This series of articles was written for the Birchwood community by Head of School, Charles Debelak, and can be found in the Birchwood School of Hawken 2013-14 Clipboard Newsletter. The purpose of Mr. Debelak's Clipboard articles is to provide parents with information about sound educational principles and child development issues gleaned from history, contemporary research, and Mr. Debelak's 40+ years of educating, coaching, and counseling children, young adults, and parents.
Mortimer Adler, called “a philosopher for everyman” in Time, and author of Reforming Education – The Opening of the American Mind, writes that “… man’s well-being depends upon the regulation of his emotional life by reason, what the ancients called the discipline and moderation of the passions. This discipline can be accomplished only by the formation of good habits of action and passion … if democratic citizens must be free men, they must have free minds, and minds cannot be made free except by being disciplined to recognize only one authority, the authority of reason.”
His language is heady for sure, but it speaks to an important aspect of education. It asks, “Upon what principles are our children making decisions about their lives?” They are inundated by marketing messages that appeal to their passions, holding promises of a life that embraces fun and entertainment as its core hope. While we are grateful our children can enjoy a pleasurable life, we should also be warned. Without guidance toward a reasoned life, our children can become slaves to their passions and settle for a life that leaps from one pleasure to another, without satisfaction or fulfillment.
The struggle is played out in schools daily. There are reasons, why a child should pursue a good education. Many times the pathway to a good education is not pleasurable or entertaining. Persistence toward gaining a good education requires reasoned participation. Sometimes we have to do work we do not like, in the classrooms of teachers we don’t like, amidst lessons that are not interesting. Regardless, we do our best. We have reasoned: “Education is central to my future. My likes or dislikes at any given point in time are secondary to attaining a superior education.”