An article by Head of Upper School Gustavo Carrera on the topic of racial justice appears in the winter 2021 edition of Independent School magazine
, published by the National Association of Independent Schools. In the piece, Carrera argues that as independent school leaders wonder how to seize a moment of reckoning around racial justice, they must understand the full scope and complexities of their school histories, their cultures, and the experiences of everyone in their communities.
“Teaching is an act of hope. Teachers are optimists,” Carrera writes. “… For years, schools have been redoubling efforts to ensure that they are diverse, equitable, and inclusive institutions. Yet we are continuously falling short. Time and time again, we promise ourselves that we will provide professional development so faculty can be culturally competent and promote cultural competence in our students; be more diverse in our admission and hiring (often this includes the hiring of diversity, equity, and inclusion leaders); and change our curricula, maybe even institute some specific anti-racist and anti-bias curriculum.”
Yet independent schools remain profoundly unequal social spaces; only a handful have enacted and sustained changes long enough to produce self-replicating outcomes, Carrera notes. “In our problem-solving, we are jumping to action without having the courage to look at ourselves realistically and ask: What role do our schools play in the system of white supremacy?
Carrera examines the history of independent schools in answering this question. “The raison d’être
of independent schools has been, and continues to be, that of advancing the interests of those who already have privilege,” he argues. “To put it differently, our main job is to preserve the social status quo or reproduce the elite; this class-bound purpose results in a hierarchical view of the world in which our students are destined for leadership.”
Carrera goes on to point out that independent schools today find themselves facing a momentous opportunity—to honestly address racial injustice and the system of white supremacy by ensuring that they help students develop lives of meaning and purpose and prepare them for ethical and active citizenship. “Despite the challenges,” Carrera concludes, “I am very optimistic. I work in independent schools because I deeply believe that our schools are exceptional. The small size and engagement of our communities has made us nimble and has allowed us to remain independent of many forces beyond our walls that plague our public counterparts. Our communities are temperamentally prepared to ask deep questions about our values and our purpose. Asking those difficult questions will not diminish us; instead, I expect that each school in its own way will be able to leverage its values to enact institutional transformation that will pursue systemic change in our society.”