Principal’s Vantage Point — Fall 2017

Untitled Document

“…Under the light of truth, under the highest ethical motives, there is no patriotism
in this world worthy of the name that does not embrace
every child born under the shining sun.”

—Colonel Francis Wayland Parker

Dear Parker Citizens:

Welcome Back!
I am excited to see you all soon and eager to begin the coming school year with a special welcome to our new students, colleagues and parents.

Soon, faculty, students and parents will receive paperless back-to-school communications from their respective division head—Kimeri Swanson-Beck, John Novick or Justin Brandon (welcome, Justin!) with links to important details regarding the start of school. In addition, Parents’ Association Co-Chairs, Anny Gary and Ali Kagan, will communicate meeting dates and events regarding the Parents’ Association efforts to include and engage parents as supportive citizens in our school community. We aim to make the beginning of the school year easy to navigate for both students and adults.

A Parker Education is a Needed National Resource
Every year, citizenship and character are our school’s central themes. And this year is no different for Parker is more than a school. We are a national resource with a significant relationship and responsibility to our students, our democracy and the world.

The depth of our founding progressive mission and the focus of our current strategic plan empower the people of Parker with vision and vitality to provide our students, and our society, with a specific, invaluable and sustainable resource: Educated people who identify themselves as creative citizens capable of thinking for themselves and listening to others—especially to those who with whom they may not agree—in ways that inspire them to apply their idealism in pragmatic ways as they think critically and act collaboratively to solve problems facing our world. Together, as a school community, we educate young people to be empathic, responsible and courageous citizen leaders in a democratic society and global community who have the self-discipline, confidence and maturity to face new and changing situations with hope, tenacity and imagination. Timely and relevant, our focus on citizenship gives our students the opportunity to know themselves as inquisitive, effective and skilled citizens in-the-making.

Colonel Parker reminds us that the needs of society should determine the work of the school, and these qualities of ideal citizenship and social character are what society needs. This is who we are and always have been. Each year, Parker brings attuned attention to each individual—who that person is and is becoming, how they learn, what their interests are and are not or might be, how to support them in their growing sense of poise and voice. And each year, Parker also guides each person to appreciate and participate—in her or his own way and guided by their own talents, interests and beliefs—in the collective care and responsibility for the broader diverse context of community life that connects each of us with one another. This is what it means to be educated at Parker.

In the current throes of the volatility, uncertainty and lack of civility and equity that mark our times, Parker stands steady, as it always has, as a strong, dependable and reliably inclusive community. As an institutional citizen that cares for and respects the dignity of all individuals and their respective points of view about what comprises a good society, Parker serves as an ally to those people who are especially vulnerable or who have been marginalized in our society. With the teaching and love from family and school, our students learn to express their views and vulnerabilities through words and peaceful action, not violence. Through education, Parker students develop the humanitarian understanding, empathy and courage to stand up as citizens in opposition to the kind of hatred demonstrated by white supremacists, neo-Nazis and their supporters this past weekend in Charlottesville, Virginia. They know that building a more equitable, inclusive and just society is not only their responsibility as young citizens but also a collective responsibility for us all.

Knowing that citizenship must be the focus of our common pursuits, Colonel Parker made it very clear that an educated, diverse and self-disciplined citizenry is necessary to protect the survival of democracy against the forces of authoritarianism. “Democracy, “Colonel Parker said, “is the responsibility of each for all and all for each.” In this spirit, he called on parents and policy makers, as we do today, to support educators in their charge to nurture the growth of our students as ideal citizens who are called upon to take up their responsibility to apply their own “highest degree of knowledge, power, skill and service” so that the social health of the community can strengthen the experience and humanity of each person.

At Parker, students, educators, parents, alumni and parent emeriti are all valued and needed citizens, both in our school community and in relation to our society. And because a Parker education is a privilege that carries responsibilities, we each engage our Parker citizenship in accord with our respective developmental capacities, our essential roles and our access to resources.

For students, this means taking responsibility to lead with kindness, hard work, curiosity and perseverance in two fundamental ways: by questioning oneself through acts of growing self-awareness and by questioning authority and the world-as-it-is through acts of growing knowledge, insight and social consciousness about systemic structures of power.

For educators and parents, this means taking responsibility to invite opportunities for students to learn about themselves and others, both those who have power and those who don’t, or don’t yet. Through such critical reflection and inquiry, teachers and parents have an invaluable role that allows us to support and guide students through these important life lessons and experiences with such citizenship issues as freedom, equity and social justice.

Educating for Citizenship: The Parker Learner
In the coming years of the 21st Century, citizens will continue to need dispositions of social and personal character that have long been core aspects of a Parker education. These qualities include both a growing appreciation for one’s own and others’ contexts, passions and interests, as well as a desire to contribute to the improvement of society.

With awareness for students’ varying developmental ages, the faculty pays close attention to how we can nurture the growth of a set of core citizenship characteristics and democratic skills that they have identified, all qualities that support what it means to be an engaged member of the Parker community.

These habits of mind and heart include: intellectual curiosity driven by critical and innovative thinking and problem solving; empathic awareness and appreciation of one’s own and other people’s cultural values, identities and social contexts; mindful perseverance, agility and optimism in the face of setbacks and failures; the ability to analyze and interpret data and experience, and to communicate such understandings effectively through words, images, numbers, sounds and movement; and collaborative leadership imbued with an energetic, social entrepreneurial spirit.

When we envision the characteristics Parker graduates take with them in their transition from being a student at the school to being an alum, we see with great clarity these specific core attitudes, values and skills. And with the inspired work of our outstanding faculty and staff, we should all see these characteristics maturing in the lives of our students throughout the course of each school year.

Mark Your Citizenship Calendars
In addition to the faculty’s coordinated effort to develop citizenship, character and cultural competence through classroom curriculum, advisories, coaching and student activities, Parker will continue to host a number of America’s thought leaders on citizenship for all in our community and the public-at-large. Click here for a detailed listing of our public events for the coming year.

Throughout the year, Assistant Principal Ruth Jurgensen will oversee curriculum coordination throughout the school with a strong team of faculty and administrative colleagues, and will continue to work with our educational consultant, Derrick Gay, on issues of diversity, equity and inclusion. The theme of citizenship has also informed Parker’s plans to host an interscholastic conference of high school student journalists addressing the relationship between journalism and society.

My Gratitude and Invitation
With joyful anticipation of the school year, I thank you all in advance for all that we will do together on behalf of our students, our school and our mission. And, as you have thoughts about what Parker can do to live up to its promise, I welcome your ideas and look forward to hearing from you.



Daniel B. Frank, Ph.D. ’74


Vantage Point
Summer 2017

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Francis W. Parker School educates students to think and act with empathy, courage and clarity as responsible citizens and leaders in a diverse democratic society and global community.