At Keystone, diversity is a source of strength
We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.
–Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Could it really be that we were attending another interfaith vigil after yet another shooting in a house of worship? Three times in the past twelve months an armed gunman has violated a sanctuary, and ordinary individuals who were doing nothing more than reciting prayers were gunned down in acts of senseless violence. Last Saturday night, San Antonians of different religions joined together to console and support the city’s Muslim community in their time of fear and grief after the recent mass shooting in a mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand While it was greatly reaffirming to witness this coming together, the reason for our gathering was still heartbreaking.
Despondency and pessimism would be understandable emotions in this case. So, where do we go for hope and how do we help our children avoid an easy and comprehensible cynicism? Fortunately, we have an example in front of of us every day at Keystone. As one of the most diverse independent schools in the state of Texas, Keystone represents the amazing things that can occur when people of different belief systems come together in a common endeavor – to challenge and support boys and girls as they grow cognitively and affectively. I am continually impressed by the way students at Keystone from a variety of backgrounds cross lines of ethnicity, class, and religion to learn from each other, to revel in each other’s accomplishments, to support one another in difficult times, and to laugh with one another. It’s not that they don’t see differences; they celebrate their individuality while affirming the commonalities that bind them together.
All too often, we observe institutions that are either diverse or inclusive, but not both. My wife, children, and I spent many a sweltering afternoon at our local public swimming pool in St. Louis. Demographically, it was approximately 50 percent white and 50 percent African-American; however, there may as well been an iron curtain down the middle of the pool since each side was one hundred percent one race or the other. Concomitantly, it’s simple for places to be harmonious when they’re homogeneous. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “it’s appalling that the most segregated hour of Christian America is eleven o’clock on Sunday morning.”
The trick and the beauty of schools like Keystone, and they’re not many, is the way it’s both diverse and inclusive. Just spend a few minutes in a classroom, on the playground, or in the lunchroom and witness the beautiful and heart-warming variety. Thanks to the vision of the Keystone Board of Trustees, the decision to offer financial assistance to qualified and deserving youngsters in the Lower School will make our community even more socio-economically diverse. As more and more schools across the United States return to levels of segregation not seen since 1954’s landmark decision, Brown vs. Board of Education, we can take heart that Keystone is making an effort to have an increasing level of heterogeneity.
However, unlike that pool in St. Louis, we need to maintain the beautiful inclusivity that characterizes Keystone today. In the classroom, our Cobras can learn with each other and from one another, and they can figure out how to disagree in a civil and respectful manner. They can elevate each other rather than bring one another down. In their academic work, they can see that a rising tide does in fact float all boats, and they are stronger individually when they strengthen each other collectively. Whether it’s in the theater, on the fields of play, or other extracurricular activities, students have an opportunity to move beyond their apparent differences and truly get to know one another for the wonderful human beings they are.
So, as we move forward in these turbulent and periodically violent times, we need to remind ourselves that there are examples like the children at Keystone who can provide us with hope and solace. As the adults in their lives, we can watch and teach them with a sense of gratitude and pride.