Our family writes with profound gratitude for the benefits of being part of the Beye School community in Oak Park. The recent controversies there compel us to reflect on some of the crucial lessons we learned from the culture at Beye.

1. Honest recognition of diversity in the community.

2. Diversity is seen as an asset, despite the discomfort or discord it sometimes reveals.

3. Problem-solving skills are taught and valued. Grappling with different perspectives and the concerns of minorities is important.

4. Learning how to function as a powerful advocate for yourself and others. This includes building fair and respectful processes for airing concerns and resolving conflicts.

5. High expectations for humanity, and recognizing a wide range of expression of human potential while instilling a deep sense of universal human rights.

6. Encouraging self-awareness, self-discipline and personal achievement. This sets expectations for people to “be their best selves” and encourage others in the same regard.

7. Healthy self-empowerment is seen not as a threat to others, but a contribution to a vibrant, productive community.

8. Going well beyond “tolerance of differences” to an ethic of understanding and appreciation for the spectrum of ways human beings can be as individuals and in groups.

Oak Park strives for a better world where positive social relations are paramount. We do not always get there, to be sure. Not all of our daughters’ experiences at Beye or beyond in Oak Park public schools were perfect. They were sometimes tainted by disappointments or clashes with personalities or policies. However, the culture of open dialogue, the sharing of concerns and ideas, the presence of due process for the redress of grievances, and the notion people can effect change were the fundamentals of their world.

As our grown daughters have had wider social experiences, they have come to appreciate the advantages they once took for granted, growing up in a community that proactively pursues inclusiveness and “the common good.” Our family thanks District 97, village leaders, the past and current administration, faculty and PTO of Beye School, as well as our wonderful neighbors. We became better people by participating in a culture of caring for all children and families that continues to this day.

Judi Minter, John Ayers, Maya and Dede Minter
Mountain View, Calif.

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