Preparing our students for a multiracial democracy

Preparing our students for a multiracial democracy
Posted on 01/18/2021

Good afternoon!  Today, our nation celebrates Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday. President Reagan established MLK Day as a federal holiday back in the early ‘80’s. It became an immediate big deal back then where I was serving in Erlangen, West Germany in the US Army.  As a federal holiday, Wall Street and other business markets are closed, as are federal and state agencies, along with public schools nationwide. Here at home, one catalyst to celebrate MLK’s birthday by participating in the National Day of Service and reflection was the incident at a Friday night football game three-and-a-half years ago that publicly tarnished Quakertown’s image as an inclusive community.

How did we get to the overt racism expressed in that horrible incident, and what did we need to do differently?  We examined who we were and what we needed to do to prepare our students and graduates for citizenship in a multiracial democracy! We took full measure of how we could learn from what happened and why, to better prepare our students for a world that is vastly different beyond Quakertown’s borders.  

Already we introduced programs such as Stephen Covey’s Leader in Me and Positive Behavior Interventions & Support (PBIS).  We moved forward to partnering with the Pearl S. Buck Foundation and with the Peace Center to expand our understanding of racism and its impact on our community. Much has happened since then through hard work, courage, kindness, resilience of effort, and ‘true grit!’  Beginning in 2018, the Board included in Superintendent Goals the expectation that MLK Day and National Day of Service take on special meaning, along with adding specific curriculum, programs and opportunities to develop respect for diversity, and knowledge and skills for citizenship.  We already can see that some of the hard work of our teachers and students have taken hold academically and socially-emotionally learning (SEL), our raison d'etre. 

I have two important examples to make my point. Research tells us that embedding SEL throughout our teaching and activities, we should see an 11% increase in student achievement.  We have seen that in our growth in college readiness across as students feel more included in our school environments.  Additionally, our graduates and students took a significant leadership role in the Quakertown community after the death of George Floyd in Minnesota, when Quakertown students and recent graduates led Quakertown’s peaceful protest at Univest Park.  It was attended by hundreds of citizens, including local and state elected officials.  We are in a better place than before, and can not be any prouder.  As with society as a whole, there is much still to do as we work to eradicate racism from our school community. 

Today’s activities commemorating MLK’s birthday and National Day of Service can be found on Quakertown Community School District web pages.  Leading up to today’s celebrations, all Quakertown’s schools held activities in honor of the man and his legacy.

As we close out today and look forward to tomorrow, we want you to know how grateful we are for the responsibility that you have entrusted to us.

Have a good evening!

Bill Harner


[email protected]


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