What Is Quakerism?

Let your life speak.
~ George Fox

Mary McDowell Friends School is one of over eighty Friends schools (nursery through grade 12) located throughout the United States. Mary McDowell Friends School is one of four special education Friends school in the United States and the only one with the distinction of educating students in kindergarten through twelfth grade. With this unique place in the Friends school community, Mary McDowell Friends School embraces the rich history of Quakerism from which it stems.

Quakerism (also known as the Society of Friends or Friends) was founded in England by George Fox during the mid-1600’s, a period of political upheaval and social change. One of the main tenets of Quakerism was the idea that each individual (man, woman or child) has “that of God” within him or her. With this revolutionary idea, George Fox traveled around England sharing his belief that all people had equal access to the divine and that by sitting together in shared silence (Silent Meeting or Meeting for Worship) without a minister, preacher, rabbi or priest, anyone – young or old – could have access to “inner light” – an innate goodness and commonality at the center of every person.

Quakers have no formal written creed but share common beliefs referred to as the testimonies. The testimonies or core values serve as a foundation for Quaker actions and decision making. While there are many testimonies and they have changed over time, the most frequently recognized are identified by the acronym SPICES: Simplicity, Peace, Integrity, Community, Equality and Service. Testimonies remind, prompt, and inspire our actions in all aspects of school life.

Here at Mary McDowell Friends School, we are a community of many diverse religions and backgrounds. We translate George Fox’s words “that of God” to the belief in “that of Good” in everyone. With this as our central belief, we strive to develop a community of learners, teachers and faculty, families and friends, who recognize “that of Good” in each other and work to ensure that our actions as individuals and groups foster this belief in our school community and in the world beyond.

Educating students has been a commitment of the Quakers, and there is a long history of developing schools. The first Quaker schools were created specifically to teach Quaker children. Over time, Quaker schools have evolved and provided educational opportunities for disenfranchised groups.In America, Quaker schools were the first educational institutions to educate girls and former slaves, and Quaker colleges were the first to provide co-education programs. Friends schools have a shared history of educating the whole child, fostering intellectual, social, emotional, and physical growth. As a Quaker school for students with learning disabilities, Mary McDowell Friends School is well positioned to be part of this rich history as we incorporate the idea of “that of Good” and the testimonies into the daily life of our school.