“Love of truth, justice, and mercy; benevolence, humility, energy, patience, and self-control, are recognized the world over, as some of the essentials that should govern human action.”
The Common Ideal of Character
In the summer of 1883, renowned 19th-century educational leader and Parker namesake Colonel Francis W. Parker gave a series of talks at a Summer Institute on Teaching. Parker’s final talk that summer began as follows:
“No matter how much educators may differ in regard to the means and methods of teaching, upon one point there is a substantial agreement; viz. that the end and aim of all education is the development of character. There is also, little or no difference of opinion, in regard to the elements that form the common ideal of character. Love of truth, justice, and mercy; benevolence, humility, energy, patience, and self-control, are recognized the world over, as some of the essentials that should govern human action.”
Even though fostering the common ideal of character permeates all that we do at Parker, we believe it is important and necessary to carve out time dedicated to providing thoughtful dialogue on how to best live that ideal. Our mission compels us to prepare our students to make a meaningful difference in our world, and we feel that now—maybe more than ever before—is the time to invest deeply in what Col. Parker felt was the end and aim of all education.
In this spirit, we are delighted to announce that beginning mid-October Francis Parker School will engage in a series of talks, virtual workshops and panels, parent education opportunities, and student-led discussions focusing on what Col. Parker referred to as the common ideal of character.
It is our responsibility to the School, our mission, and, most especially, our students to ensure we invest deeply in this work. We must, as educators, help students learn to navigate differences in healthy ways. Teaching students the skills of dialogue and providing them opportunities to practice these skills in the classroom will give them tools and skills to navigate ideological differences and become effective leaders in our pluralistic democracy. At this moment in our history, a time when our public norms seem to be devolving, we are challenging ourselves, as one community, to be leaders in this work and model the ideals of Col. Parker.
Beginning mid-October, 2020, we invite the Parker community to come together and recommit to this common ideal. We will engage in honest, candid, and critical conversations about the inherent challenges of seeking truth, working toward justice, carrying oneself with humility and patience, and exercising self-control in the face of disagreement or opposition.
Why foster civil dialogue?
We are living in an era of tribalism, incivility, and vitriol. Because our nation is as divided as ever, especially as an election approaches, as educators, we have a responsibility to help students learn to navigate differences in healthy ways. Teaching students the skills of dialogue and giving them opportunities to practice these skills in the classroom will give them tools and skills to navigate ideological differences and become effective leaders in our pluralistic democracy.
In a time when public norms are devolving, we are asking the Parker Community to be counter-cultural.
As we engage in conversations around civil dialogue, our hope is that students, faculty, staff, and parents are able to address these questions:
- Do we have room for differences in opinion?
- Do we know how to both respect the experiences of others and feel free to speak our opinions?
JK-Grade 12 Shared Norms
Resources for Home
Civil Dialogue Resources
- Downloadable PDF: Fostering Civil Discourse
How Do We Talk About Issues That Matter?
- 4 Tips for Talking to People You Disagree With
- Civil Discourse in the Classroom (Teaching Tolerance)
[Our] beliefs are founded on the values and expectations we draw from our parents, life experiences, education, and other forms of political socialization. They are, in other words, assumptions that can be discovered, questioned, and checked through the process of critical thinking.