I don’t know about you guys, but I’m still emotionally spent from the last election. I’ve been avoiding the news and social media. What used to be lively political discussions with my friends have turned short and worrisome. The political climate in our country is full of anger and divisiveness, and the last election cycle made that abundantly clear to everyone including our kids. Who in their right minds would launch into a civics curriculum with a bunch of elementary students, whose parents most likely supported the losing side? Lake and Park.
It takes a lot of courage to teach civics amidst the last presidential election. But classically, Lake and Park went for it. In the school’s highly curated way, they started with the birth of Western democracy in ancient Greece and reviewed historical milestones like the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights. They learned songs which Teague proudly displayed when he stood up at a recent dinner and sang us “Which way America”. They’ve conducted live votes and opinion polls on global human rights and local issues like the expansion of Light Rail in Seattle. They marched to promote everyone to vote on election day. And they even talked about taxes! (I kid you not.)
The lessons haven’t all been rosy. Kelly and I have been surprised to get questions about race and gender, regarding historic eras when minorities and women didn’t have the right to vote or go to certain schools. How racism, although illegal now, still occurs in our society. We’ve had to answer awkward questions about the difference between public and private schools, why some people don’t vote, and why we’ve been so stressed about the election.
As uncomfortable as some of these family discussions have been, they also make me proud. I’m proud of my kids and proud of what they are learning at school. Lake and Park’s fearless approach to learning took on a difficult yet fundamentally important aspect of our society, and did it during an especially controversial and emotionally charged time. They’ve enriched my family dialogue, and have given me a spark of hope in these anxious times.
There are a lot of things to love about Lake and Park: the time spent outside, teacher-to-student ratio, progressive philosophy, quality teachers, the small handcrafted feel, the value placed on play… these are some of the reasons why we chose the school. But what’s less talked about is the uncommon courageous spirit of the teachers and curriculum. There is an undying confidence that our kids will find inspiration no matter how complex the topic (e.g. Is there anything more complex than fungi?). I’m sure there was some trepidation on the timing of their civics course, but they dove into it anyway, whole hog.
It is perhaps this underlying vibe that makes the school most unique. Culturally, our schools have evolved to become more careful, standardized, planned and scaled. Lake and Park goes against that grain. That’s not an easy thing to do, especially the way Lake and Park does it. Simply put, going against the grain requires extra funding. The General Fund allows our teachers to approach topics with the depth and bravery they deserve. On any given subject, somehow the school crams in: field studies, a science fair, expert lectures, homemade videos, poetry, visual arts, music, sometimes even a celebratory feast, all about the same topic. It bewilders me sometimes, but always in a sanguine way. Like the elections, I hope everyone chooses to participate in the Annual Fund. Family budgets are daunting and complex, but like our children, I hope we all find some inspiration to give in our own special way.