Lord Acton and Social Media

By now you know we named our little school in honor of John Emerich Edward Dalberg-Acton, the 19th century English historian, politician and writer whose most famous quote is, “Power tends to corrupt. Absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

Lord Acton was one of the most educated and well-known people of his time. A fun fact is that when he died, his 60,000 volume library was purchased by Andrew Carnegie.

Acton’s life work was built around the history of liberty. You may think this is why we claimed his name as our own because we hold high the torch of economic, religious and political freedom at Acton Academy.

But this is only part of the reason.

Lord Acton’s deepest work was focused on the relationship between liberty and morality.  He envisioned a community that is free and virtuous. His principles included striving for excellence and giving unselfishly for the good of the community.

We, too, envision a community that is bound by principles of freedom, excellence and moral goodness.

This doesn’t mean we stand self-righteously in judgment of others. Nor does it mean we believe we are free from wrong-doing.

It does mean we know what kindness, truth, responsibility and selflessness look like. Our children know, too. We easily recognize when a behavior is not within the standards of our community and have ways to call each other back gently to the journey that includes grace, forgiveness and resilience.

How is this related to social media?

In the name of Lord Acton, we envision a community that upholds kindness and respect for others as our bottom line. This vision holds strong even in this day when world leaders blast unthinkable snarkiness (to put it mildly) across the internet and social media temptations lure us at every turn to indulge in mediocrity. Social media has its place and is stunning in its power to connect and uplift. But there is an insidious pull downward that is a spirit-killer and time thief. It is from this darkness we hope to keep our children.

But how does a school hold standards in an age of “clicks” and “comments”? When Eagles leave campus but are still connected in seconds, at all hours?

The truth is we don’t. What happens online, off-campus is not something we can mediate unless it affects life in the studio or the Acton name. We as parents, though, do carry the burden of responsibility and there are two things we all can do to help protect the standards of excellence in our community and the well-being of our children:

1) We can keep an eye on our family’s social media and look out for snarkiness and inappropriate behavior. Bad habits quickly start here.

2) We can contact each other directly parent-to-parent if we see a problem. It’s not healthy or okay for a parent to go directly to a young person who isn’t their own.

It’s only together, bound by common principles, that we can rise up and make this world better. Lord Acton thought this, too.