As I left The Westminster Schools this summer after serving as Upper School Head, I found myself refining my wishes for high school students in this particular moment in history. In an interview about my departure for the school’s magazine, I said:
“It’s not what our students are going to do ten years from now; it’s what they’re doing now. We spend too much time worrying about what students will do next when what really best paves the way forward is to live our lives richly, deeply, and thoughtfully now…”
When I look back on that statement from my new post as Head of St. George’s Independent School in Memphis, TN. I am more convinced than ever that we owe our students opportunities for deeper engagement now in life of the body, mind and spirit, as well as the life of civic engagement we need for them to lead. While the answers can, will, and should vary widely between schools, the priority should be clear:
If we want students to live creative, passionate, and civically engaged lives as adults, they must go about living toward those priorities now, and we must go about the work to support them in this effort.
If we want them to contribute to the communities in which they will live and work as adults, they must contribute now. In order to accomplish this, our schools, places of business, and non-profit institutions must go about modeling the same priorities we wish for young people.
…And most importantly we must model the priorities in our lives as individual community members. To do less risks creating a generation passive and cynical about the positive role they might play in the world.
As I have been going about the business of learning my new town, a number of factors have conspired to keep the topic of this blog front and center for me:
- The Memphis area has explicit needs that should demand all hands on deck—young, old and in-between. The community doesn’t simply need them at some future date–it needs them now.
- The seniors at St. George’s are so clearly ready to live toward the priorities named above. St. George’s is fortunate to have a great senior class who lead in myriad ways. They are deeply engaged in the life of the school and the life of the community.
- Meeting people in the Memphis area who are leading lives toward the priorities I named are making a real difference everyday. I want our students to know them and to learn from their example, so that before they head to college they can see clearly that such lives are not only necessary to the success of our communities, but that the lives of these role models is achievable and rewarding.