Head’s Blog: Gratitude Following the Round Square International Conference

RSIC2018_Conference_Photo 1.02.15 PMWhen some of our Senior School students were in Junior School, our annual theme was Gratitude is the Best Attitude. As head of LCC, I am currently feeling very grateful for the excellent Round Square International Conference that we hosted on our campus last week – the largest event we’ve ever held at LCC, with 400 delegates representing 55 schools from 20+ countries. It was the week that the world came to LCC.

I’m grateful to our outstanding LCC student leaders. A year ago they chose Bring Your Difference as the conference theme, collaborated and planned for months with two other Canadian host schools, demonstrated a welcoming attitude toward visitors, hosted students in their homes, acted as seminar (Baraza) leaders, performers, and event volunteers. Their warmth, energy and excellence were front and centre.

I am grateful to our dedicated faculty, staff and board members, especially Mr. Mark Salkeld, Ms. Gillian Shadley and Ms. Michele Owen. They all provided outstanding leadership.

I am grateful to LCC kitchen staff for feeding and watering our delegates with grace and for providing lots of food options for all palates and cultural backgrounds.

I am grateful to a maintenance team that supported and cleaned up following multiple special events during the week-long conference.

I am grateful to LCC parents who generously hosted 260 students in their homes, as well as parent volunteers who organized a memorable “Montreal Eats” dinner for the adult delegates.

I am grateful for the unique experiential learning opportunity held here on our campus, as well as in Old Montreal and at camp in the Eastern Townships, with a diverse group of students.

I am grateful for the four high quality keynote speakers who taught, inspired and reminded us about the complexity of difference, and offered important insights and ideas for building more inclusive communities well into the future.

Round Square was founded over 50 years ago to provide a unique framework for students to grow, develop and learn how to lead. Students interact with peers from all continents with different cultures and languages; they are challenged, grow and mature through meaningful experience. I am grateful that our students were hands-on leaders in a truly global forum. In the words of Kurt Hahn, “There is more in you than you think – Il ya a plus en vous.”

Round Square experiences aim to develop special talents in our students. The cumulative impact of hosting such an event will be felt in our school well into the future. Our staff and students are constantly developing important global competencies as teachers and learners. We should all be very grateful for these special opportunities. – Christopher Shannon (Pre-U ’76), Headmaster

View the conference photos

 

 

 

 

 

Head’s Blog: Journée internationale des femmes

Womens_DayTous les ans, durant les deux premières semaines de mars, nous sommes en vacances. Or, pendant cette période de repos pour nous, une journée importante, désignée par l’ONU (United Nation) en 1975, doit être soulignée. Il s’agit du 8 mars. La journée internationale des femmes/International Women’s Day. L’objectif de cette journée est de promouvoir l’éducation et célébrer la contribution des femmes dans nos communautés locales, dans notre pays et partout dans le monde. C’est aussi un moment idéal pour discuter comment devenir plus inclusif comme société.

Je crois qu’il est important de s’arrêter et de réfléchir à tout ce qui a déjà été fait et ce qui reste à faire pour atteindre l’égalité des genres, il faut aussi considérer plusieurs initiatives et mouvements contemporains qui sont organisés et dirigés par les femmes:  #MeToo, #TimesUp, #RaiseYourVoice, ainsi que le thème de la Journée internationale des femmes de 2018, #PressForProgress.

Dans le domaine du droit des femmes, nous avons fait beaucoup de progrès depuis la dernière génération. Malgré ce progrès, je crois qu’il est important de noter que nous ne sommes pas encore arrivés au point d’une complète égalité entre hommes et femmes, même ici au Canada. Pourquoi puis-je faire une telle affirmation? Il m’a suffi de faire un peu de recherche pour y voir plus clair. Voici quelques statistiques importantes:

  • En moyenne, les salaires annuels des femmes au Canada représentent seulement 70% des salaires moyens des hommes;
  • Les femmes sont obligées de travailler plus souvent à temps partiel que les hommes – 60% au total dans l’économie canadienne;
  • Seulement 5% des directeurs généraux (CEO) des entreprises Fortune 500 sont des femmes;
  • Seulement 22% des membres de conseils administratifs d’entreprises privées sont des femmes;
  • En politique, seulement 26% des membres du parlement fédéral sont des femmes, et seulement 18% des maires des villes au Canada sont des femmes;
  • Dans nos familles, les études démontrent que les femmes continuent à faire la grande majorité du travail à la maison, plus spécifiquement de voir aux besoins des enfants, de la cuisine, du nettoyage, et sont souvent celles qui doivent subvenir également aux besoins des grands-parents.
  • Au point de vue de la violence et d’abus sexuels, les femmes représentent la vaste majorité des victimes.

Sur le plan international, le statut des femmes est souvent pire qu’ici au Canada.  Voici quelques chiffres clés:

  • Dans le monde, le salaire des femmes correspond en moyenne à 57% de celui des hommes, car leurs droits fondamentaux sont restreints à cause des conventions culturelles;
  • Les chercheurs estiment que 62 millions de filles n’ont aucun accès à l’éducation;
  • 80% des victimes de trafic humain dans le monde sont des jeunes filles et des femmes;
  • Statut juridique: Dans plusieurs pays, les femmes sont privées des droits légaux de base. Ici, au Canada, les femmes sont protégées par notre Charte canadienne des droits et libertés;
  • Les risques reliés à la maternité sont très élevés dans plusieurs pays, surtout dans les pays pauvres. Les experts croient qu’avec un investissement de base, presque 2 millions de bébés et 250 mille mères pourraient être sauvés chaque année.

En cette journée internationale des femmes 2018, je crois qu’il est important  de se rappeler tous ces problèmes et bien comprendre ces statistiques peu reluisantes, mais on doit aussi mettre l’emphase sur la recherche de solutions. Et tout cela commence par l’éducation et l’élaboration de stratégies pour changer les comportements et les attitudes.

Selon moi, l’aspect-clé pour la réussite de ce changement de mentalité passe par la mobilisation des garçons et des hommes. Avec ces changements d’attitudes, nous pouvons construire un vrai sens d’égalité.

Cette égalité est vraiment possible dans nos écoles, dans nos familles et dans nos différents domaines de travail. Au nom de la justice sociale, reconsidérez votre rôle dans cette célébration de la journée internationale des femmes. La date du 8 mars reste symbolique, mais nous devons tous vivre et défendre le principe de justice et d’égalité entre les sexes tous les jours de l’année! – Christopher Shannon, directeur

 

 

Head’s Blog: Reflections on Black History Month

Black_History_MonthOn this last day of Black History Month, let’s reflect on the history of black Canadians and the particularly difficult early years when slavery was the norm. It is important to remember that African slaves were introduced into what was then “British North America” in the latter part of the 1600s. They were violently stolen from their homes in Africa and forced into lives of servitude very far away.

As you know, slaves possessed no rights and were coerced into forced labour, which actually brought economic benefit to this country and even more so to the US where the number of slaves was much larger.

Slavery ended in Canada in 1834 but lasted until 1865 in the US, after the American Civil War. That 30-year period is when the “Underground Railway” of slaves seeking freedom in Canada became so famous. In total, slavery in the US had a significant 250-year legacy, with about four million slaves in the US when they were emancipated in 1865 (about 13% of the total population.)

Despite their emancipation, African Americans were not immediately offered the same freedoms and privileges as white Americans. Open segregation endured in the American south well into the 1960s during the era of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the civil rights movement.

Today, many writers, activists and commentators – both black and white – point to many inequities that persist today between the African American population and the white majority. Perhaps one of the great indicators of the long-term impact and challenging legacy of slavery and inequity in America today is the large-scale and disproportionate imprisonment of African Americans, especially males.

A few years ago, I gained a better appreciation of this topic by listening to a passionate presentation by African-American lawyer, writer, and social activist, Bryan Stevenson. Some have compared Stevenson to a modern Martin Luther King, and others have called him America’s Mandela. After that speech, I bought his insightful book Just Mercy.

Mr. Stevenson works closely with men in prison, including men on death row. He emphasizes that one of the great divisive issues in the US today is the disproportionate number of African American males in prison. Approximately 2.3 million prisoners, or 40% of all American inmates, are African American, while the black population only represents 13% of the total population. This incarceration rate is five times the rate of white Americans.

To put this in perspective, there are more African- American men imprisoned in the US today than the total prison populations of Canada, India, Argentina, Lebanon, Japan, Germany, Finland, Israel and England combined (Antonio Moore, Huffington Post).

In Canada, we have a total of 40,000 people in our prisons, compared to America’s prison population of close to six million people – about 150 times as many.

Yet, even here in Canada, while our black population represents approximately 3% of the total population, 10% of the total prison population is black, and that rate is growing quickly.

Bryan Stevenson is in his mid 50s and attended an all-black high school in Alabama. Restrictions on African Americans were such that even his father was not allowed to attend high school. Stevenson was a very good student, the first in his family to graduate from high school, and he earned a full scholarship to university in Philadelphia, followed by Harvard Law School and the Kennedy School of Government.

But despite being at outstanding universities, he says there was little meaningful discussion about inequity, its causes and possible solutions. While most of his Harvard classmates went to work on Wall Street or in fancy law firms, he was drawn to helping condemned men receive proper care and support. He realized that greater social justice had to be supported by action, compassion and empathy.

Stevenson has actively challenged an entrenched bias against the poor and ethnic minorities in the criminal justice system, especially children. He reminds us that some 10,000 black teenagers under the age of 18 are currently in adult prisons in the US – something he sees as intolerable. Stevenson has helped achieve court decisions that prohibit sentencing children under 18 to death, or to life imprisonment without parole. He has assisted in cases that have saved dozens of prisoners from the death penalty, advocated for poor people, and developed community-based reform litigation aimed at improving the administration of criminal justice.

He is also working to establish The Memorial to Peace and Justice in Montgomery Alabama, which will document each of the nearly 4,000 lynchings of black people that took place in the 12 states of the South from 1877 to 1950.

Here is an extract from his book:

“I’ve come to believe that the true measure of our commitment to justice, the character of our society, our commitment to the rule of law, fairness, and equality cannot be measured by how we treat the rich, the powerful, the privileged, and the respected among us. The true measure of our character is how we treat the poor, the disfavoured, the accused, the incarcerated, and the condemned. We are all implicated when we allow other people to be mistreated… But simply punishing the broken – walking away from them or hiding them from sight – only ensures that they remain broken and we do, too. There is no wholeness outside of our reciprocal humanity.” 

Stevenson invites us all to go to what he calls “places of despair” to create change and to build hope, because agents of hope are key to moving all societies forward. He reminds us that in the US and Canada, we can and must do better. In the spirit of peace, equity and social justice, I think we should all consider how to honour all those who have suffered from the abuse of injustice and racism. Where possible, we should take action. – Christopher Shannon, Headmaster

Head’s Blog: Millennials as Global Citizens

RSlogo-smallRecently, I attended the Heads’ and Reps’ Annual Regional Meeting (ARM) of Round Square. Our membership includes a diverse group of 40 schools across the Americas, which comprises Canada, USA, Mexico, the Caribbean and Latin America. In addition to planning and dialogue between schools, we also ask ourselves: what impact are our global education programs having on our students longer term?

One of our conference sessions included presentations and dialogue involving two impressive young adults formerly from Palmer Trinity, the host school in Miami. The two engaging twenty-something alumni addressed the topic of millennials as global citizens. Their perspectives were certainly interesting and noteworthy.

Andrea is a Mexican-American who graduated a year ago from Harvard and is on a coveted Fulbright Scholarship this year. She works directly with young marginalized Latino immigrants in the USA, many of them known as “DACA Dreamers”: born in the USA, but children of undocumented immigrants. There are approximately one million so-called dreamers across the country. They are currently under the threat of deportation by the Trump administration, which is the focus of much negotiation between Republican and Democratic leaders. In fact, this is the central issue that led to disagreements on funding several weeks ago and the subsequent two-day shutdown of the federal government due to a budget impasse.

The other student, Dax, is a Colombian-American who had lived in five South American countries before landing at Palmer Trinity in Miami for high school. He is a graduate of Georgetown University’s Institute for the Study of Diplomacy. He noted that while living in Brazil as a boy, he witnessed horrendous environmental conditions in major cities, including raw sewage openly running down steep slopes into peoples’ homes, and serious pollution in the harbour of Rio de Janeiro. His concern for the environment led to the creation of an organization called the Global Ocean Refuge System (GLORES), which has inspired thousands of youth around the world to stand up and act on ways to improve the ways we treat, protect and conserve our precious oceans.

These young adults were clearly excellent students, but they also possessed more than just classroom smarts. During and following high school, they have been passionately engaged in social and environmental causes beyond traditional schooling.

In fact, both Andrea and Dax thanked their school for providing meaningful global opportunities that challenged their norms, their perspectives and day-to-day experiences. This included foreign exchanges, service opportunities and classes, such as the study of Buddhism that delved into the true meaning of compassion and empathy. They reiterated that these experiences today form the primary lasting and impactful memories of their high school years. They insisted that experiential and activity-based learning helped create more meaning and relevance for them as teens, which has stayed with them as they have grown older.

They remarked that those global experiences as students were also key in their personal development, as they helped expose them to difference and allowed them to see people as different, but equal. They expressed concern that in society at large these days, too many young people don’t really know much about people who are very different in terms of socio-economic class and life experience. Andrea was moved by an experience while at Palmer Trinity and on exchange in France. It was the simple fact that her exchange host in a public high school in France could never afford to go to a cinema for a movie unless she worked as a babysitter. This wasn’t Andrea’s experience, living an upper middle-class life in South Florida – it was a bit of a wake-up call.

Andrea and Dax reiterated that they are committed to service and improving their communities. Ultimately, they shared that true service is about people, and how to help those who are marginalized and on the fringes. Dax noted that perspective matters a lot and Palmer Trinity school helped him challenge his perspectives. Yet, he is concerned that information is now being disseminated online in a manner that is very targeted and divisive – so-called fake news, a development that is both important and dangerous.

There is a lot of talk these days about a “Facebook bubble”; only connecting with people like you online, sheltered from true diversity in rest of the world. Last week, I asked our students if they live in such a bubble? How and when are their views, values and priorities fundamentally challenged? Do they actually seek different perspectives, or are they living under the illusion that they can simply wait and start to do so when they get older?

It was powerful to see confident young adults – “millennials” – remark on what has had the most profound influence on their lives, their character and their priorities. It was a great reminder that embedding global experiences shouldn’t wait. Our students should feast on all the global opportunities afforded them because the lasting impact will be significant. Next fall’s Round Square International Conference theme is Bring Your Difference. My advice to students is that they should begin to seek and invite more difference into their lives now and they will certainly be richer for it. – Christopher Shannon, Headmaster

 

Head’s Blog: Better Sleep Hygiene in 2018

Alarm_ClockAs we slide into February, this is the time of year when most people who made New Year’s resolutions, realize that they cannot meet their stated goal. According to Huffington Post, less than 10% of resolutions are kept. The classic example is the crew referred to as the so-called “January Joiners” at fitness and health clubs who have completely disappeared by February. Sadly, most fall short simply because bad habits are very hard to break. It’s human nature; setting a new direction in life is very tough, especially when personal likes and preferences are already well established.

However, despite the challenge of changing a bad habit, I have openly asked all high school students to consider a new commitment for the balance of the school year. If achieved, this one change is probably the single most significant initiative our students can take to improve their lives – and one that I think they can all achieve, if only incrementally. So what am I asking them to do? Get more sleep!

I know that some students are really good about their sleep routines and I certainly commend those who have established good patterns. However, a recent study by researchers at San Diego State University in California tells us that almost a majority of students don’t get enough sleep. This study of 370,000 US teens was published in November. It confirmed a continuing and alarming trend where large numbers of teens in the US continue to trade sleep for increased screen time. And I don’t think that there would be major differences on this topic with young Canadians. The survey showed that more than 40% of all teens get less than seven hours of sleep a night, up from about only 20% in 2009. But medical specialists reiterate that all teens actually need nine hours of sleep a night for the well-being of their bodies, brain development, the deep embedding of learning at school, as well as their emotional well-being.

Over time, a continued lack of sleep is clearly linked to depression, short-temperedness, anxiety, and a host of other negative psychological challenges and physical effects that can notably diminish the teen body. Despite broad conceptual knowledge about the impact of sleep deprivation, current evidence shows that this negative trend continues to move in the wrong direction.

So I recently asked our high school students to be honest with themselves. If they’re not regularly getting nine hours of sleep a night, they actually need more. I urged them to stop wishing for more sleep, but to actually take steps to make it happen. As with most other bad habits, if they want to truly adopt change, real life dictates that they will have to start with baby steps, as vague promises are unachievable.

The studies have shown that too much digital screen time is not only stealing potential sleep time, but too much texting, social media or video-watching right before bed can also make it difficult to fall asleep. The blue light emitted is too stimulating and makes it hard for the body and brain to wind down quickly. Yes, something called “night-mode” exists on most phones and tablets. But the experts say it’s not enough. Brain and sleep experts suggest that adolescents should limit screen time and stop all screen exposure at least half an hour – and ideally one hour – before bed.

To avoid all temptation, cellphones should be in another room, and I urge our students to return to an old-fashioned alarm clock rather than full dependence on their smartphones.

A book is also a good way to wind down while feeding the brain before bed. It’s surely a good habit to continue or pick up.

So as we move forward into 2018, I urge our students to forget false commitments to become fitness fanatics, or implement an unlikely broad overhaul of their diets. Instead, they should take some simple achievable steps toward better sleep “hygiene.” The impact could be significant. In only a matter of days they will feel better and notice improvements in all aspects of their lives. – Christopher Shannon, Headmaster