Activism, Integrity, and the Student Climate Strike

On September 20, students all over the world held strikes and protests for action on global climate change. In anticipation, we led some lessons on climate change and the upcoming strike, talking about the science of climate change, how to take action, and the costs of some climate action, including possibly giving up some comforts or conveniences. It is important that students make informed choices about how they raise their voices. Integrity demands that anyone taking a stand should do so knowingly and willingly, and not simply because others are doing it. For this reason, we asked students to only participate in strike activities if they understood what they were asking for and believed in it.

I am proud to say that most members of the Chicago Friends School community chose to participate in global strike. A small group of middle school students went to the rally downtown with parents. The majority of the students decided to give up a portion of their recess to make signs and walk around our neighborhood, including on the busy commercial street near the school, where they were greeted with honks, cheers and high fives.

A handful of students did not participate and opted for a longer recess time instead. I am equally proud of them. Integrity demands that when raising one’s voice, we should always make sure we understand what we are saying and truly believe it should be said, and resist pressure to speak just because others are. Whatever their reasons, these students were true to them, and that is an important lesson as well.

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Karen Carney

is the head of school. Karen’s career demonstrates a rich and diverse set of skills: project oversight, curriculum development, educator training and mentoring, and classroom instruction. Prior to coming to Chicago Friends School, she worked as a senior specialist in science curriculum for American Institutes for Research. Before this, she oversaw educational programming at the Adler Planetarium, first as its director of education and then as associate vice president for visitor experience and learning. She has also worked in instruction and teacher development at the University of Illinois at Chicago’s Learning Sciences Research Institute and has authored more than 20 scholarly papers, book chapters, and conference presentations.

Karen is an active, dedicated Friend (Quaker) and has held various leadership positions at the Evanston Friends Meeting. She enjoys baking, cooking, and painting and is a member of the Playmation improv comedy team.