Felix Adler referred often to the idea of “diversity in the creed, unanimity in the deed.” This idea, that there are a variety of approaches directed toward a common commitment to active engagement, is a living foundation that informs the ethics and community service-learning program.
Our program is based on the personal, social, and intellectual development of students and responds to the moral issues that our students experience and witness in the world. In that context, we offer a course of study that identifies moral and social intersections, draws on Fieldston’s ethical humanist traditions, and expands student understanding of the larger field of ethics. What school wouldn’t want to address moral development? At Fieldston, however, our unique approach consists of a formalized program and pedagogy that builds skills of critical inquiry and self-examination at each stage of development so that a student’s social, emotional, and academic development is addressed hand in hand with moral development. Students take a series of foundational courses and are then offered a range of electives in philosophy, social justice education, psychology, comparative religion, social and political issues, and the like. Practice and theory come together in the action arm of the ethics curriculum, our comprehensive community service-learning program. Service leadership opportunities within and outside the school contribute to a lived awareness of identity and identity contingencies.
Our goal at every stage is to challenge students to look at issues through multiple ethical lenses, excavate and develop their own belief systems, cultivate critical literacy, and grapple with questions they find relevant and engaging. We invite students to examine not only the content but to interrogate their learning process, thereby developing intellectual agility and agency as reflective and engaged members of our communities. Again, we emphasize multiple entry points for dialogue and consider how to engage with diverse perspectives. A classroom discussion might start with the basic premise that everyone is against poverty but deepen to ask students how each one is specifically against it and how they will join with others whose answers may be different from theirs in order to create thoughtful and sustainable change. As students develop these myriad skills and a deeper critical awareness, it increases their sensitivity to the moral dimension of the issues they encounter. Our curriculum fuels a very foundational public purpose that is at the core of the school. As Adler would say, “The mind guides the hand.”
Our goal at every stage is to challenge students to look at issues through multiple ethical lenses, excavate and develop their own belief systems, cultivate critical literacy, and grapple with questions they find relevant and engaging.