A few years ago, I remember teaching a unit on Persepolis, the Iranian graphic novel, and a high school student pondered what life would be like in Iran. As if magically, the classroom door opened and I heard “Hi, Bob” coming from a recent Riverstone graduate who had spent the summer in Iran with her family. So I gave her the floor to discuss her experiences and what life was like in Iran for her and her family. I remember the enormous pride I felt that we at Riverstone, in Boise, had built an authentic international community in thought and deed that connected our kids everywhere.
We have welcomed immigrants, refugees, exchange students and green card holders from throughout the Middle East and Africa, including most of the countries targeted in the immigration and travel ban. In all cases, these students and their families made Riverstone and Boise a better place by deepening the richness of our community and widening the perspective of our students.
Riverstone will continue to welcome students from around the world. We will continue to read and teach from a global curriculum. We will continue to give our students an understanding of the Middle East and the world’s great religions. We will continue to encourage free and open inquiry. We will continue to encourage critical thinking, in which facts matter. We will continue guiding our students through difficult conversations in an atmosphere of respect.
Places that strive to teach students empathy through a diverse curriculum, including the study of global art and music, are places that can serve as antidotes to hatred and ignorance.
Yes, the world is a difficult and complex place that can be dangerous. But we need to stand for opportunity and understanding; optimism and realism can exist side by side.
A disciplined “liberal education” that is global in reach asks difficult questions and does not settle for easy answers; encourages 21st century skills such as collaboration; celebrates diversity; and encourages that understanding is the best way to prepare students for the most important job that lies ahead: being informed and responsible citizens who seek peace and make the world a better place for all.
Bob Carignan, M.Ed, started his career in education as a literature teacher. He is currently in his sixth year as head of school at Riverstone International School.