1. In any academic setting, the drive for diversity should include the diversity of opinions, beliefs, philosophies and viewpoints. As such, Columbus Academy should expect and require all students and faculty members to respect the beliefs and values of all other students. Students at CA should without exception feel comfortable expressing themselves.
The mission of CA explicitly extols the virtue of “moral courage.” It takes as much moral courage in the current CA environment to passionately support, for example, Blue Lives Matter as it does Black Lives Matter. Both viewpoints must be equally welcome at CA, as differing views on many other issues must be welcome. Many students do not believe that all viewpoints are welcome at CA. This must be corrected.
2. We all want students to be able to think critically about issues, literature, history, social science, and politics. Effective critical thinking takes practice. Critical thinking does not mature when students simply follow the “woke” talking-points of the day (which are often different tomorrow) and apply them to everything around them.
Effective critical thinking comes from lived experience (as we so often hear these days) combined with deep background knowledge. For many students CA provides greater lived experience than other schools. Where CA can truly excel, however, is in providing the deep background knowledge necessary to make informed judgements about what students see, hear and read, both as students and adults.
As such, CA should refocus its attention on core academics. In providing deep, broad, content-rich knowledge, CA can provide an invaluable and irreplaceable service in helping students shape their individual beliefs and be able to explain and defend them with facts, context, and examples provided by that broad knowledge.
The CA mission statement declares how the academy “enriches its academic tradition of excellence . . .” with important secondary goals. Many of us believe that CA is sacrificing and squandering its tradition of academic excellence in the service of other goals. This must be corrected. Academic excellence is the primary motivation for parents to enroll.
Education is a journey, not a destination. CA needs to focus on the journey. Students must be allowed choose their own destination without judgement.
3. Many students do not feel emotionally or academically safe at CA. They are afraid to speak. They often do not feel welcome. The faculty at CA must put the needs of students first—both as a body of learners and as individuals. All students must feel welcome, cared for, and supported. Students who may need support should be able to access CA resources with confidence, trusting that support will be there. This is, of course, the standing policy of CA. In practice, however, the lived reality of students says otherwise. This must be corrected.
4. The students at CA support a just and opportunity-rich country for all Americans. Students at CA generally understand as well that such a country does not yet exist. CA, along with parents and others, has no doubt contributed to these conditions. A more just society will not emerge, however, out of a learning environment where students feel intimidated or silenced; where good grades require mouthing the “right” opinions; where some students get to make unilateral demands of other students; where being an “ally” may mean sacrificing your beliefs and even relinquishing your own agency.
A just society emerges when people who, despite being unique as individuals, actively choose to work together as equals. CA speaks often and correctly about student “collaboration, conversation, creativity, and reflection” (CA Strategic Vision). Like critical thinking, these activities do not lead down a one-way street. The heart of CA’s philosophy is about working within and among differences. This should be the standard for all students and faculty. Currently, it is not.
5. CA, we are told, is a “community.” A community inhabited by students (in the words of CA’s Strategic Vision) “grounded in respect, responsibility, fairness, compassion, honesty, moral courage and integrity.” These are the core elements of friendship. A community founded on friendship and mutual respect will thrive. Many of us believe that friendship and mutual respect at CA are in decline.
We expect that the board and leadership of CA will hold themselves accountable for nurturing the CA community and all its student members. Accountability includes recognizing and acknowledging shortcomings, taking correction action as necessary, and replacing individuals who fail to live up to the high standards set by those individuals who love, care for, and support those members — the same individuals that love, care for, and support this institution.
CA is not serving the students to our standards. Unless action is taken, support for this institution, both directly and in the larger community, will diminish.