Upper School Student Writes Prize Winning Essay
This summer, Dinah Megibow-Taylor ’24 submitted a prize-winning essay to the 2022 John F. Tinker Foundation Essay Contest. The John F. Tinker Foundation is a small educational non-profit organization that focuses on “encouraging youth and the professionals and others who educate them to develop responsible awareness of their First Amendment rights.”
The essay, titled “Free Speech Through the Lens of Quakerism” speaks to the importance of free speech in schools and the need to “encourage diversity in opinion and perspective” in order to further learning and growth among students and adults. Dinah notes that there is a trend in schools of teaching that “offending is the gravest offense.” The trend is aimed at preserving students’ emotional safety and is well intended, yet it in reality curtails students’ ability to speak freely.
Dinah ties the Quaker values of peace and equality into the argument for the importance of free speech. Quaker teaching uses humane debate to repair conflict which, in turn, helps to achieve peace. The Quakers also believe there is that of God in everyone, regardless of race, class, or past sin meaning that all people are equal to one another. She pulls the two qualities together writing, “If one emphasizes that everyone, in moral and intellectual knowledge, is equal, then no one has direct access to the truth. If no one has sole access to a divine truth, then it is impossible to shut others down in debate. There is always room for disagreement, sure, and in fact, disagreement is encouraged, as it is central to debate, but there is a key difference between respectful disagreement and a shutting-down of opposing viewpoints.” Her essay ends with a call to action asking schools to help students foster space for open debate and “let students speak.”