What is a Quaker School?
While each Friends school has its own unique style and personality, they all have a common purpose: not only to provide a rich and challenging education but also to foster the ideals of community, spirituality, responsibility and stewardship. A hallmark of the Quaker school experience is the basic beliefs that we are all teachers and learners and that each child has unique gifts and talents. Students are called upon to discover their own voices and interests within the framework of rigorous, college-preparatory academics. The foundation of the educational experience is built upon the ideal that students’ quality of character – what kind of people they are becoming – is as important to their lives and to the world as their intellectual growth and exploration.
Because a Quaker education endeavors to be a socially responsible one, our curricula emphasize service, social action, and experiential learning. Can an education be socially responsible and academically rigorous at the same time? We believe that one is not developed at the expense of the other; instead, they work in tandem to prepare students for college and for life.
How do students learn community, responsibility and stewardship? By living it! The Quaker belief of the “Inner Light” or that of God in each of us creates an atmosphere of acceptance and openness. Students are led by example not only to respect the perspectives and talents of others in the community, but also to learn from them. Westtown's campus is culturally, religiously, racially and socio-economically diverse and we are deeply enriched by this diversity.
A Quaker education is not limited to campus life, but is enhanced by getting out into the local community for service projects or traveling to far-off places like China or Peru to learn a language or build a school. This focus on preparing students to be citizens of the world is a unique feature of Westtown, and reflects the heart of Quaker principles. Friends schools, and Westtown in particular, have a deep commitment to environmental sustainability and you will find sustainable practices in use in all corners of the campus.
So, what is Quakerism, anyway?
Quakerism originated in mid-17th century England. George Fox, founder of the Religious Society of Friends, and his followers were dissatisfied with the hierarchical nature of worship at that time. Fox and his fellow seekers believed there was that of God in each person – the Inner Light. This direct access to the Divine Spirit eliminated the need for clergy, elaborate buildings, or a prescribed religious service. Quakerism arose from within (although in protest against) the Church of England. Today the religion remains part of the Christian tradition and receives inspiration from the Old and New Testaments of the Bible.
The word “Quaker” was originally a derisive term, used to mock the believers because they “trembled and quaked with religious zeal”. Quakers eventually adopted this term thereby shedding it of its derisive nature. Friends were persecuted for their beliefs and many were forced to emigrate, including a large group led by William Penn which settled in southeastern Pennsylvania in 1681.
Quakers reject the idea of creeds but do agree on certain principles that guide the Society of Friends.
- There is that of God, or the ‘Inner Light’, in all people.
- Through this personal, direct relationship with God the Truth can be revealed
- Divine Truth cannot be confined by creed
- God’s creation must be respected and preserved; we are stewards of the earth
- Faith should be evident in daily actions – a way of life.