Building Bridges… Even With Those Who Dehumanize? | Kent Lenci | 6 Min Read

June 12, 2023

When I was fresh from college and unsure what came next, I found myself in a career-counseling session that suggested I wasn’t very good at a great many things. Still, there was hope for me, given my instinct to connect. I was characterized as a “bridge-builder” and advised that a profession—like teaching—that featured plenty of human contact would suit me. It did, for twenty years. More recently, I leaned even more heavily into my bridge-building tendencies, writing a book called Learning to Depolarize and starting Middle Ground School Solutions to help prepare today’s students to ease tomorrow’s political polarization.

It is my job, then, to help educators reach across lines of divide and find the motivation and tools to help students do so because political polarization is an enduring challenge that awaits those students. This work animates people, although questions arise. One of the most vexing of these speaks to a quote widely attributed to James Baldwin but which is in fact the product of author Robert Jones, Jr. His tweet (since deleted) resonated with many: “We can disagree and still love each other unless your disagreement is rooted in my…

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Kent Lenci

Kent Lenci has taught, coached, and occupied several leadership positions at the middle-school level over the past 20 years. He is a recipient of various honors, including the Margot Stern Strom Teaching Award from Facing History and Ourselves and the NAIS Teacher of the Future designation. He earned his Ed.M. in Learning and Teaching from Harvard University. Kent has presented at local and national conferences and written on the topic of connecting students across political divides. By virtue of temperament and experience, he is well suited to gently, purposefully, and humorously leading students and faculty members through difficult discussions. As founder of Middle Ground School Solutions, Kent recognizes that polarization has scarred the country and complicated our daily lives. It can feel tricky to maintain the role of impartial educator in the classroom, and our instinct may guide us to simply stay away from “politics” at school. In fact, though, the complexity of our national political landscape presents appealing educational opportunities. Kent encourages educators to practice the skills they wish to instill in students by reaching across lines of political and ideological difference.