Quaker Philosophy in the Curriculum
At Friends’ Central, School life and curriculum are steeped in Quaker values. At every level, we promote a commitment to learning through inquiry, reflection, action, and discovery - an approach that stems from the Quaker belief in Continuing Revelation. A simple concept, Continuing Revelation is a foundation upon which the Quaker faith rests. It is the belief that, rather than limit spiritual study to a fixed canon, learning should be an ongoing and never-ending process. Continuing Revelation thus calls Quaker educators and students to a life of ongoing, joy-filled discovery.
The daily impact of this philosophical grounding cannot be overstated. It informs the shape of curriculum, but more importantly, the way curriculum is delivered by faculty and embraced by students. Teachers are respectful and nurturing of students, and students are respectful of each other and their teachers.
Imagine a classroom where questioning and inquiry feed a sense of wonder and progress, where teachers acknowledge their own continuing growth, and discovery can be collaborative. The collegiality that emerges between “student” and “expert” is one important factor in shaping the powerful and unusual quality of student-teacher relationships at Friends’ Central School. In every grade, the curriculum asks that students stand up for what they believe and behave respectfully at school and when they are out in the world.
Friends’ Central teachers believe in and model a joy for learning. Almost a quarter of Upper School students participate in extensive, regular, not-for-credit study in our annual Science Core Team, Humanities Core Team, and STEAM, or Makerspace Studio. These are collaborative experiences; though guided by the teachers, the atmosphere is one in which the students and the teachers approach the work with equal desire for insight from one another.
At times, our teachers make the connections between curriculum and Quaker testimonies explicit. At other times, the connection is present but less explicit. In fact, it would be difficult to find a moment in daily life at school that has not somehow been affected by the Friends philosophy.
Below are just a few examples of the ways that Quaker principles – or testimonies – guide daily life at Friends’ Central School.
To ensure that students have a shared understanding of Quakerism and its importance in daily life, students in grades 6 and 9 take a Quakerism course. These rotation courses inform students about the foundations of the Quaker faith and practice. The grade 9 class explores silent worship, Spirit, mindfulness, identity, and social justice awareness and education through the lens of Quaker testimonies, principles, and practices. Students who come to the school after the 9th grade year have a 6-session cohort experience led by our Quakerism Coordinator to orient them and to support their understanding of spiritual life in a Quaker school.
"Friends’ Central influenced me by instilling a powerful desire to always be a part of a community, and not just part of a community, but an agent of change in my community. I didn’t realize it then, but my teachers had instilled the Quaker Testimonies of simplicity, peace, integrity, community, equality, and stewardship in me. Looking back, one of my fondest memories of high school was our weekly meetings for worship. I didn’t appreciate it then, but now I look fondly at those times where the entire high school would join each other in the meeting room, and we would sit in silence, and in togetherness. We sat on wooden benches that had cushions so as not to be uncomfortable, but made you sit up straight (or leaned over on a friend). We weren’t squeezed like sardines, but every seat was filled, creating a coziness to the space when fully occupied. Our Headmaster, Mr. Felsen, sat at the very front of the room faced towards us all, flanked on his sides by various teachers. Some teachers also sat on the benches with us. Meeting was about 45 minutes long, and if anyone wanted to stand and speak, they did. That’s what it’s all about in our community. We are all equal, and all our voices matter." Lindsay Bedford '07