Dear CMS Community,
My heart is heavy as I reflect on the murder of George Floyd by police.
As tragic as this particular situation is, what is even more painful and outrageous is how violence against Black people continues to happen in such a systemic way. George Floyd is only the most recent among the names we’ve come to know. Thanks to modern technology, our whole nation is now bearing witness to these senseless and horrible incidents. When racial violence happens again and again at the hands of people who are acting in the name of society, each member of that society should consider how to co-create a world where every human being is truly seen, heard and valued. Our children, all of our children, deserve nothing less.
As Montessorians, we bear a special responsibility for examining our prejudices. Dr. Montessori believed that world peace was possible—if, and only if—adults recognize and dismantle our biases. Why is this work of overcoming bias so critical? Because Dr. Montessori’s observation of children over many decades showed her that adult biases of every sort are the main obstacles to children’s development. In order for children to realize their incredible potential, to realize what is possible for humanity, we adults must transform ourselves. AMI Trainer A.M. Joosten, spoke of the great challenge of applying Dr. Montessori’s work in our classrooms and lives as “achieving a revolution within ourselves and of our whole outlook, of our whole attitude and of everything we are.”
Over the past year at CMS, we’ve been exploring how to overcome bias in ourselves and our school. We discussed cultural and racial bias in our staff training last fall, and several of our staff have attended anti-racism trainings for educators. We’ve begun examining the books in our classrooms with a diversity lens, and creating wish lists for books that are inclusive and representative of many cultures, ethnicities, races and viewpoints. Our AP students just completed a unit on civil rights. And, we recognize this is only the beginning.
As we plan for next school year, our faculty will consider how to actively discuss race with children in developmentally appropriate ways.
We would love for you to be part of that conversation. In the months to come, we will reach out to you to create a dialogue around these issues. All of us at CMS look forward to engaging with you and your family in this important work. As AMI Trainer Uma Rumani says, “Montessori is not something that we do. It is who we are.” We will be giving special consideration to what that means for our beautifully diverse community of families.
For now, we want to support you as you grapple with how to talk to your children about race. Therefore, we are passing along some resources and insights offered by St. Louis University Professor Dr. Kira Banks. Dr. Banks’ organization Raising Equity helps families and schools raise children with an equity mindset.
Dr. Banks emphasizes that when we talk about race with children, it is important to explain the origins of racism, and how the system of racism perpetuates itself today. She highlights the following as resources with which parents can engage:
- 13th, a documentary analyzing the criminalization of African Americans and the U.S. prison boom. Suitable for children late elementary school age and older.
- A Young People’s History of the United States, by Howard Zinn. Also suitable for children late elementary school age and older.
- We Stories – an organization dedicated to engaging white families to change the conversation about and build momentum towards racial equity in St. Louis through books and reading. Suitable for early elementary school age and younger children.
To learn more about Dr. Kira Banks and Raising Equity, visit her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or YouTube. Dr. Banks’ website is http://kirabanks.com/
Maria Montessori survived two world wars. Though she lived through times when human beings inflicted horrific atrocities upon each other, Dr. Montessori did not lose hope. She continued to train teachers in her method, so that children around the world might realize their potential. Dr. Montessori knew that liberating the possibilities in each human being was the prerequisite for peace. She wrote, “An education capable of saving humanity is no small undertaking; it involves the spiritual development of man, the enhancement of his value as an individual, and the preparation of young people to understand the times in which they live.”
Even in these difficult times, I have hope, because I have seen the foundations of peace, day after day, in our CMS classrooms. The faculty, staff and I look forward to being with the children again soon.
Kimberly V. Schneider, M.Ed., JD, LPC
Head of School