McDonogh School teaches students how to think and not what to think. As LifeReady, our academic vision, promises, McDonogh graduates “self-reliant, critical thinkers who can form, test, and revise their ideas—for themselves, and in the service of others.” To develop these abilities and to be truly inclusive and respectful, teachers and students must invite and analyze all debatable ideas and points of view. Critical reasoning remains a core competency for college and career, but just as importantly, the ability to understand, evaluate, and act on ideas responsibly prepares students for healthy democratic participation for life.
While a culture of inclusion protects freedom of expression, such protection does not render all knowledge and opinion equally “true.” For students to construct the most complete understanding of a disputable issue or concept, they must build such knowledge for themselves. This requires the hard work of analysis, perspective-taking, debate, reflection, and application. Through such methods, we honor the diversity of thought in a pluralist culture as we work towards sound, evidence-based positions and conclusions. Members of our community may find certain ideas that emerge when wrestling with sensitive topics untenable—even offensive—from time to time; in such moments of friction, however, we can help our students learn to resolve conflict, to reason well, and to communicate their own positions.
McDonogh must also be a forum where diverse points of view can be discussed, evaluated, challenged, more fully understood, and, as appropriate, acted upon. We believe that students will graduate with knowledge and with the ability to arrive at thoughtful beliefs, developed through civil discourse—strategies and interpersonal behaviors that help people to listen, share, understand, think, and debate—so that they become trusted stewards of democracy. McDonogh lays the groundwork for teaching strong reasoning and for civic participation when students have the freedom to express their considered ideas in safe and productive ways.
McDonogh expects freedom of expression to produce passionate, spirited debate from time to time. The School believes deeply in the value of freedom of expression and civil discourse and is willing to risk unrehearsed moments when language has the potential to offend. In fact, as a school, McDonogh anticipates such unintended instances, for they provide opportunities for teaching about how we may better engage in productive, respectful civil discourse and debate—even when we may continue to disagree about ideas. Language that willfully jeopardizes, dehumanizes, or threatens the safety of a person or group, however, is not aligned with our values. As a result of this commitment, McDonogh intends to graduate students who live and act through strong democratic principles who will mature into model citizens of superb character and service.