Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality… I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word.”
Our teachers, staff, and board members at the Waldorf School of Bend find these words incredibly inspiring. As we spend today reflecting on the legacy of legendary civil rights activist Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (1929-1968), we are struck by the universal timeliness of his words and the urgent call to action that we must embrace as modern educators. We must unite as a community to engage in the necessary work of anti-racism and social justice, to bring “the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood” to fruition.
The painful legacy of slavery and racism in the United States of America has never been truly eradicated. We fully acknowledge that issues of systematic racism, economic disparity, and social injustice still plague our society and our schools over half a century after Dr. King’s death. This is the “unarmed truth” that we must collectively face, difficult though it may be. The past year has shined a particularly bright focusing lens on the ongoing struggles faced by Black Americans, Indigenous Peoples, and other People of Color in this country, from the reality of police brutality to the widespread disparities in equitable access to healthcare.
We don’t pretend to have all the answers for how to address these ongoing issues, but we do accept that it is our responsibility as teachers to try. These issues will not disappear until people of good conscience take up the work of anti-racism and commit themselves to working towards a kinder, more equitable society. The particular history of Waldorf Education, which began in Western Europe and spread first mostly among the English speaking world, further demands that we hold a reflective mirror to ourselves and engage honestly with what we need to do as teachers to help dispel the “starless midnight of racism and war” that deeply affects our contemporary society.
We are committed to this goal. In that aim, plans are currently being laid to launch a Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Access (DEIA) Committee at our school that will include faculty, staff, board members, and parents. We are currently gathering resources, reaching out to BIPOC organizations, and attempting to educate ourselves on best practices for engaging in this important work, including ways to decenter white voices and elevate the voices of People of Color.
This mission will not be accomplished in a single day. This work will take continual commitment and renewal if we truly hope to foster a culture of peace and love within the hearts and souls of human beings. In the weeks ahead, please look for more information about how to join the DEI committee and get involved in these ongoing efforts.
Furthermore, our teachers are engaging in critical professional development opportunities centered around these important issues. In a few weeks, several of our teachers will be attending an educational conference sponsored by the Waldorf Early Childhood Association of North America (WECAN) on the topic of Diversity, Inclusion, Equity and Access, entitled “Towards a Kinder, More Compassionate Society: Black Lives Matter in Waldorf Early Childhood Classrooms and Communities.”
The conference will open with a panel of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) Waldorf early childhood educators sharing their experiences in a session called “Liberating the Black Crayon,” and continue with a keynote address, panel discussions, performances, and multiple themed study workshops. The conference promises to be an invaluable opportunity to continue the conversation and educate ourselves further about ways in which we as educators can meet the challenges and needs of our students of color and of our communities as a whole.
Lastly, we are actively committed to helping improve access to all families in Central Oregon who desire a Waldorf education for their children, regardless of their income status. In that aim, we are actively seeking ways to improve our tuition assistance offerings, while also ensuring that our operating costs and the financial needs of our faculty and staff are being met.
One of the best ways to mutually support both goals is to offer potential new families information and access to the Employment-Related Day Care (ERDC) subsidy program, which helps eligible working families pay for high-quality childcare for children up to age 12. We recently published a detailed ERDC blog post explaining the structure and benefits of this program, and we hope to encourage all our current and potential parents to see if the ERDC program may be the right fit for their families.
We look forward to sharing with you more about what we learn at the conference, and inviting all voices in our community to participate in these critical conversations. We welcome feedback from students, parents, teachers, staff, and board members as to how to make the Waldorf School of Bend a better, safer, more accepting, more inclusive, and more welcoming space for everyone.
Waldorf School of Bend Faculty, Staff, & Board