The student news of St. Paul Academy and Summit School

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The student news of St. Paul Academy and Summit School

The Rubicon

The student news of St. Paul Academy and Summit School

The Rubicon

Speak up when community values are broken

Greyson Sale
IT IS UP TO US. A rise in discipline issues this fall isn’t just about self-regulation, but also about peers saying silent when things happen. Call out peers when community values are broken.

Cutting in the lunch line, taking photos without permission, leaving wrappers in public spaces— these seemingly small actions can tear down the values of a community.

SPA places emphasis on instilling values in students to support the welcoming community it prides itself on, especially in the Lower and Middle Schools. In the Lower School, the TOOLBOX Social Emotional Learning Curriculum “gives both children and adults a common language for community values and problem-solving,” according to the school website. The TOOLBOX program encourages Lower School students to learn and use social-emotional skills, “tools in their toolbox,” as they go about their lives. Some examples of these skills include empathy, forgiveness, patience, courage, and listening, among others. Similarly, the Middle School uses the Developmental Designs Program to promote social and emotional growth, specifically regarding community building.

However, the Upper School’s retreats, seminars, and advisory programs don’t seem to permeate the student body quite as effectively as intended, and students don’t seem to embrace these messages as wholeheartedly as they might have when they were younger. Instead, an increased focus on academics, combined with the pitfalls of peer pressure, continues to fragment the community. Cruel humor, bullying, and dishonesty have been taking a toll on everybody as people see these actions and choose to imitate or ignore them, continuing a destructive cycle of inaction.

So, how can the community improve? For starters, force-feeding social and emotional learning is not the answer. High school students are smart enough to know the difference between right and wrong and understand how to bring about positive contributions; they just need the motivation to do it. Improvement needs to be student-centered, as students are more likely to listen to their peers than faculty and other adults. Just as peer pressure can push students towards harmful actions, peer accountability can push them to make better decisions when people speak up.

University of Pennsylvania professor Dr. Emily Falk explains the psychology behind peer pressure: Research shows that even just having another peer around can change the reward response in the brain and also the risk-taking tendencies of teenagers,” she said.

Research shows that even just having another peer around can change the reward response in the brain and also the risk-taking tendencies of teenagers

— Dr. Emily Falk

In many situations, this response can be beneficial. According to NIH News in Health from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, “Peer influence can help teens thrive if it gets them more involved with their community or helps them learn behaviors to get along with others, like how to cooperate or be empathetic.”

One of the strongest ways to prevent community values from being broken is to call people out. The influence of a friend or peer speaking up and calling somebody out is infinitely more powerful than the words of an adult. At first, give gentle reminders—in many incidents of broken community values, students get carried away or don’t realize the true effects of their actions.

However, when such actions are recurring, speak up more forcefully. For example, if somebody makes a mean joke, one could say something like, “Hey, that’s pretty messed up,” “Don’t joke about that,” or “That’s not okay.” Speaking up is more important than worrying about a social image; be the one who does what’s right.

The community needs students who are willing to speak up for each other and actively promote and model the change they want to see. For some, speaking up when these harmful actions occur can be relatively easy, but for many, calling out friends and peers is very difficult. Looking out for friends is important, and calling them out when they break community values is a means of looking out for them, even if it doesn’t seem like it. It’s even harder to call out strangers, but it’s still the right thing to do because accountability is the key to upholding basic shared values of respect, kindness, and integrity.

A famous quote by Albert Einstein sums this message up: “The world will not be destroyed by those who do evil, but by those who watch them without doing anything.”

Every student at this school has the ability and moral obligation to speak up when community values are broken. So, don’t be afraid to do the right thing; speak up and be a role model for your peers.

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About the Contributor
Greyson Sale
Greyson Sale, News Editor
Hi, I’m Greyson Sale (he/him). I work as a News Editor for RubicOnline, and this is my second year on staff. At school, I run track, am a co-founder and co-president of the Investment Club, and serve on the Sophomore Class Leadership Council. Outside of school, I love rock climbing and get to compete on the national level. I'm even hoping to compete at some North American Cup events soon! I can be reached at [email protected].

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