New series: From Dan's Desk
By most measures Harvard University is considered a first-class institution of higher learning - an academic launching pad for leaders in just about every vocation one can name. Not only a reservoir for deep intellectual pursuit, it is also an institution in which the development of integrity and character seem to matter every bit as much as the pursuit of academic excellence. Harvard’s motto “VERITAS”, or “Truth”, aims to challenge all who walk onto the “Yard” to lead and live lives of meaning and purpose.
I read this weekend that Harvard’s Athletic Director, supported by the President of the University, cancelled the rest of the Harvard men’s soccer team season, eliminating Harvard’s chance at winning the Ivy League championship and any post-season play. The reason for this action stemmed from the team's long-standing practice of confidentially ranking and publishing Harvard women’s soccer team’s new team members as to, among other things, their physical attractiveness as well as other misogynistic terminology. I have not delved deeper into this piece of news, and while I am fully aware of the implications of the actions of the men’s team players, I am reminded that these men all have a few things in common: 1) They went to Harvard; 2) They were all very good athletes; and 3) They all went to elementary and middle school somewhere (several perhaps at independent schools like ours).
As an educator, it is this last commonality that speaks to me most. While it is my firm belief that family remains the primary inculcator of values, it is also true that children may spend more of their formative educational years in their elementary and middle schools than they do anywhere else. In fact, Mirman Kindergartners may spend nine years at Mirman before matriculating to high school. The implications of this timeline inform the shared responsibility we all have to ensure that the healthiest standards of decency, kindness, and respect are upheld and embraced at Mirman. It remains essential that our whole educational community at Mirman teaches students to develop more than an appreciation for one another; they must value and support each other regardless of gender, ethnicity, race, or socioeconomic class. This is a lesson that still seems to have not quite taken hold yet even on our nation’s most elite college campuses and beyond.
As Mirman parents and faculty, we share a responsibility of developing and fostering a culture of mutual respect, one in which children’s integrity matters as much as their academic achievements. From our playgrounds to our classrooms to our own soccer fields – character matters, both now and in the years to come.