This spring, we have all been experiencing various forms of cognitive dissonance—holding contradictory beliefs, or acting in a way not consistent with our beliefs—at a level many adults have never encountered . . . not to mention our students. Striving to sustain close relationships that define the Prep community while remaining at physical distance from one another. Celebrating our seniors while nearly every aspect that defines senior spring—internships, prom, the senior rafting trip, a beautiful and timely Commencement—has been stripped away. Even the daily “business” of school has felt dissonant against a backdrop of many thousands of COVID-19 patients dying in sometimes-overwhelmed hospitals, usually without the comfort of close family members nearby.
And now the killing of George Floyd in police custody, hard on the heels of the deaths of Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor; nationwide protests calling for justice, racial equality, and policing reforms; and riots unfolding in many cities. The ideational spine of our collective as Americans—“to form a more perfect union, establish Justice”—is being sorely tested.
We have three paths to resolving cognitive dissonance: 1) reject or avoid information inconsistent with our beliefs; 2) persuade ourselves that no conflict exists; or 3) resolve conflicting beliefs, or bring our actions into alignment with our beliefs. The third path is the only one that leads to personal growth and—I hope, trust, and believe—forward progress as a nation. As a school community, Prep is dedicated to “active discourse.” That exchange of ideas, experiences, and perspectives—with humility, curiosity, and both mind and heart open to growth—has never felt more important to protect and promote.
I’m a few weeks away from having time and space to be a student of the world again as I step down from my position at Prep. I have a lot to learn.
With warmth and gratitude,
Jim Leonard, Head of School