REDEFINING SUCCESS: Preparing a Generation of Graduates for a Life of Meaning and Purpose

This article originally appeared in the Moffly Media 2015-2016 Independent School Guide

As tuitions rise in independent schools and in higher education, attempts to evaluate the return on investment will only increase, and rightly so. But the pressure to define and measure success leads parents and schools to rely too much on short-term, quantifiable metrics. Moreover, it risks preparing a generation of students for employment success while leaving them unprepared for life.

Great schools define success broadly. They not only equip students with the practical skills they will need to adapt to the global dynamism of the 21st-century marketplace, but also, and even more importantly, they equip students to thrive throughout life.

Amidst the steady drumbeat of concern from technology industry leaders, pundits, and politicians that American students cannot compete in a global market for jobs, it is understandable that we – parents, students, and the schools that serve them – often define success by standardized test scores, grades, college matriculation or a first job. News reports and industry leaders remind us repeatedly that American students lag behind students from other countries on the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development’s PISA test. (Never mind the fact that Connecticut Association of Independent Schools data from 2013 demonstrates that independent school students in the Nutmeg state actually tied for first in global measures of competence in mathematics – equal with Singapore.) But in the rush to beat Finns, South Koreans and Poles to create maker spaces, purchase the latest 3D printer, and create STEAM programs, we exchange outcomes for purpose and neglect the development of character in its deepest sense.

Redefining Success

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The Gunnery Commencement – May 25, 2015

Mr. Becker delivered this address to The Gunnery community at the 2015 Commencement….

I want to welcome everyone to this great day of celebration for the class of 2015. 1

Before we continue, I want to recognize that today is Memorial Day, the day that Americans set aside to remember those men and women who have lost their lives in military service for the country. Though I know we are not all Americans here, I do ask that we join in a moment of silence to recognize this important day and the sacrifice of our men and women in uniform.

Last night we had the opportunity to recognize Mrs. Baker, Mr. Hollinger, and Mrs. Lincoln, who have served the school for 87 years collectively. We celebrated them at the board meeting and will at the end of the year faculty meeting and at alumni weekend.

I also want to recognize three alumni in our midst who have a child graduating today: Bob M. ’79, whose daughter, Gabby, graduates today; Melanie K-R ’81 whose son, Ben, graduates today; David K. ’81, whose son, Rafe, graduates today and whose daughter, Jesse graduate in 2013; Frank M. ’77 whose son, Stephen, graduates today and whose other children also graduated from The Gunnery (Francis ‘03, Peter ‘05, Sarah ‘07). 2

And I know of at least two parents who cannot be here today to celebrate their child’s graduation because they are serving in the armed forces to defend our freedom. Nick’s mother, Monika, is serving in the Canadian Navy and Joe’s father, Lt. Col. John, is leading U.S. Marines in Afghanistan.

It reminds us that we are only here because of the generations who have come before us and those who serve abroad to protect and defend us at home. We should never think too highly of ourselves and the degree to which we make the present possible and we can almost never think highly enough about the people who have preceded us and who have made this present moment possible.

To that end, I would like to ask the class of 2015 to recognize two groups of people who made this moment possible. First, seniors, I would like to ask you to stand and recognize the faculty sitting behind me who have lived to serve and to teach, 24/7, over your time here. Now, remain standing, because it’s not just biologically that this moment would have been impossible without your parents and family. They have sacrificed so that we can all be here. So please thank your family members with a round of applause and locate them if you’re able. Continue reading