What I will call “my old school,” (MOS) to which I am still emotionally if not otherwise attached, has sent me, and hundreds of other present and former members of the school community, a questionnaire with the expectation that the answers of those of us who respond to the survey will play an important role in helping the school administration with strategic planning and setting priorities for the next 3 to 5 years.
“Please take the time to reply, it won’t take more than a few minutes.”
Well I took the time, a bit more than the few minutes mentioned, and when finished, and after reading what I had written, I thought to myself that my priorities for MOS could with few if any changes be the priorities of any private or selective public school, although I don’t know how I could ever determine that.
WhIle writing my own replies they seemed to me to describe a kind of true “common core” of our school, not the false, wordy, dense and mostly unreadable common core known as CCSS, and now adopted by the public school establishments of some 42 states.
Anyway, here are the questions and my responses:
1. What are the strengths, values, and traditions that define MOS (my old school) and must be preserved?
At MOS the students are, or should be I think, freer than in more traditional public or private schools. Freer in the sense of discovering their own interests and talents within the school program (as opposed to finding their freedom, and through it themselves, outside of the school program). This makes schooling and learning the same, and usually they’re not.
2. What do you regard as the key opportunities for the School’s long-term success?
Finding the applicants who will most profit from MOS and in turn be most apt to give back to the school at some future time, thereby insuring the school’s long-term successful survival.
3. Taking into account external as well as internal factors, what do you see as the potential challenges to MOS’s continued success?
Being too satisfied with the way things are, because you can and should always try to do better.
4. Considering academic, extracurricular, and any other programmatic factors, what elements are missing from the educational offerings at MOS that are critical for any 21st Century school?
I don’t know if anything is missing, being not all that familiar with the offerings of MOS today. But I don’t think so. However, not what you do, but the way you do things, how you approach whatever it is that you may be doing, or as Sam Chaltain has said somewhere, how you try to focus less on what you want kids to know, and more on what you want them to become, —all that’s much more important than the “educational offerings.”
I’m sure you still do the same stuff more or less that I did when I was there, math, music, art, French, athletics, Darwinian evolution and all the rest. Maybe you could also do (school or college) wrestling? I did. Chinese? I didn’t. Why not?
5. Are there facilities that could be added that would significantly improve the quality of program offered to students?
Sure. Many. But that will depend on your graduates and friends. For example, an indoor pool? A new Gymnasium? Those two, and probably many more that would be nice to have, and yes, that would significantly improve the quality of life at the school, and along with that the program.
6. How would you describe MOS to a prospective student and/or family in three sentences?
The individual is most important.
The community is most important.
The individual within the community should be what it’s all about.
(This is probably how I would like to be able to describe our country to an immigrant. The same thing it says on our coins, Et pluribus unum, from many (of us individuals) one (community/country). And if all schools were more like MOS still is, I hope, in this respect the entire country would probably move more in this direction, individuals working together for the betterment and improvement of the country.)
7. If you were to give advice to the Chair of the Board of Trustees and the Head of School about the schools’s future, what would you say?
The school will always depend on the excellence of the teaching staff and the quality of the applicants who become students. Nothing is more important. The Board Chair and the School Head ought to be most of all working to make sure that this continues to be the case.