We Can't Do This Without You by Dean of Students Marcela Maldonado
Anyone who knows me is quick to point out that I am a political junkie. More than the grind and machinations of everyday politics, however, it’s really political philosophy that stirs and excites me. I am particularly fascinated by the underpinnings of thought and action that anchor and guide our democracy, as it continues to serve as a beacon for most of the world. Indeed my students have often heard me talk about the importance of understanding ideas that serve as the bedrock for who we are, providing purpose and value to our collective mission. And the 18th century notion of a “social contract” is indicative of this collective purpose, whether for our country or even our own school community.
It’s actually quite easy to explain all of this to a senior in the middle of a Politics and Ethics class, but it can be quite the challenge when lofty notions are put to the test in their every day lives. Everything around us tells us that the world is shifting rapidly, and even as technology brings information to our fingertips and allows us to connect with peoples around the world in warp speed, we are also growing more apart than ever before. These quantum shifts push people to find new ways of communicating, and for some parents, trying to find different ways of connecting with their children can and has lead to decisions that would have seemed out of the question just a generation ago.
Beyond a shadow of a doubt, confusion ensues for students when boundaries are crossed by parents, short-cuts are taken, or when well-meaning adults make the decision to provide alcohol to students in order to avoid having kids search for it elsewhere. This often stems from the feeling of some parents that it is better to have kids drink in their home and under their supervision than do otherwise. But any way you cut it, you unwittingly compromise the culture and health of our school community. More importantly, you’re making decisions for other people’s children that could put them in jeopardy, and no one has the right to do that.
To be clear, the vast majority of parents understand and abide by social norms, as well as the laws of our state. But all it takes is the repercussions of one parent’s bad decision for dire consequences to quickly ensue. Teenagers test boundaries. Teenagers make poor choices. We see it coming and we’re ready for it. Frankly, it’s the business we’re in. But adults must take the long view that comes with age and wisdom. So you’re going to hear a lot in the months ahead about student use of alcohol and the parental role. We intend to go right at it because our students deserve this level of care from us.
A community is as healthy as its social contract is clear. It defines our relationship with each other, and serves as an implicit agreement resulting in how we organize ourselves in partnership. Members of a community are accountable to each other and responsible for each other. These are the values you have come to expect from us and that you can be assured we intend to keep, even at the risk of making some hard decisions. That’s the social contract between us.
Students will hear directly about all of this in the weeks and months ahead, and I have no illusions that this will be an easy conversation to have from the stage or in person. But our students are the impetus and the beneficiaries of the agreement this school and our parent body make as we engage in this enterprise together. They deserve to know we love them and why, and that our care for them does not and will not end when the school day is over. You can count on that.