Embracing the Tension

An Important Statement from Friends Council

Embracing the Tension at Friends’ Central School

As is true for many in our area, and with Quakers and people of good will at large, we at Friends Council on Education have read the news about Friends’ Central School with great concern. We have taken the deliberate path of reviewing all available information regarding the postponement of the speaker Sa’ed Atshan, the placing on paid administrative leave of two teachers at the school, and the school’s efforts to move forward. We are certain of one thing: most of us do not know all of the facts regarding this story.

Friends Council on Education’s role is to support the Quaker nature and character of all 78 Quaker schools in the United States, including Friends’ Central School. To that end, it is our intention to support and encourage the school’s task force and its stated goal to “bring together a wide variety of viewpoints . . . and to move toward and embrace the challenges of intellectual discourse with respect and empathy.”

It is our sincere hope that the results of this task force will continue Friends’ Central’s engagement with those who promote peace in the world, including speakers such as Sa’ed Atshan. Friends Council supports schools in finding ways to have civil discourse and embrace the tensions inherent in difficult dialogue. This kind of dialogue helps us grow as individuals and as whole communities; we emerge stronger with renewed commitment to one another and to serious inquiry about the state of our world. As Friends’ Central works through these issues, taking time for the Quaker process of discernment, we believe that the community will move forward with all its constituents in a positive spirit.

Friends schools impose no test of creed or social or cultural disposition upon students; and we know that, once part of a Friends school community, we serve them best by asking that they develop a disposition to learning that is influenced by the Society of Friends.

As faculty and students consider political and cultural events, it is critical to remember that the lens through which we practice teaching and learning affirms Quaker principles and testimonies - many of which are universally-held values: the practice of simplicity in order to focus upon what is most important in our lives, peace to honor the sacredness of life, individual integrity as a guide for individual action, community built on universal respect, equality for all, and responsible stewardship of our resources natural and temporal.

At our pedagogical best Friends schools teach young people skills of reflection and inquiry; to ask critical questions; to seek insight and information; to listen with respect to others; and to share their own thinking in the context of a learning community. These skills are particularly focused in a Quaker school’s meeting for worship where students and faculty can express their deepest beliefs in a setting designed for support and growth around our disagreements. These are practices that we know serve students well after they leave our schools. These skills affirm students’ identities and their roles in the world and serve them well as they go forth to mend a broken world.

Drew Smith
Executive Director 
Friends Council on Education