The meaning of a school like Manhattan Country School is something we cannot take for granted these days. Our aspirations for a society defined by big ideas like justice and peace are powerful for our small caring community and for society-at-large. Diversity defines us, and makes for rich, sometimes contentious, interactions. Working to improve how we listen, show empathy for others and restore when things go wrong are daily undertakings. I stand at the front door, listen to children and teachers, get calls and emails from alumni, and appreciate the many acts of generosity that sustain MCS.
We will celebrate at the winter assembly on Friday and then be away from our familiar routines for the holidays. While things will be quiet inside the school, we can all take a little of MCS’ idealism and tool kit with us.
Sharon Phillips is an MCS trustee, immigration attorney and activist working to ensure that the public knows what is happening in detention centers holding Central American children and families in Texas. The 9-10s interviewed her recently in connection with their immigration study. Learning of the conditions at Stewart Detention Center, they asked “How will those children be spending their holidays?” Sharon wrote to Julianna afterward with a message I will tell people who ask me about the school this vacation.
“Your students are incredibly thoughtful and caring people. I was so impressed with how they connected their questions and comments about the detention of immigrants today with what they learned this year about immigration history, and what they learned last year about the encounter between Native peoples and Europeans. The comment about the irony and cruelty of detention and what it means to be an immigrant in view of our colonial history was especially pointed. It was truly a privilege to be part of this process and to see MCS’s unique curriculum – its “special sauce” – in action. Thank you again for the letter-writing to detainees at Stewart Detention Center. As you and Mary asked, I will investigate and see if I can suggest other things that children and adults can do to help immigrants.”
In 2019, there will be many more experiences and stories to tell. We have much to be grateful for as children grow and change, make mistakes, but keep their sights set on some ambitious ideals. Thank you for being part of and supporting the mission and program of MCS.