Lucia Mulder

Last week Berkshire held an all-community Zoom meeting to discuss the upcoming U.S. election. Mr. Gappa’s AP Government class presented some election basics including an overview of what’s at stake in various Congressional races, a review of the Electoral College, and a look at the Democratic and Republican presidential platforms.

In preparation for this year’s election, a self-selecting group of students, faculty, and staff formed an ad hoc committee over the summer to help keep the community informed this fall. Under the guidance of Dean of Faculty Clay Splawn, who leads the committee, students shared a video they filmed (see below) about upholding Berkshire’s community norms which are based on our core values of curiosity, inclusion, perseverance, respect, integrity, and resilience. These norms offered a launch point for discussions about important topics of the day with reminders about how to participate and disagree respectfully.

After AP Government’s election overview, students were split into smaller breakout groups for presentations led by their peers. Presenters included students from Ms. Woodworth’s Leadership: Politics and Society class and Mr. Speer’s Race, Class, and Gender class, along with students in AP Government and the Election Committee. Discussion groups covered an array of topics related to the 2020 election, including media bias, environmental policy, the Black Lives Matter movement, voting, and free speech and social media. 

The all-school meeting offered an opportunity for student leadership and peer-to-peer dialogue between forms. Faculty debriefed with advisory groups the following Monday about what students had discussed in their breakout sessions. 

The program not only helped keep our community informed about the upcoming election and the relevant issues, but also provided a means for us to practice being active and engaged listeners, respectful of many viewpoints. 

As Mr. Splawn summed up during the program, “We're here to begin the process of learning how to converse with one another about controversial things in a way that's respectful of all people and inclusive of all voices,” certainly a skill that will be useful in future discourse at Berkshire and beyond.