Why? In one form or another, this is the question on the minds of just about everyone we meet. Why start a new school at all? And why now? Most people would agree that in eastern Massachusetts there is no shortage of high quality schools. Parents in this part of the world place a high premium on academic excellence, and opportunities for extracurricular activities and competitive athletics. After all, what parent doesn’t want a positive school experience for their son? But let’s probe a little bit deeper and lengthen our perspective to include his entire academic career. What is the measure of “success” for your son in school? Is it only high grades, high test scores, and – eventually – high SATs? Or is academic success the product of his continuous struggle to reach his highest potential, to fight against his tendency toward procrastination in getting homework completed, or learning how to respectfully participate in a classroom debate of differing opinions? We all appreciate the intent of extracurricular activities. But how often do these activities actually deliver on their promise of developing the character of the student? If these activities teach a lifelong disposition toward serving others, of building genuine bonds of friendship with other students and with the wider community, and of imparting a sense of responsibility for the civic life of the community, then these experiences do indeed impart a true richness beyond the experience itself. And finally, it is true that competitive athletics have the potential to deliver a rewarding life experience, but can it be said that this is usually the case? And, if so, for how many of the students? While winning and losing are often said to build character, the true measure of character in sports is to strive mightily, win humbly and lose graciously.
The true questions that parents should focus on in deciding where to send their son to school is whether his school experience is very likely to provide a sound character infrastructure upon which to build the rest of his life. Isn’t that the real test? The pursuit of high grades, and participation in extracurricular activities and competitive athletics are a MEANS by which character might be built, but are not the ends in themselves. The only way that a school can deliver on this promise to build character is if the faculty and staff are ever mindful of imparting this goal at every moment of the school day. This comes naturally if striving for excellence is rooted in their own character. As members of the Steering Committee of the Mill Brook School project, we have spent many hours refining our vision statement because it is of critical importance that our parents, our faculty and staff, and others who will be touched by the school experience are familiar with and enthusiastic for what it is we intend to build. I encourage you to review our vision statement found elsewhere on this site. If this perspective on the purpose of education appeals to you for your son and family, come join us as we launch this noble enterprise.