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Authentic Connections

Chris Wilson

Schools have a tendency to be insular and profoundly local.  This is not entirely a bad thing: it creates relationships between faculty and students, and between families within a school.  It allows a school to be impactful in the lives of the people within its community. But it can also lead to a curriculum too much focused on the lived experience of a certain region or neighborhood, and not enough, in my view, on the wider issues at play in our world.

When we planned the Imago Dei partnership, it was our intention to bring an entirely different lived experience into the life of our school.  The Imago Dei School, in Tucson, Arizona, is a tuition-free independent school for students whose families could likely never consider financing an independent school otherwise.  It is a place where, like Bement, students come from all over the world to seek a bright future together. And although Imago Dei is not a boarding school, students there, like those at Bement, forge strong bonds and relationships with each other and their teachers due to long school days and, in the case of Imago Dei, an extended school year.

In bringing our ninth graders to Tucson in the fall and in hosting students from Imago Dei at Bement in the spring, I believe that we are working to address one of the most fundamental challenges in our society: overcoming what journalist Bill Bishop dubbed The Big Sort in his groundbreaking book.  Put simply, we are likely to live surrounded by people who are socioeconomically, and ideologically, very similar to us.  And this tendency to sort into similarly-minded communities is only increasing, and leading to deep and difficult political and cultural divides.

It is our hope that this partnership with Imago Dei helps our students build a sense of compassion and understanding for a world very different, in many cases, from their own—and likewise that students at Imago Dei come to understand and experience the different landscape and culture of New England.  Both communities are changed and enlivened with each encounter. Our ninth graders will soon be making presentations at an upcoming Friday morning meeting. I encourage you to join us and to learn more about their impressions of this journey and its impact on Bement.

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