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Open-Mindedness During Hard Times

Dave Racine, Dean of Students

“A mind is like a parachute. It doesn’t work if it is not open.”
― Frank Zappa

This is the fourth in a series on how the School’s core values—Courage, Open-mindedness, Self-Reliance, Curiosity and Compassion—can help guide us during these times.

At the core of any educational experience is the willingness to consider new ideas. This willingness allows us to see things from different perspectives and to appreciate different ways of thinking and lifestyles that are essential to what unites us and helps us grow as individuals and as a society. Being open-minded is important because it creates opportunities to learn from others about the ways they live or why they believe what they do. It allows us to approach challenges with inquisition and lucidity and to become more aware and approachable. Therefore, it is no surprise that Fountain Valley School embraces open-mindedness as one of its Core Values.

Throughout the Spring, we have had to open our minds to new ways of learning and new ways of connecting with friends, teachers, and family. We have had to support those around us as they experience the challenges of the virus. During stressful times, it is important to practice open-mindedness to help ourselves and those around us feel supported and connected. Being open-minded requires us to work with, not against, one another and to seek to understand our differences and not just conform to traditional thinking that may fragment us. Practicing open-mindedness will allow us to overcome whatever challenges we face.

We are all experiencing the changes this virus has created. Social distancing has challenged our ability to connect with others. We are no longer able to socialize in classrooms, in the dining room, in the campus center, or on the quad. Now, rather than telling you to put your devices away, I urge you to pick them up and reach out to one another, to listen, and to “suffer with” one another. When we seek to understand each other’s challenges, we come together as friends and communities and are able to work through and overcome challenges together.

Here are a few ways in which you can practice open-mindedness:

  • Be curious to hear what others think.
  • Allow others to challenge your ideas.
  • Show empathy to those around you.
  • Assume the best in others.
  • Push yourself outside your comfort zone.


As we approach the end of the school year, it is important to reflect on your experience at Fountain Valley School, for there is much that you have accomplished and experienced. You have all practiced open-mindedness throughout the school year. Reflect on those moments and how they have made you and how you may have helped a classmate, teacher, or friend. Ultimately, these moments have allowed you to become the person you are today. As Mark Twain said, “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one's lifetime.” Although you may not be on campus, continue your educational journey to develop your own broad, wholesome, and charitable views of the world around you. Whether you are graduating next week or returning to FVS next fall, your journey will continue, and I hope this Core Value will help you navigate.
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