Several weeks ago, our community welcomed longtime voice for the National Association of Independent Schools, Pat Bassett, to be our first Visiting Scholar for the Honors College. While Pat is always well-armed with remarkable quantitative statistics ranging from school sizes, student-to-teacher ratios, test scores, and demographics, it was his comments on school culture that resonated most with me.
In all his years of visiting schools around the world and analyzing the long-term health of a school and the students and families who share in their ethic, he said the most significant factor(s) contributing to the students’ long-term achievements, becoming engaged, highly contributing citizens of their communities were based on several factors…and they weren’t test scores, nor were they incumbent upon where one went to college. “Communities that value hard, honest work, and an expectation of treating others well…emphasizing goodness … means more,” he said. These qualities, “…not test scores, not acceptance into the ‘bumper-sticker’ college, were the strongest contributors to long-term success. Learning how to take failure in stride, learning how to work through adversity, working well with others, emphasizing ‘goodness’ matters more.”
Bassett continued, “Some cultures stress ‘success, success, success (only –or above all)’ to their children, and these young people have the best chance at becoming overly anxious, burned-out adults. In our country, parents tend to emphasize the need to be happy. The reality is that everyone cannot be happy every day and a young person constantly told that they have to be happy, means that when they aren’t – because life happens– they may become dependent on something else to be happy (potential for substance abuse). Teaching young people how to work through adversity, working honestly and hard and emphasizing ‘goodness’ yields healthy, high-functioning adults.” In essence, intentionally teaching “EQ” (emotional intelligence) alongside “IQ” (a challenging academic, intellectually stimulating environment) is a key sign of a healthy school community.
No school community is perfect—ours included—but the fact that we rigorously emphasize and exercise servant leadership every day, means we model and share the value of placing others first. Taking time out of the frenetic pace of the world (often augmented by our own shortcomings as human beings), and placing value on reflection, solace, prayer, contemplation, consideration of others, alongside acknowledging we don’t have control over everything, reveals that we intentionally cultivate “EQ” and “IQ.” Emphasizing the “goodness” factor, as Bassett calls it, matters far more; and I agree.