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Civic Engagement

This past week marked the beginning of another term and a new year. As I know I have said before, this time of year leads to reflection on the past year and inspires considerations of goals for the future.

Events in the media over the last month or so have provoked a lot of thought for me about our role as a School in teaching and guiding you for life beyond this building. Our fundamental purpose is to prepare you, our students, for your educational next steps by supporting you in learning how to learn. In addition, it is vital for us to encourage you to question, to challenge and to use your abilities to foster change for the betterment of others.

Our school was founded with the mission of not only of providing a unique educational experience but also ensuring that students are civically engaged.

Civic engagement suggests that people have the ability to define the public good, assist in determining the policies by which they will seek this good, and makes it possible to reform or replace institutions that do not serve that good.  Those who are civically engaged have the capacity to identify and address issues of public concern.

The events in Pakistan and India, where women’s rights to education as well as gender equality were so clearly called into question, concern me, and I hope our community. I found myself stewing about how, as educators of girls and young women, we can ensure that we instill a fire and conviction in all of our students to get involved in drawing attention to issues and inequities that exist.

As an all-girls school, where we aspire to ensure that our students believe that they can do whatever it is they dream to do, it can be a challenge at times to remind them that women still have struggles for equality and that they cannot assume that it is easy beyond our world at St. Clement’s. I think my reflection over the last while has been on the question of how, in an all-girls school where we are surrounded with people who fundamentally believe in the importance of girls and women’s being treated equally, and in an environment of privilege, how do we ensure that we don’t become complacent and disconnected from the realities of the outside world, and how do we ensure that our students, with their intelligence, their compassion and their courage, are inspired to address issues?

We are committed as a School to giving back to our community. We have done wonderful work to support a number of organizations and charities for over a hundred years. Last month saw the second year of our Community Service Day when we gave time, food and clothing, rather than money, to those less fortunate within the Greater Toronto Area. In just over a week, many of us will be watching Lumina, our fashion design show, which raises substantial funds for designated charities. All of these things are important and impactful.

But the question I find myself asking is: Are we using our intelligence, our courage and our compassion to effect change for the greater good? We give a tremendous amount, but are we engaged in trying to CHANGE what is wrong in our communities and in the world? Are we civically engaged to the extent that we can be?

As we begin another term, I would ask us all to take some time over the next little while, with a new year ahead of us, to really consider how we can become more civically engaged. How can we better identify and address issues of public concern?

We are members of a powerful community- a community that has always understood the importance of excellence in education and participation in our community. Let us ensure that we leverage our passion, curiosity, courage and compassion such that we are able to ensure the greater good in our communities- be it within our school, in our city, our country or around the world.

 

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