Ted Talks: Peace is a Verb, January/February 2022

Ted Graf, Head of School
One day last fall, soon after the jury in Wisconsin acquitted Kyle Rittenhouse of murder, I had a conversation with a parent and she said calmly, “I want my kid to know what justice is. Where is my kid going to learn about power and race?” It was a tough, necessary, and understandable question, and I struggled to answer it. Since then, I have thought about this question often, and my answer then is the same today—we, as a school, have not YET caught up with our aspirations and lofty language. And, we are determined to close that gap in the coming year.

In the summer of 2016, when we changed the school’s name and its mission and vision to the 3Ps, we consciously chose the phrase, “embrace diversity to bring more peace to the world.” While we value the importance of being at peace (think mindfulness and centering), and keeping the peace (think community agreements and classroom constitutions), it was time to recognize that making peace needed to be central to the school’s purpose and identity. 

History teaches us that peace does not appear magically, it comes from identifying injustices, challenging bigotry and bias, and using one’s agency to act on that injustice. We took a stand, nearly six years ago, that peace needed to become a verb.

Read more about the hard work we’ve done and where we are headed at this link.

Thanks to the hard work and initiative of many guides, staff, and leaders on all three campuses, we have challenged ourselves to learn how to be more inclusive, how to be anti-racist, and how to create a climate where each student feels that they belong, regardless of their race, ethnicity, family structure, or socio-economic background. 

Our efforts have been welcomed by the vast majority of Headwaters community members, and challenged by some. In my conversations with those who are skeptical, we usually realize we have different or vague definitions and get frustrated with the terminology. Here are some of the terms we’re working on defining more clearly: community, diversity, living authentically, advocacy, DEI (diversity, equity, and inclusion), and ABAR (anti-bias/anti-racist). If there are other terms you would like for the school to define, please reach out and let me know.
As we celebrate Black History Month and prepare for the rescheduled Civil Rights Day on March 2nd (on the River Campus), I look forward to listening closely to the students. In particular, I will be listening for their questions about race and power and for their hopes for a more equitable and just society. Later in the spring, I will be reporting back to all community members about our plans and intentions related to diversity, equity, and inclusivity for the 2022-2023 school year. 

In his essay from 1963, “A Talk to Teachers,” James Baldwin said it this way, and it remains pertinent today, “The purpose of education, finally, is to create in a person the ability to look at the world for himself, to make his own decisions, to say to himself that this is black or this is white, to decide for himself whether there is a God in heaven or not. To ask questions of the universe, and then to learn to live with those questions is the way he achieves his own identity.”

Spring Campus

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Creek Campus

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River Campus

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As a 501(c)3 non-profit school, Headwaters School does not discriminate because of race, color, creed, national origin, religion, gender, age, disability, veteran status, sexual orientation, or any other classes protected by federal, state, or local law in its admissions, hiring, or board membership processes.