High-school students at Avalon School have talked a lot about bullying and violence in the last month. The conversations were sparked when the public charter school near University and Raymond avenues signed on to the St. Paul Public Library’s citywide read of A.S. King’s Everybody Sees the Ants, a book that weaves issues of bullying, war and violence against women into its story. (See our story on Avalon here.)
Avalon strives to promote a culture of tolerance and acceptance. Gay teens, transgender teens, teens who wear clothes that don’t look like everyone else’s clothes, teens who may have learning styles that don’t fit at traditional schools–all are finding a home there. The school’s teachers say that it’s hard and ongoing work to create an atmosphere where everyone feels safe, but a high level of communication keeps bullying at bay.
Let’s say that again: a high level of communication helps to create a culture where people feel safe.
Our commentary writer, Anna Dick Gambucci (see commentary on here), tells of her recent experience in organizing a community conversation about gun violence at a St. Paul school in February.
Meeting organizers had hoped to have a respectful conversation among people with varying perspectives on guns in our culture. In the end, the only people who showed up were those who stand on the side of passing stricter gun control laws. But Gambucci says she wants to see future gatherings where people on all sides of the gun-control issue can speak—respectfully, without yelling or jeering or intimidation.
Democracy happens best when people of various perspectives can have a dialogue and actually listen to each other, Gambucci says.
How do we create a culture of tolerance and acceptance in the gun-regulation dialogue? Building community relationships is a start, but that can only happen, as Gambucci suggests, when we begin to listen.