The Linden School
The Linden School News
August 9, 2017

Girls’ Schools: The Power to Create the World We Want

By Dr. Lyn Mikel Brown. (The Linden School thanks Dr. Brown for adapting her keynote speech into the following article for the benefit of our community.)

Since 2010, I have been working with girl activists from around the U.S. and Canada at SPARK Movement. When they tell me about the kind of support they need from adults to do their work, I’m transported back to interviews I did 25 years ago in girls’ schools. The girl activists I listen to now describe a struggle for conditions that are in rich supply in schools like Linden. They need what you already have in abundance:

  • a feminist history that positions them in time and place, that broadens and deepens and contextualizes the issues they struggle with in this present moment;
  • relationships with adults that are honest and transparent; the opportunity to ask hard conversations about issues that matter;
  • respect for their knowledge and experience;
  • the opportunity to develop critical consciousness as a way of being, a way of relating, as well as a way of thinking, and the encouragement to challenge the status quo;
  • people who will stay with them, remain loyal to them, when they question the way things usually go;
  • supportive coalitions and the opportunity to work across difference and resist a lapse into niceness and sameness;
  • adults who treat them as trustworthy partners, who share knowledge and remain open to their questions and struggle;
  • resources that include access to information, materials, connections, financial support, and insider knowledge about negotiating the culture of power.

I have seen what girls can do when these conditions are met—the kinds of things that are possible when we bring girls together and scaffold their brilliant, creative work. So I am heartened to know, along with greater academic involvement, higher confidence in math ability, and stronger interest in STEM fields, that girls’ schools foster higher rates of political engagement and social activism.

In the world right now, we are facing “wicked problems"—an environmental crisis, global poverty, racial injustice in all its intersectional forms. Widespread, complex and interconnected, wicked problems have no single solution, they tear at the fabric of everyday life and touch each one of us where we live.

To solve wicked problems we need the kind of design thinking and creative on-the-ground problem-solving offered by girl-fueled activism. That means less adult-developed civic engagement-for-future-leaders opportunities and more girl-generated, girl-fueled present-day activist experiences. Tackling wicked problems requires what girls learn when they build something from the ground up: openness, flexibility, creativity, the capacity to play around, get a little messy, take risks and fail beautifully.

Girls schools are these rare and wonderful places where the necessary conditions for intergenerational activist work exists—spaces where girls have the resources and the luxury to fail and not have the world fall apart. They are sites rich with support and possibility.

Read the full blog here.

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