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From the Principal...
Wednesday, October 24, 2012 7:15 AM

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"The human heart is the first home of democracy. It is where we embrace our questions. Can we be equitable? Can we be generous? Can we listen with our whole beings, not just our minds, and offer our attention rather than our opinions? And do we have enough resolve in our hearts to act courageously, relentlessly, without giving up -- ever -- trusting our fellow citizens to join with us in our determined pursuit of a living democracy?" --Terry Tempest Williams, "The Open Space of Democracy"

Progressive educator, Parker Palmer suggests that our schools can make a vital contribution to democracy by teaching and practicing five habits of the heart on which so much depends. Below are five habits from his book, “The Healing Heart of Democracy” (2011).

  1. An understanding that we are all in this together. We are a profoundly interconnected species, as the global economic and ecological crises reveal in vivid and frightening detail. We must embrace the simple fact that we are dependent on and accountable to one another. At the same time, we must save this notion from the idealistic excesses that make it an impossible dream.
     
  2. An appreciation of the value of "otherness." Although we are all in this together, we spend most of our lives in "tribes." Thinking of the world as "us" and "them" is one of the limitations of the human mind. The good news is that "us and them" doesn't need to mean "us vs. them." Instead, it can remind us of the ancient tradition of hospitality to the stranger which is rooted in the notion that the stranger has much to teach us. Hospitality invites "otherness" into our lives to expand our minds and hearts, to help us feel more at home amid the diversity of humankind. But we won't practice hospitality to the stranger if we don't understand and embrace the creative possibilities inherent in our differences.
     
  3. An ability to hold tension in life-giving ways. Encounters with "the stranger" inevitably take us to places of tension where we don't want to be, places where we see and hear things that run counter to our convictions. If we fail to hold those tensions creatively, they will shut us down and take us out of the action. But when we allow them to expand our hearts, they can open us to new understandings of ourselves and our world, enhancing our lives and allowing us to enhance the lives of others. The genius of the human heart -- and of democracy -- lies in their capacity to use such tensions to generate insight, energy, and new life. Making the most of those gifts requires a fourth key habit of the heart...
     
  4. A sense of personal voice and agency. Insight and energy give rise to new life as we speak and act, expressing our version of truth while checking and correcting it against the truths of others. But many of us lack confidence in our own voices and in our power to make a difference.
     
  5. A capacity to create community. Without community, it is nearly impossible to achieve voice: it takes a village to raise a Rosa Parks. Without community, it is nearly impossible to multiply the "power of one." It took a village to translate Parks' act of personal integrity into social change. In a mass society like ours, community rarely comes ready- made. But creating community where we live and work doesn't mean abandoning other parts of our lives to become full-time organizers. The steady companionship of two or three kindred spirits can kindle the courage we need to speak and act as citizens.

Keep these in mind during our political season – Democracy is linked to key open education values!

Sincerely,
Patrick