My Moral Vision for LJCDS

By Gary Krahn Ph.D., Head of School

The strongest impression I hope to make, as your head of school at LJCDS, is my deep commitment to the dignity model created by Donna Hicks, Ph.D. Personally, I view every day and each relationship as an opportunity to practice dignity. Professionally, I firmly believe the dignity model is the key to preparing our students to excel and make our world a better place.

Dignity is our inherent value and worth as human beings; everyone is born with it. As stated by Dr. Hicks, “Human dignity transcends all of our differences, putting our common human identity above all else. While our uniqueness is important, history has shown us that if we don’t take the next step toward recognizing our shared identity, conflicts in our workplaces, our personal lives, and between nations will continue to abound.”

While we have a shared identity, history has taught us that our society is constructed to empower some through the oppression and exclusion of others. At La Jolla Country Day School, we strive to recognize and celebrate our differences, eradicate the injustices and inequalities that separate us based on those dissimilarities, and support and value one another.

Treating all people with dignity is an aspirational goal. As humans, there are times when we fail to be as kind or thoughtful as we intended. However, nothing outrages us more than when people are unkind to us and violate our own sense of dignity. Despite our sincerest intentions, we all have examples of falling short. Our ability to pursue the aspirational goal of being dignity agents is so readily available, yet so easily elusive.

As we look outside our school community to the national and global climate of unrest and the lack of dignity demonstrated by some online, we may become disillusioned. However, LJCDS offers its community hope and the possibility to see our ideals realized. Learning and living by the dignity principles requires attentiveness and constant practice. By prioritizing dignity education on our campus and in our homes, we will create the conversation and commitment to become more compassionate and empathetic human beings.

We all wish to live and work in an atmosphere of trust, understanding, appreciation and mutual respect—an environment that is conducive for growth and development. The LJCDS partnership is the mutual recognition of our desire to be seen, heard, listened to, and treated fairly—to be recognized, understood, and to feel physically and emotionally safe. LJCDS community members are expected to always strive toward their highest moral potential with the courage to do what is right and the maturity to accept responsibility for their actions.

The exhibition of our values is revealed in the 10 essential elements of dignity in Leading with Dignity, by Dr. Hicks:

  1. Acceptance of Identity: Approach people as being neither inferior nor superior to you. Give others the freedom to express their authentic selves without fear of being negatively judged. Interact without prejudice or bias, accepting the ways in which race, religion, ethnicity, gender, class, sexual orientation, age, and disability may be at the core of other people’s identities. Assume that others have integrity.
  2. Inclusion: Make others feel that they belong, whatever the relationship—whether they are in your family, community, organization, or nation.
  3.  Safety: Put people at ease at on two levels:  physically, so they feel safe from bodily harm, and psychologically, so they feel safe from being humiliated. Help them to feel free to speak without fear of retribution. 
  4. Acknowledgment: Give people your full attention by listening, hearing, validating, and responding to their concerns, feelings, and experiences.
  5. Recognition: Validate others for their talents, hard work, thoughtfulness, and help.  Be generous with praise and show appreciation and gratitude to others for their contributions and ideas.
  6. Fairness: Treat people justly, with equality, and in an evenhanded way according to agreed-on laws and rules. People feel that you have honored their dignity when you treat them without discrimination or injustice.
  7. Benefit of the Doubt: Treat people as trustworthy. Start with the premise that others have good motives and are acting with integrity.
  8. Understanding: Believe that what others think matters. Give them the chance to explain and express their points of view.  Actively listen in order to understand them.
  9. Independence: Encourage people to act on their own behalf so that they feel in control of their lives and experience a sense of hope and possibility.
  10. Accountability: Take responsibility for your actions.  If you have violated the dignity of another person, apologize.  Make a commitment to change your hurtful behaviors.

Without discussion and understanding, these elements of dignity are merely abstract words, so please have conversations with your child(ren) about your core values as a family and offer and point out what dignity looks like as expressed through their actions.

Gary Krahn Ph.D.
Gary Krahn Ph.D.

Head of School

Gary Krahn, Ph.D., believes that pre-K–12 education will define the future success of our nation and our world. As LJCDS’s 12th head of school, Dr. Krahn’s role is to provide an environment to develop educated, ethical, innovative and thoughtful leaders who can anticipate and respond effectively to a rapidly changing world.

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