Dear parents and guardians,
I hope you are all having a great summer of family adventures, fun, and time to rest and relax! Personally, I love the slower pace and different daily schedule of summer – and, of course, the longer days and sun! I spent some of the summer on campus, and the school was rocking with 510 students involved in our summer programs.
I want to send you all an upbeat, positive, optimistic letter to start the new school year, as I feel all of those sentiments about the year ahead. And I want to be real with all of you about what is on my mind these days regarding our students.
I have been thinking a lot this summer about how our students are navigating the complex moral landscape of contemporary America. More than any previous generation in American history, our students have, for good or for ill, 24-hour access to information of all sorts via apps and the internet. They can compare themselves in real time to their friends, to celebrities, to relatives — to anyone, anywhere. They witness, almost daily, public rudeness, the denigration of institutions of government, and continual lying by the highest officials in our country and in countries around the world. And they live in an age when the very notion that there are objective truths about life, and facts about the world, is under assault.
From the ages of 10 to 18, our students are in the process of constructing their philosophy of life: discovering and testing the truths that they will live by, and acting from and internalizing the values they deem important. They are developing the moral habits that will shape who they are and how they conduct themselves in this world. In constructing their philosophy of life, they will use what they learn in their classes to refine their thinking; they will study and emulate the behavior of respected adults, especially parents and guardians; and they will be influenced by the behavior of their peers and by the actions of public officials, celebrities, the famous, or even the infamous.
Last year I had monthly meetings with students in grades 7 through 12 (and will do so again this year), and at these head's advisory councils, I heard from students on topics ranging from smartphone use to definitions of success to student behavior. I was always impressed by how careful our students are in thinking through what they believe and why. They are definitely wrestling with what they believe are the right values to hold and the right actions to take. I was also struck by how much students mature in their thinking between grades 7 and 12. Ninth graders, for example, were much more taken with fame, wealth, and celebrity, whereas seniors talked more about valuing family and relationships.
As we head into the new school year, I ask all parents and guardians to make it a priority now and throughout this year to talk with your students about what they believe and why; to discuss current events and the nature and importance of truth with them; and to share ethical decisions that have mattered in your life and how you made them. I know that you do a lot of this already. But this is a time for all of us to be even more intentional than we might have been in the past. It is also a time to engage with your students every day about what they are thinking, reading, and watching — to be involved in their lives, even if sometimes it feels a little intrusive. This will be harder to do with juniors and seniors, but with students in grades 5 through 10, you should all feel quite comfortable being quite involved.
We will be doing the same at school.
I wish your students and your family a joyful, productive, and meaningful new school year! I will see you all at the opening of school events!!
Head of School