I recently gave a book talk to the Facing History and Ourselves (FHAO) Small Schools Network. I was so energized by the kind of discussions and questions that arose as we read and discussed two sections of my book: What Can Leaders Do When Values Clash: Queer 101 (pg. 40), and The Tricky Issue of Parent Access to Power in the School: Invisible barriers are there for adults too (pg. 164). The audience asked terrific questions. That’s what I’ve hoped the book would spark, more and more people asking hard questions and than taking those questions to action.
One teacher asked specifically if I thought it was okay for a student to leave an event if he or she were too uncomfortable (this issue was one I faced and wrote about in the book). In the book, I talk about how a school leader can bring everyone together when values clash, but discussing the issue of Queer 101 in real time with very smart teachers from around the country, I began to wonder if perhaps the way my school handled the situation was okay. Just yesterday a student was in the hall and when I asked her why, she responded: “I don’t want to be in class when students are defending the right for women to have an abortion. I totally disagree with that.” I reminded her that staying in class didn’t mean she was agreeing, but rather she was listening and learning to hear other perspectives. If we can’t do that, in school, how can we ever hope to resolve conflicts in the world? She wasn’t convinced.
I was so appreciative of the opportunity to share my writing with this incredible group of educators who are grappling with similar issues.