Greens Farms Academy is a PreK-12, coed school in Westport, CT

Heart of Democracy

By Meghan Chew
Assistant Head of Middle School for Academics

Over 150 years have passed since President Lincoln delivered his second inaugural address, and yet the words still hold a powerful lesson as we stand in schools today. Delivered on March 4, 1865, to a deeply divided America, Lincoln reaffirmed an essential fact of life: if we are to survive and thrive as a democratic country, we must embrace the divisions and contradictions of this country with compassion. Democracy, while a powerful indicator of our country, is not ready-made. As Lincoln highlighted, the ability to engage in civil discourse and embrace political tensions is essential to its success. This rhetoric immediately reminded me of the work I see happening in our Middle School community. 

All students in their core academic classes are developing competencies to grapple with this critical work. 

  • English classrooms are developing successful habits of discourse through their Harkness style of discussion and their ability to build empathy through character analysis. 

  • History classrooms continue to broaden our lens of current events by reflecting back on previous patterns of governments and civilizations and the rise and fall of conflict. 

  • Math classrooms are engaging in respectful skepticism through their active problem-solving with one another and intentional display of evidence. 

  • Science classrooms are learning through inquiry and teaching students how to ask great questions and examine data and resources critically. 

  • World Langauge classrooms are opening students’ viewpoints to new cultures and perspectives beyond the GFA walls and providing a door to communicate in a new way.  

In addition to our work in individual class settings, we have also added a dedicated time in our schedule once a week to review current events together. Now more than ever, we need to equip our students with safe opportunities to embrace contradictions, unpack other’s viewpoints, and emphasize that we are all a part of the GFA community, no matter how deep our differences are. 


Palmer, Parker (2014). Healing the Heart of Democracy. Jossey-Bass