I grew up* at the Peninsula School. There are many things which make Peninsula itself distinct from other schools, but one of them was a commitment to non-violence. The Peninsula community had a general understanding that everyone must be treated with value.
This is now how most schools believe they must operate. Most schools seem to be structured to perpetuate competition, hierarchy, and grading. Most forms of competition require some violence, asking a teacher or administrator to value students above or below one another. Most forms of grading demand reduction, of people to numbers or letters or ranks. Most schools require a hierarchical form of address which distinguishes the value of people, where value is assigned to title. All of these standards of education are in some ways dehumanizing. Most schools seem to adhere them because it is a great deal of work and effort to treat every person you come in contact with as individual and important.
Peninsula is different. Competition, grading and hierarchy have a very limited role at Peninsula.
As a fellow for the Polaris Project, I did not expect to find an institutional commitment to this kind of kindness. Their non-violence comes across in what behaviors are not acceptable, some of which are:
- Making decisions that might hurt someone else’s project, even if it benefits mine.
- Inviting only some people to participate in a project.
- Speaking negatively about other people in the human trafficking movement.
Most people seem to come DC to be super-heros or super-rich (or both), to walk and eat and speak with the right people at the right time for the right price. Non-violence is not a cultural value. But, for some reason, Polaris Project has made it one of theirs. It is a welcome break, and one for which I am grateful.
*As you might have guessed, growing up is not one of my life goals.
“Forgiveness is giving up all hope of having had a better past.” — Anne Lamott