Dear Parents, Students, Colleagues,
This week I wish to tell you a little about Rosalind Wiseman and the work that she does through the organization that she founded, Cultures of Dignity. Rosalind was one of the keynote speakers at the recent ACAMIS Conference hosted by Keystone, with our theme of Values Added. She works with schools and school groups across the United States, and also now elsewhere. I knew a little about Rosalind and her work as she has offered her consultation services for a few years, and in a hugely beneficial manner, to The Lawrenceville School near Princeton, where the Head, Steve Murray, is an old friend. She delivered an inspiring address to the whole ACAMIS group at our conference in April, and led two smaller workshops, all virtually. I hope that you will, young and older, take Rosalind’s message of dignity for all to heart, and act on it.
Rosalind Wiseman says and writes this of herself: that she has had only one job since graduating from college—to help communities shift the way we think about children and teenager emotional and physical wellbeing. As a teacher, thought leader, author, and media spokesperson on bullying, ethical leadership, the use of social media, and media literacy, she is in constant dialogue and collaboration with educators, parents, children, and teens. As mentioned in the opening paragraph above, Rosalind is the founder of Cultures of Dignity and is the author of the flexible, dynamic curriculum Owning Up: Empowering Adolescents to Confront Social Cruelty, Bullying, and Injustice. She is also the author of Queen Bees and Wannabes: Helping Your Daughter Survive Cliques, Gossip, Boyfriends, and Other Realities of Adolescence—the groundbreaking, best-selling book that was the basis for the movie Mean Girls.
In the first of the workshops, Rosalind spelled out 6 Principles to Guide Us, which were these:
· Everyone deserves to be treated with dignity
· Acknowledge identity and the possibility of change
· Be easy on people, hard on ideas
· Recognize that young people are the subject matter experts of their lives
· Listening is being prepared to be changed by what you hear
· Asking for help is a strength, not a weakness
I’ll say a little more here about the first principle above. Rosalind makes an unusual and valuable distinction between respect and dignity, which she traces back to the Latin origins of both words. In essence, her distinction is that respect has to be earned, whereas dignity is the worth that every person has and that is innate in each one of us. Because respect has to be earned, Rosalind asserts that it is often associated in young people with age and can therefore be seen to be excluding of them, owing to their youth. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but dignity, on the other hand, does not or should not depend on age. Dignity should be present and valued in every person, regardless of their age.
Although respect is important for her, and of course it is one of our Keystone shared values, Rosalind feels that schools that emphasize dignity as well will be more fully effective in building communities in which each is valued and where everyone feels valued. She speaks of treating oneself with dignity, treating others with dignity, and treating community with dignity: three new keystones, if you like. This trifecta is an expression of Rosalind’s authentic interest and expertise in linking education with justice, emotional and physical wellbeing, ethical growth, and civility.
You may recall that I spoke in my speech at the PTA Town Hall meeting two weeks ago about one or two instances of bullying and the need for all of us to work together to stem and correct such behavior. Towards the end of a school year, there are almost always instances of bad behavior, and not only from students. We are all tired, even as we feel simultaneously joyful and satisfied with another excellent year. And, of course, the pandemic remains an additional point of pressure. When bad behavior occurs, it is so important to try to treat all parties with dignity. We know, sadly, that the world outside Keystone is overflowing with cases where individuals, groups, and even whole nations are stripped of their dignity. We cannot control that much, if at all. But we can control, or at least we must try to control, what happens within our community and how we respond to situations when they go wrong. Dignity is the real deal.
I wish you a dignified day, and then another, and then one more, and then another….
With warm regards,
Head of School