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Head of School Blog: On Indigenous Peoples Day

If you’ve been following the news, you are likely aware that the town of Falmouth recently joined a growing number of towns across the state in taking the lead to formally recognize the second Monday in October as Indigenous Peoples Day. While we are by no means pioneers, Falmouth Academy enacted a similar change last winter and in true Falmouth Academy fashion, the impetus for doing so originated with some of our students.  I remember asking the small delegation who came to my office one afternoon what they thought it was important for me to know as I considered their proposal.

They of course shared what they had learned in history classes, that American history did not begin in 1776 or even 1492 and that to truly understand what it means to be an American is to understand the entirety of American history.  But more compellingly, they reminded me that our beloved Cape Cod and the Islands region, this “distinctive place,” to borrow language from the school’s strategic vision, is particularly rich in the culture and history of indigenous peoples.  And finally, they made it about kids, specifically classmates of theirs who identify as belonging to one of our local indigenous populations.  It was important to them that the message we send classmates and neighbors alike is, “everyone belongs here.” 

Another good FA story to be sure, but I share it here to illustrate the broader point that our commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion programming is not a mere supplement to but rather an integrated part of a complete FA education.  The other morning, each advisor facilitated a conversation about the school’s eight Guiding Values, a list that includes, “the beauty of knowledge and the joy of conversation,” “relationships built on trust, respect, and direct communication,” “the wonder of imagination, “ and “ the richness of an educational experience that includes people with diverse backgrounds, perspectives, and identities.”  

While we are certainly hopeful that a community where these values are promoted, lived, and explicitly taught will, to borrow a phrase, make this world a better place, it is our belief that an educational experience that includes people from diverse backgrounds, perspectives, and identities is just a richer educational experience for all, particularly fertile soil for practicing the kind of critical and reflective thinking the aforementioned students exercised in the Head’s office that day.  When we question assumptions, consider perspectives other than our own, or engage with unfamiliar stories or narratives, we are doing the kind of heavy lifting that builds the intellectual muscles that prepare us to thrive in future classrooms and workplaces, the same muscles we exercise when we practice the scientific method, study a second language, use math to solve problems, engage in a roundtable debate, craft and support a written argument, create a visual image or perform on a stage in front of an audience, all of which and more continue to occupy prime real estate in a student’s very busy day. 

So much to do, so little time.
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