The Threat of Safetyism
The heart of Dakar Academy Schools is to disciple children in all areas of life so they will be well equipped for the future. Often that means we must counter cultural influences that have a negative impact on our students. One of these areas of negative influence is in the growing tendency to overprotect our children from all things threatening or challenging—a trend called safetyism.
“A culture that allows the concept of ‘safety’ to creep so far that it equates emotional discomfort with physical danger is a culture that encourages people to systematically protect one another from the very experiences embedded in daily life that they need in order to become strong and healthy” — The Coddling of the American Mind: How good intentions and bad ideas are setting up a generation for failure
In western culture, parents are buying into the myth that we must do everything possible to protect our children. Instead of providing safety, however, we are creating fragile students without the ability to cope or function in the real world. This is happening both physically and emotionally.
One physical example has been the demand in recent years to remove peanut butter from school settings. This overprotection has led to an increase in the number of students with peanut-related allergies because lack of exposure never allows for the development of a protective immune response.
In the same way, the overuse of antibiotics and the failure to push our kids outside to play makes children more likely to have serious illness and allergies. When children aren’t exposed to certain microbes, their systems overreact to other things that aren’t really harmful.
Emotionally, we must prepare our children to deal with disappointment and hurt feelings. No matter what measures a school puts in place, your child will likely bully or be bullied during their school years. They are going to be treated unfairly in a classroom or on the athletic field. They will make a bad grade, lose an election, fail a course, or break up with a significant other. Instead of avoiding these things, we want to equip our students to walk through these things with Christ.
Paul says it this way, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its works so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything” (James 1:2-4 NIV).
Dakar Academy wants to join you in challenging a culture that protects your child from discomfort because it is often in that discomfort that true growth will occur. Instead, we want to equip our students to face challenges head on so that coming to the end of themselves, they will find Christ.
Robb Warfield, superintendent of Dakar Academy Schools, first arrived in West Africa in 1996 as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Mauritania. He returned as the director of Dakar Academy Central in 2015. In 2019, he opened Dakar Academy West in the neighborhood of Mamelles, bringing on board a highly qualified teaching staff.
Mr. Warfield holds a Masters of School Administration from North Carolina A&T State University, a Master of Arts in Education and a Bachelor of Arts in History, both from Wake Forest University.
His professional experiences include roles as a classroom teacher, director of an NGO rehabilitating prisoners and working with the Minister of Justice to fight human trafficking, and school administrator in three countries. Mr. Warfield also ran focus groups and prepared federal evaluations for Magnet Grants and evaluations for the New Schools Project (Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation). He has nine years of administrative experience managing million dollar budgets and chaired the writing of two grants that received a total of $8 million. In 2014 he opened a private boarding school for 400 students in Uganda.
Mr. Warfield resides in Dakar, Senegal, with his wife and children, who attend Dakar Academy Central.