(Head of School Bob Vitalo shares his thoughts with the Berkeley Carroll community in "Vital Words" communications from time to time.)
We are proud that in their time at Berkeley Carroll our students develop strong values and an individual voice.
One of the most important tools we equip them with is the ability to ask questions. Teachers at all grade levels encourage students to ask questions in order to make sense of our world.
Third graders, when studying immigration, have asked, "Why don't we study how all people came to the United States."
Middle School students, in their Humanities class, have inquired, "How do you respond to people who deny the Holocaust?"
And juniors in our American Studies class, when studying the beginning of our country, have pushed their teachers to answer, "The founding fathers, weren't those patriots terrorists?"
In each instance, these questions have resonated profoundly and led to deep conversations, inspiring teachers to consider how we'll teach some subjects going forward.
In his book A More Beautiful Question, Warren Berger writes:
"You may discover, as many questioners do when they begin to burrow into a problem, that there is much more to know than you could have imagined at the outset. Don't be put off by learning how much you don't know. That darkness was always out there, surrounding you; you just had no idea how vast it was until you began probing with your questions flashlight. Questioners learn to love the great unknown---it's the land of opportunity, in terms of creativity and innovation."
In today's world where terms such as "alternative facts" and "fake news" are used, how do we get to the truth of a matter?
Helping students learn how to ask questions and be open to where those answers lead is central to our mission of developing critical thinkers.
We start early and young in cultivating the culture of questioning. I have been impressed and encouraged as I have observed our third graders examine media sources to see how they determine if the information provided is real or false.
The new book,The Death of Expertise, discusses the recent rise in our country of opinions and actions being shaped by emotion and not by well-founded research and reality. Groups taking action based on what they believe and not by actual circumstances can lead to dangerous consequences and heightened discrimination and injustice.
The author, Tom Nichols, writes:
"There is plenty of blame to go around for the parlous state of the role of expertise in American life, and this book has apportioned much of it. Experts themselves, as well as educators, journalists, corporate entertainment media, and others have all played their part. In the end, however, there is only one group of people who must bear the ultimate responsibility for this current state of affairs, and only they can change any of it: the citizens of the United States of America."
When there is so much focus on the role of government and the place of America in the world, we as a school, have a duty to not only prepare our students for the next step in their educational careers, but to help them assume their future roles in society by challenging them to ask the question, "How can we be better?"
Our message to all of our students is, bring on the questions!
Robert D. Vitalo