School Board of Trustees.
About Cambridge Friends School
Cambridge Friends School (CFS), the only Quaker school in Massachusetts, is a co-educational elementary school enrolling 229 students in pre-K through grade 8. Established in 1961 under the care of Friends Meeting at Cambridge, Religious Society of Friends (Quakers), CFS’s mission is to provide an outstanding education. Guided by Quaker principles — universal values such as equality, integrity, community and peace — CFS engages students in meaningful academic learning within a caring community strongly committed to social justice. CFS encourages all students to develop their intellectual, physical, creative and spiritual potential and, through the example of their lives, to challenge oppression and to contribute to justice and understanding in the world.
For more information on Cambridge Friends School, please visit us on the Web at: www.cfsmass.org or contact us via e-mail: email@example.com or phone: 617.354.3880.
Maria Vetrano, Vetrano Communications
Peter Sommer, Head
Cambridge Friends School
Tel: 617.354.3880 ext. 111