Do we want faster Horses?

Two weeks ago we welcomed 178 special guests for our annual Grandfriends Day event. Truly, it is one of my favorite school days of the year — the beaming smiles of children and adults outshone even the glorious sunshine that day!

In my welcome to our community’s elders, I made note of the fact that many of the jobs today’s students will someday hold have not yet been invented. This is why education today must be substantially different from what they (and most likely their children) experienced in their K-8 years: our goal must be to teach children how to think. While some memorization of facts and knowledge is important (for both neurological efficiency and the development of expertise), soft skills such as curiosity, creativity, problem solving, resilience and love of learning are essential for our children to experience future academic, economic, and emotional success.

Walking through the classrooms during the day, I was struck by how joyfully our grandfriends entered into the world of our educational program. From practicing mindfulness with Ilana in the First Grade classrooms, to sipping tea with Middle School students, our grandfriends seemed to truly embrace our vision for a healthy and effective educational program, with our balanced attention to academic vigor and personal growth.

Henry Ford, the founder of Ford Motors, is famously reported to have said “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” This quote is often used when people are discussing the nature of innovation, imagination and the capacity for change, and in fact I shared it with our Grandfriends as I talked about our hopes that our students become “creators, not just consumers”, by embracing their own empathy, creativity and agency.

Though there’s some historical doubt that he ever actually said those words, one insightful critique of Ford is that he initially adapted the assembly line to car manufacturing, but he was later unable to adapt car manufacturing to the changing needs and wants of society — which in turn resulted in his company losing its dominant market position. Food for thought, as we consider how to both teach children to be flexible and adaptive, and also to have the courage of their convictions and to act on their beliefs.

I rejoice at knowing that our staff, students and families are so often like our Grandfriend visitors were last month; ready and willing to become fully present with each other, and enter into the world of the school with open eyes and warm hearts!

Have a wonderful week,

Dr. Zachary Roberts

Head of School