News

Kindness

It is a Purnell tradition that each year we have a special theme. As a community, we consider the theme and its meaning in different ways and how we can turn it into action. Throughout the year, our seniors will make speeches guided by our theme. They will share their own interpretations and experiences.

When Lytt and Sis Gould founded Purnell, they articulated three Founding Guidelines:

Truthfulness in All Relations

Consideration of Others

Use of Common Sense

For this school year, I have chosen to emphasize Consideration for Others. Our theme, simply put, is kindness. Our goal as a community is to use kindness to inspire and celebrate positive action and to build a more welcoming and empathic community.

Please don't assume the theme of kindness of too simple. Let's consider the power a kind word, gesture, or action. Kindness can help change the world.

As a society, we too often fail to recognize that kindness is actually a great show of strength. Too often, we are led to believe that strength is best demonstrated by exerting dominance or superiority over others, while kindness is portrayed as the opposite - a sign of weakness. It is not.

People confuse kindness with being nice. But they are very different. You can be nice and be passive. But kindness requires action.

Consider the difference between "nice" and "kind." It's a subtle, though important, difference. Being nice means well, but it's not enough. Nice is polite, but it stays out of situations. Being nice doesn't add to problems, but Kindness rolls up its sleeves and tries to solve them. Kindness is honest, speaks up, and rises to the occasion.

Kindness is something you do. If we were to sum it up, we'd say this: Nice is passive, but Kindness is active.

Think of Kindness as a special form of personal attention.

When you apply the Full Value principle of "Be Here," be present, you are really listening, truly paying attention not only to yourself - which is important - but to the feelings of others around you.

That is the moment when you can act. You can hear your friend, consider her feelings, and do something, say something comforting. Something assuring, something that says, "I'm giving you my attention, and I want to know that I want to help."

What you can do is show you care. We can do this in small ways: inviting a new Purnell girl to join your conversation, offering assistance to a fellow student, providing positive words when a girl feels discouraged. This is also fundamental to our Guideline of Consideration of Others. It's time we actively return to those values.

At Purnell and in the world around us, we are all better when we act with kindness. When we do, we all have the power to make a difference. A real difference.

One of the Founders of Purnell, Mrs. Gould, had a favorite quote originally by the Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu who said:

"Kindness in words creates confidence. Kindness in thinking creates profoundness. Kindness in giving creates love."

At the base of our flagpole, Mrs. Gould installed a plaque that reads, "Kindness in giving creates love." I give my thanks to Mrs. Martin for pointing this out to me. Next time you walk across the quad, please take a look!

For each of us this year, let us show consideration and kindness toward others. We should all model and demonstrate the kindness we want to see. I promise you, kindness is contagious!

Each of us should also be kind to ourselves. You will discover that being kind to yourself, with rest, good nutrition, and quiet moments, will replenish your energy and motivate you to be kind and considerate of others. You will feel better and stronger for it!

Maya Angelou said:

"I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel."

Let us together set an example for others of what a community of kindness and active, personal attention can look like. Let's make kindness our way of being every day. We will make Purnell a stronger and closer community, and we can make the world a better place.

Anne M. Glass, Ed.M.

Head of School

September 2018

"Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable. Even a superficial look at history reveals that no social advance rolls in on the wheels inevitability. Every step towards the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals. Without persistent effort, time itself becomes an ally of the insurgent and primitive forces of irrational emotionalism and social destruction. This is no time for apathy or complacency. This is a time for vigorous and positive action."

- Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

In Stride Toward Freedom: The Montgomery Story

At Purnell, we celebrated Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day and acknowledged that it is also known as a Day of Action. This year's Peace & Justice Weekend emphasized ethical engagement and "positive action." It featured programming in support of our interdisciplinary approach to providing our students with the knowledge and self-awareness to navigate today's contemporary challenges. Organized in conjunction with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, the Weekend's highlight event was an interactive workshop titled:

FASHION POLICE:

Human Rights, Economics, and Environmental Impacts of the Fast Fashion Industry

The day included a keynote address and workshop for students and faculty led by Fulbright Scholar and Rutgers master's student, Shaheena Shahid. She speaks five languages fluently, is an advocate for women's rights and human rights, and has taught and volunteered in refugee camps and orphanages around the globe.

Ms. Shahid's talk spotlighted ongoing abuses in global apparel manufacturing, including economic inequality, ecological impact, human rights abuses, and violations of basic health, safety, and labor standards. Students and faculty also viewed the film The True Cost, which maps the garment industry from production—mainly exploring the life of low-wage workers in developing countries—to its after-effects such as river and soil pollution, pesticide contamination, disease, and death. Using an approach that looks at environmental, social, and psychological aspects, it also examines consumerism and mass media.

Purnell students and faculty considered the industry in five breakout groups, each using a different lens:

  1. Environmental
  2. Economic: wages, hours, working conditions
  3. Women's rights/human rights
  4. Educational opportunity
  5. Consumerism/materialism

Each group brainstormed ideas to mitigate or eliminate the negative impacts, then came back together to share their suggestions. Among the many rich ideas they generated were the interconnectedness and circular reinforcement of consumption in the United States and production processes and labor conditions overseas. Students identified that the costs of the Fast Fashion Industry (human, environmental, health, educational opportunities) are not accounted for in GDP, which calculates the market value of goods that are traded, nor are the costs reflected in value of the stock market.

The garment workers are the only point in the supply chain that can be squeezed, and suffer human rights abuses as a consequence. Many students articulated that as consumers of cheap fashion, we are part of the problem of perpetuating this industry, and that we need an international, collective solution. In addition, the students recommended establishment of global standards for environmental impact and chemical disposal.

The Fast Fashion day was truly an eye-opener for all of us. It was also part of our deliberate move at Purnell to ensure that our students leave here equipped and empowered to become fully engaged participants in today's society. Events like this one seek to support the rigorous academic offerings at Purnell with life-based case studies that encourage analysis, problem-solving, and ethical engagement.

We prepare our graduates for success in college and for the greater endeavor - a life of critical, ethical, and global thinking. Our students have the opportunity to understand the impact of decisions made by governments and movements. Framing world events through a moral and ethical lens, we encourage our students to ask, "What is the right thing to do?" They are reminded that how we act makes a difference and are challenged to make our school community and even our world, better.