If someone had told our founder, Caroline Pratt, that children would be learning apart from one another in 2020, she would have expressed deep concern. Pratt believed that learning was a fundamentally social process. Her educational philosophy centered around the idea that children benefit most when they work together to learn more about each other and the world around them, and through that process, themselves. C&C educators today—106 years after the school was founded—still hold a deep belief in that core principle.
City and Country School is a co-ed institution for children ages two through eighth grade, located in the West Village of Manhattan. We would be delighted to see you at a Virtual Information Session, where you can learn about our innovative progressive model.
Dear City and Country School Alumni, Alumni Parents, and Former Faculty and Staff,
I am writing to share an update about our ongoing anti-racism work at C&C, and in particular, insights from our recent forums and meetings. Current C&C community members gathered in August to reflect on the facilitated forums that C&C hosted earlier this month and to look ahead to the important work that still lies in front of us. These August forums were dedicated to honoring, listening to, and learning from the reflections of alumni, alumni parents, former faculty and staff, and current community members of color about their time at C&C. Thank you to all of the alumni, alumni parents, current students, staff, and faculty members who shared their experiences and participated in the forums. (More information about these meetings is available here. I am also sharing links to several documents that were discussed in our recent meeting, along with further reflections from the earlier POC forums.)
We are at an inflection point in our nation’s history and in the independent school community. Students and alumni across the country have bravely broken their silence about the harm enacted in their communities by schools and institutions they have attended. At C&C, we know we are not exempt from having enacted that same brand of harm—racism and anti-Blackness in particular. The stories that have come to us from students across our communities are a gift to us all and a call to action to effect change for them and for our current and future students.
As we bring our 105th school year to a close, our community and country is navigating a historic set of challenges. This new pandemic, compounded by the most recent violence against Black lives, has exposed the fragility of our social structures. Our awakening to how deeply rooted social and racial injustice is embedded in this country and in our systems has been painful to own. At the same time, these crises have given voice and visibility to the strength, healing, creativity, and power that is generated when we come together, engage in deep self-reflection, accept responsibility, and commit to each other’s humanity.
The recent murders of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd, and the racism endured by Christian Cooper in our very own Central Park, are weighing heavy on our hearts. These are only the most recent crimes and injustices committed against Black and Brown people, and they come at a time when Black and Brown people are already being disproportionately devastated by the pandemic and its secondary effects.
“Did you hear what happened last night?” a V in Will Sears’ Group asked last April during a Group meeting. “Notre Dame is burning!” Quickly, several more Vs chimed in, sharing what they had heard about the fire at the historic Parisian cathedral. The next day, the children raised the topic again, and an animated conversation ensued. The Group’s observations and questions ranged from the fire and firefighters, to the history of the cathedral, to stories about saving the artifacts inside. “Will?” asked one of the Vs, as the Group’s interest grew, “Can we build Notre Dame?”
It was only the fourth day of school for the full IIs–XIIIs community. Children dreamt of a summer well-spent; parents continued to adapt to the routines of the school year. Teachers, too, eased their students (and themselves) into the curriculum. For all of its potential, the first week of school can also be one of the most stressful times of year, as the community comes together and begins to search for its rhythm.
This year, as in most years, the IVs asked me some big questions when I visited their classroom. I tried to give an answer that felt satisfying for them and for me, but it was challenging to explain my role in ways that would make sense to them. Most of my job as Principal is opaque to the students, and aside from a few tangible examples I could give, I replied simply that, “My job is hard and busy, but also something I love doing.” I left hoping that they weren’t disappointed by my description.
During each Group night, I shared that the faculty and staff read Charles Vogl’s book, The Art of Community, over the summer. In the book, he expressed that community is where you begin to answer three foundational questions: Who are you? What do you do? What do you value?
Now that your children are in their second month of school, they have begun to establish community within their Groups. This means they have also begun to answer these three essential questions.
When walking the halls of C&C, visitors often see the XIIIs gathering the latest news, clipboard and pencil at the ready. Whether bending down to catch what the shy IV has to say about Rhythms, or seeing eye-to-eye with fellow XIIIs as they contemplate the end of their time at C&C, our thirteen-year-olds are capable of great insight into our unique community. Here are some highlights, featured in the second edition of our Works in Progress magazine, of what the XIIIs have written throughout the year about different Groups. Much more is available in the Publications area of our website. All pictures (below) by the XIIIs.
C&C began the Block Connection initiative 13 years ago, helping to fulfill founder Caroline Pratt’s vision of making a real change in how all children are taught, and bringing her approach to education to schools across the city. Partnering with public school teachers and administrators, C&C educators demonstrate how open-ended materials, unit blocks in particular, and a commitment to dramatic play, are crucial components of learning for young children. Through the initiative, C&C’s educators have extensively and successfully partnered with PS 38, PS 130, and PS 261 in Brooklyn, the Sicomac School in New Jersey, and with many other public schools on a smaller scale through Block Connection workshops.
Forty-five members of C&C classes from 1939 to 2018 and their guests came together April 12 for a Sing-Along with Music Teacher Maja Goceva, a Rhythms workshop with Rhythms Teachers Kate Tarlow Morgan ’68 and Zelda Gay ’06, followed by a general gathering in the Library.
C&C partnered with the other members of the Downtown Independent School Consortium to present “American Injustice” with Bryan Stevensonon February 20 at Friends Seminary. Stevenson is the founder of the Equal Justice Initiative, author of Just Mercy, and a professor at the NYU Law School. His Equal Justice Initiative is the founding organization of The Legacy Museum: From Enslavement to Mass Incarceration.
Stevenson shared his four-step prescription for positive change: Stay close to people we want to help; change the narrative of problems we are trying to affect; stay hopeful, stating, "injustice prevails where hopelessness persists”; do things that are uncomfortable and inconvenient.
Parent Humera Afridi reflected on the evening: “Proximity to the disenfranchised; changing the narrative; the opposite of poverty is not wealth but justice, the power of human connection—so much to think about!” Millie Cartagena, City and Country Director of Community Life, Equity, and Inclusion, shared, “I left with renewed hope for the future!”
City and Country has earned a Silver Accolade Award in the category of Fundraising Appeals: Individual, from the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) for our 2017-2018 Annual Appeal. Out of 112 awards, only two went to institutions that were not colleges or universities.
This award is added to C&C's growing roster of CASE awards, with a Bronze in the category of Fundraising Appeal: Individual for our 2016-2017 Annual Appeal and a Silver in Publications Design Multi-Page for the portfolio book, which featured the work of the VIs based on their visit to see the Phoenix art installation by Xu Bing at St. John the Divine.