Past & Present Winter 2001
Past and Present
As the true new millennium approaches (as opposed to the false but most recent excuse for world media excess as fueled by fireworks manufacturers who obviously missed a few critical Math classes) I'm encouraged by an interesting shift in parental perception. More often than not, I'm told by parents that the choice of school is not solely made on the rigours of the academic program offered, although that's a very important component, of course, in all deliberations. They - and we - certainly agree that good marks are very important, and a strong, broad grounding in all aspects of the curriculum is key since it's final grades that unlock the gates to various and sundry ivory towers around the globe, but it's not the only key to happiness. It's as if the parent hard-liners who had at one time in the past embraced the Vince Lombardi philosophy of "winning" educationally at all costs, have looked up from behind their grindstones to see that there's more to the means than an end. In fact, the destination is perhaps the least important part of the journey. What parents are looking for in today's educational landscape is an assurance of the high quality of student life at Crescent.
Of course, the students have known the preeminence of this component of education from time immemorial. Ask any grad what he remembers, and it's not my English class, it's the part in the school play he played. Students don't recall much Geography really, given the amount of time we dedicate to it, but they certainly remember the goals they scored, or assisted on, at the rink. In short, the truly significant moments in a student's life may come in a classroom - I truly believe that there is such a thing, intellectually, as an epiphanic moment - but for most of the boys, what stands out in their lives are those moments outside of the classroom when experiences are shared and relationships are forged. Student life outside the classroom is central to a full educational experience, and while it has something marginally to do with academics, it more often has to do with those extra curriculars that are often the first things to go in the public school system.
When I have the pleasure of visiting grads in universities around the country, they talk of teachers and their relationships with them, not curriculum, and then fall inevitably into the comfortable conversational realm of extra-curricular nostalgia, with heaping helpings of hyperbole. At times, you need boots. Most times, my jaw hurts from laughing and smiling so much at the recollection of the past good times shared. So the parents are catching up with what the kids have known all along; a school is more that a series of classes strung together to resemble a cohesive academic program. High marks are great but fleeting - you're only as good as your next test result. Lifetimes are made meaningful when they are filled with quality, student life experiences.
So now that the parents and the students are both on the same side, how does a school like Crescent ensure that the quality of student life is maintained or improved?
To begin with, the broad category of "student life" must take an equal position to that of academics in the school hierarchy. It is not to be shunted downward as something nice but unnecessary. To that end, Crescent has created an Assistant Head: Student Life to go along with the Assistant Head: Academics. The former post looks at ways of enhancing a student's extra-curricular experience at Crescent (read "making sure the quality of their lives is broad, relevant and balanced outside the classroom") and includes such things as leadership opportunities and clubs. The latter position oversees the delivery of the entire curriculum, a critical component of any responsible school. So far, this forking of responsibilities has worked out quite well. The goals of both these aspects of a student's complete experience at Crescent are blended in our Mission Statement. Not only do we want our students to enter the universities of their choice, we also want them to contribute responsibly to society. Our aim is to create balanced, critically thinking citizens of the world.
In a way, the present has met the past. As we move into the next millennium, we have realized that the quality of one's life is as important as attaining personal goals. There is a joy in simplicity, and a power in community. We cannot deny the explosion of technology and the tremendous impact it has had on our lives - both positive and negative - but we should not completely exchange the immediacy, rapidity and transience of the dotcom world for the permanence and intuitive rightness of relationships, kinship, and calm reflection. At Crescent, we strive to provide an understanding in our students of the necessary balance between the mutable and the universal. If we are immersed in a dotcom world, then let Crescent be acknowledged as Quality.com for its students and their parents. The future is in the balance.
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I note with some interest that the theme of bringing together the best of the past and present is plainly evident in this publication. While we celebrate joyfully the successes of our dynamic entrepreneurs - each of them a youthful Ulysses exploring the Sirens of Beer, Arena Football and the Internet, respectively - we also proudly recount our first ever Homecoming - a return, as such, to Ithaca for all Crescent adventurers. We also rejoice at the Silver Anniversaries of some of our teachers, representative Methuselahs in a highly capricious profession. The New meets the Old. I find much comfort in that idea. You might say there's almost something mythically satisfying about it.