It is great to have a theme for the year, and by all accounts, Tabor students and faculty are really embracing our theme of Perspective. A bit of a play on the Class of 2020 and the idea that hindsight is 2020 vision, we thought the time was right for this helpful and fun theme. Themes spark creativity and help us draw connections between ideas. Students and faculty become inspired by the idea and very soon, it takes root, opening new doors to ever more connections.
Everyone comes at things from different angles, different world views, and experiences. The theme of perception is a terrific way to speak about differences of all kinds. Indeed, Brian Nam ’20, one of our student Co-Heads of International Students who create year-long programs for the school community, masterfully announced their plans for ways for students to learn more about the world around them through their international peers. Biting into two different apples, he explained one would never know that another apple that looks a bit different could be as deliciously complex as the one a person already prefers. That by opening our experience, we might enjoy a new perspective on … apples… and maybe even widen that to exploring more about the world and how it works. He invited the students to take part in the many activities they have planned from talks by students about their home countries to snack sharing and even learning some new games like Thai footvolleyball! (Who knew!)
Our Chapel program provides a new way every week to learn from each other. Some student speakers discuss hardships or heartbreaks they have endured, others about joys they have experienced. Some discuss family life, their values, politics, religion: none are off-limits. The point of Chapel, we remind students each year, is not necessarily to agree with everything said but to quietly listen to another’s point of view.
It is the same with our Debrief program on Thursday nights. Run by faculty, this evening program allows students to bring concerns or questions about current events in the news or on campus forward for discussion. We use our community norms to manage the discussion so that all points of view are delivered in a respectful manner so they can be heard. The IDEA Club, run by students, on alternating Thursday nights, likewise provides a forum for students to discuss ideas around Identity, Diversity, Equity, and Awareness (IDEA). These have been excellent opportunities for student growth. If we can’t talk so that people can listen, we can’t even hope to listen and learn from each other.
Speakers we bring to campus through our Saturday School Day programs provide further opportunity to open our minds to the experiences of others, and this year will be no different. In January, in honor of Martin Luther King Day, we will hear about the life experience and work of a nationally acclaimed anti-hate peace advocate, Christian Picciolini. A former violent extremist in his youth, he now leads the Free Radicals Project, a global extremism prevention and disengagement network that helps people leave hate behind.
It will be challenging to hear his account, absolutely, and it will be so important to open ourselves to learn from his perspective. Picciolini has something important to share about how to improve the health of our communities, both tactically and through the power of redemption.
As our world becomes more diverse and ever more connected, it so important to cultivate listening skills and an openness to other people’s ideas, impressions, and experiences. We are not the same, and we miss opportunities to improve our condition if we don’t actively seek to learn from each other by opening our hearts and minds. Whether or not we agree, we expand our frame of reference and find more ideas and questions to explore.