In a time when there are school shootings almost daily, Mr. Mufson shares his thoughts on how to equip our students with the tools to become informed, active citizens.
While we were safely tucked into spring break, two significant milestones occurred as a result of the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. First on March 14, there was a national day of student protest. Students around the country, often supported by their schools, walked out of their buildings for 17 minutes (one minute for each life extinguished at Parkland) to show their solidarity with the Never Again movement that seeks to eradicate gun violence in our nation’s schools. While some may say that elementary and middle school-aged children are too young to take part in a meaningful way in political protests, I believe that part of our school’s mission is to equip our students to be active, engaged, informed, and civil citizens in our democracy. It is not the school’s role to promote or take political stances, but is our role to ensure that, as students grow and develop, they are equipped to grapple intelligently with the issues of our day, to decide for themselves where they stand, and to know how to take appropriate action if so moved.
The second milestone occurred also on March 14 and on March 17. For the first time since I have been a Head of School, The Association of Independent Maryland and DC Schools (AIMS), our accrediting body and independent school advocacy association, asked member schools to consider signing on to a letter that appeared in both The Baltimore Sun
and The Washington Post. Here
is a link to that letter.
In the end, about 133 schools signed on. The Country School was one of them. I felt it important that we demonstrate to our students that we support our leaders taking strong, commonsense action to protect children, as those eloquent student voices from Parkland have pleaded. The letter was relatively free of politics (except for stating, “What we do not need is to arm our teachers with guns, which is dangerous and antithetical to our profession as educators.”) But I assure you we will not be arming Country School teachers. There are many less potentially dangerous solutions that our leaders should be able to devise if they would put politics aside and place children first. We’ll see if they have the will.
As I wrote following the Parkland shootings, as a nation “we should be able to find a way to balance reasonable gun rights with sensible controls, particularly over weapons like assault rifles. If our citizenry is not sophisticated or patient enough to understand the pernicious effect some powerful lobbyists can ultimately have on the fabric of our culture, we need to find a way to inject common sense, to say nothing of responsibility, decency, and action, into our legislative process and our educational system.”
The AIMS letter pointed out that “Our  school communities represent multiple political parties and occupy different positions on the spectrum from liberal to conservative. Our schools are secular and religious, small and large, urban, rural, and suburban. We serve a range of children, from nursery through grade twelve. Our calling is to serve and to educate children, to ensure their safety and well-being, and to help them grow into thoughtful and responsible citizens. Please let us do our work. Please act now with vigor, determination, and urgency, on behalf of our nation’s children.” It remains to be seen if this time will be different, if action will actually be taken. I don’t know what it says about the efficacy of our democracy if our leaders lack the courage to protect our children.