Torch - Spring 2017

Principal’s Message

Our girls take the lead in discovering the complex play between facts, experiences and perspectives.

Exploring With an Open Mind Helen-Kay Davy

T echnology can certainly make things more convenient for us and speed up our access to information. But are we finding that it has actually begun to limit what we discover, understand and believe? The use of algorithms gives us results that resemble what we have liked, read and bought in the past. Social media exposes us to like-minded people. Is the digital revolution helping us to live in our own worlds, rather than taking us out of our comfort zone? 1 Fake and agenda-driven news appears to look just like balanced information backed by reliable facts. At Havergal, we want our students to explore with an open mind. This is why they are encouraged to question the facts they read on a page or a screen, listen to people they don’t agree with and interact with diverse groups in the community. One of our school’s four values is inquiry and our ethos sustains this value in everything we do. Students are often brought around a Harkness table—an oval-shaped table in which everyone is treated equally—and the accompanying teaching method encourages listening to others and exchanging ideas without judgment. When some of our Board of Governors attended lessons here in April for our “Bring the Board to School Day,” they were struck by the collaborative and respectful way in which the students explored and developed their different viewpoints. This face-to-face rapport with students encouraged mature articulation of ideas and allowed confident problem-solving to take place.

Our students develop a healthy skepticism for information by questioning where facts come from and what evidence is behind them. For instance, in Grade 6 the students are following a News Literacy unit that helps them to test evidence for reliability and corroboration, as well as likelihood. They also learn a mature ability to spot bias and false logic. And when we have discussions about challenging topics, we demonstrate to the girls the difference between stating an opinion and presenting a conclusion backed by a logically stated argument. We urge our students to spend time with classmates and others they don’t already know well, who have different backgrounds or values. Our girls take the lead in discovering the complex play between facts, experiences and perspectives. The principles for learning that Leonardo da Vinci called Curiosità —an insatiable curious approach to life and an unrelenting quest for continuous learning—are embedded in our strategic educational developments of Minds Set Free, Breaking the Marble Spell and Exploring the Brink of the Known. I believe the students at Havergal well understand that world trends could be encouraging them to think smaller and accept all they see and hear. But they want to go deeper beyond the ivy. Here, both the faculty and the students are pushing themselves to ask difficult questions and learn how to nurture discernment between truth and fiction.



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