There were many intriguing and intellectually challenging presentations at the recent annual conference of the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS). Design thinking was the centerpiece theme of the gathering, an idea that stretched my perspective in exciting ways. However, the session about which I have reflected the most since the conference is the conversation conducted by a panel of four current and past university presidents and facilitated by John Chubb, President of NAIS. The expectation for every student in our school- and in almost every independent school- is that every one of our graduates will continue his or her formal education long after leaving us. Although our oldest students are in eighth grade, we think of ourselves as a college prep school. The structure of the conversation among university presidents focused on what pre-secondary independent schools ought to be doing to make their graduates as ready as possible for university life.
While we are a college prep school, we also claim in our mission statement that we are a life prep school (“… preparing students to lead fruitful lives”). I was reminded of that when one of the panelists mentioned changes she has noticed in today’s collegians from those who have gone before. While she certainly urged all of us to continue to help students develop language and quantitative skills (imperiled skills at that), she also lamented the fact that today’s college students have an inadequately developed sense of interiority (her word). There is no doubt in my mind that external stimuli have overwhelmed the interior life for many of us- to our detriment as the panelist pointed out. She further noted how many students on her campus are plagued by anxiety and depression. While I have no clinical standing to make such a connection, I have wondered whether a healthy interiority might make us less susceptible to those maladies.
On a brighter note I am consoled that at All Saints’ we consciously and intentionally make the effort to develop the interior life of our students in age-appropriate ways. Chapel is an obvious means for promoting such development. When all of us on occasion are asked by the celebrant to be still and reflect quietly, the result is extremely powerful. The student presentations at chapel provide other invitations for us to be reflective – exquisitely demonstrated by our eighth grade preacher at this morning’s chapel. We are committed to our weekly chapel services because they are uniquely powerful moments of community and contemplation, wonderful examples of educating our students head to soul.
Until next time…