I am an avid fan of all things Star Trek. The Original Series, The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, Voyager, Enterprise, Discovery and Picard. Two core components of what Star Trek represents to me are particularly relevant to what we have been experiencing since March 2020 and in my career as an educator. The science nerd in me has found the series immensely entertaining, and I appreciate that they worked to get the science aspect right. However, what is at the core of my love for Star Trek is the optimism it portrays for the future of humanity and its willingness to explore the complicated facets of morality.
Star Trek’s creator, Gene Roddenberry, wrote, “Star Trek speaks to some basic human needs, that there is a tomorrow—it’s not all going to be over in a big flash and a bomb, that the human race is improving, that we have things to be proud of as humans. Ancient astronauts didn’t build the pyramids, human beings built the pyramids, because they’re clever and they work hard.”
Over the last 30 years, my work with amazing educators, like those here at LJCDS and thousands of high school students, have provided me with a source of limitless optimism for our future as a society. Nevermore so than over the last 20 months have I been so certain that education is our best hope of successfully navigating our recent challenges. Through education, we can achieve the kind of future portrayed in my interpretation of Roddenberry’s vision—one of collaboration, respect and dignity in an extensively diverse universe.
Schools across the globe—public and private—are experiencing an uptick in social and behavioral issues. And LJCDS is not immune to some of those challenges. We believe the problems we’re seeing are artifacts of our experiences living through a pandemic. These represent an erosion of the normal collaborative, respectful, trusting and dignified community at LJCDS. As part of that process, we reached out to the students to hear their perspectives, ask for their help, and find out how we could best support them as we work together to address what we are seeing.
I heard from many student leaders and had conversations with each grade. Some common themes emerged from those conversations. They included that typical interactions between grades have changed, and as a result, students don’t feel like they know each other as well. Students expressed a sense of a maturation gap; one senior said, “I still feel like a 10th grader.”
Students made it clear how important it was that they had a voice. Some felt heard, while others did not. Their acknowledgment that they were seeing and experiencing some of the same things we witnessed and that they were willing to partner with us filled me with optimism. They are ready to reestablish the norms of community and interaction some of them remember experiencing, and some have only heard about. Mostly, we heard that prioritizing our community was the right thing to do.
Since this conversation began in early October, we have seen significant improvement with regard to how we are treating the campus and each other. The number of students modeling the behaviors and habits they believe are essential to their vision of our community is substantial and continues to grow. As I would expect from a community as amazing as this one, the best has emerged in most of us and is fighting to breakthrough in the rest.
To finish with the words of Gene Roddenberry, “The human race is a remarkable creature, one with great potential, and I hope that Star Trek has helped to show us what we can be if we believe in ourselves and our abilities.”
Young people’s accomplishments, dedication and perseverance never ceased to amaze me, never surprised me, and always left me with the optimism that my interpretation of the future envisioned by Star Trek is simply a matter of time.