Message from Scott Cowie, head, Senior Division
Upcoming Senior Division dates:
Sunday, Sept. 14: Terry Fox Run, 9 a.m.-1 p.m.
Tuesday, Sept. 16: IB2 parent information evening – Student Centre, 7 p.m.
Wednesday, Sept. 17: IB2 student grade level meeting (university counselling), Laidlaw Hall, 8:30 a.m.
Friday, Sept. 19 – Sunday, Sept. 21: Ontario Universities Fair, Metro Toronto Convention Centre
It was great to see so many of you at curriculum night this past Tuesday, as you had the opportunity to meet your son’s teachers and learn about his courses. My hope is that you use your experience that night as a springboard for further discussion with your son about his academic program and about the objectives and desired outcomes associated with it.
I read an article from this past week’s New York Times that speaks to the fundamental purpose of education. In his piece Becoming a Real Person, David Brooks writes about an essay from former Yale professor, William Deresiewicz, who has authored a new book titled Excellent Sheep: The Miseducation of the American Elite and the Way to a Meaningful Life.
In speaking of the journey from adolescence to adulthood, Deresiewicz states that “everyone is born with a mind, but it is only through introspection, observation, connecting the head and the heart, making meaning of experience and finding an organizing purpose that you build a unique individual self.” (New York Times online, Sept. 8, 2014)
Yet, in examining the role that education should play in this process, Deresiewicz argues that most institutions and students receive a failing grade:
“Students are too busy jumping through the next hurdle in the résumé race to figure out what they really want. They are too frantic tasting everything on the smorgasbord to have life-altering encounters. They have a terror of closing off options. They have been inculcated with a lust for prestige and a fear of doing things that may put their status at risk. The system pressures them to be excellent, but excellent sheep.”
Deresiewicz is writing about a specific context, what he describes as “elite” colleges and universities in the U.S., but I think many of the points he raises should be consider by a broader audience, and hold some relevance for us here at UCC.
Dr. Power and I had the opportunity to visit West Point Military Academy two years ago. While there we met with many teaching faculty and administrators, our talk with Col. Bernard Banks of the Department of Behavioural Sciences was most memorable for me. In speaking about their approach to educating young people, he said something that rings true to Deresiewicz’s views. According to Banks, “a student’s education can’t simply be transactional, but must be transformational.”
With so many young people working furiously to pad their résumés toward their post-secondary applications, I suspect that more and more universities are looking to admit students with evidence of strong character and personal growth.
As your son is planning for the year ahead, both in the academic and co-curricular realms, I’d encourage you to speak to him about moving beyond transactional experiences toward transformational ones that will help him develop and discover his “unique, individual self.”
Thanks for reading,