The internet has been buzzing with debate over Harvard’s decision to rescind the admission of Kyle Kashuv — a Parkland shooting survivor and well-known political activist — as part of the Class of 2023. The university revoked their offer of admission after the exposure of multiple screenshots showing Kashuv using racist and offensive language in private groups. (Note: Parents may want to preview any images of the conversations in question before sharing with kids, due to graphic content.)
Kashuv himself has started a public conversation on social media about the controversy, including sharing images of letters of apology and attempted reconciliation that he sent to Harvard. Public opinion seems divided. Some say that while his apologies are appreciated, Harvard did the right thing by handing down a serious consequence for past behavior. Others say that universities have a responsibility to foster discussion among students with differing viewpoints, and that Harvard should have allowed Kashuv to join their freshman class to provide him with opportunities to grow and learn from his mistakes.
How does your family feel about the issue? Open a dialogue at the dinner table tonight with these conversation starters:
- Regardless of Harvard’s decision, Kyle Kashuv made what many would call a serious mistake by not only using racist and offensive language, but putting that language online. Have you yourself, or anyone you know, ever put something in email, text or social media that you regretted? What happened?
- Kashuv and those defending him have argued that the posts in question were made when he was 16 years old, so they’re not a reflection of who he is two years later. What do you think about that defense? Are there some mistakes that are too serious to outgrow?
- Can you think of examples from current events that show people’s words and actions being taken into consideration years later? Do you think there are certain situations where it’s appropriate, or even necessary, to look back at personal history regardless of how long it’s been?
- Kyle Kashuv says that when he used racist and offensive language online, he didn’t mean it but was using it only for “shock value.” Have you ever said or done something hurtful or irresponsible just to get a laugh, or to fit in somehow? Do you know someone who has done something similar? Which do you think matters more in that situation: Your intentions, or your words and actions?
- What do you think about the idea that universities should make sure to admit students with differing points of view so that they can learn from each other? Is there a difference, in your mind, between opposing viewpoints and potentially harmful beliefs like racism or sexism?
- How can people who have made significant and public mistakes like this one prove that they have learned from their mistakes? Have you ever had to demonstrate personal growth and change, and if so, how did you do it?