From the Head of School
The New Year typically ushers in resolutions for self-improvement. However, it is also not a bad idea at this time of the year to look back over our shoulder to see how we might have taken advantage of some good advice, and what we might bring forward into the present that we may have missed before. After all, we all learn from experience. How many of us as adults say, “I wish I knew then what I know now?”
In my efforts as Head of School to be watchful over all of our students and offer some “educationese” to our parent body when appropriate, I decided on this New Year’s Day to look back over my shoulder at some of the indisputable principles that were most helpful to my students when I was their classroom teacher, most beneficial to their parents along the way, and personally, most integral to our own parenting as my wife and I were raising our two sons, now grown men.
In the same way that some of you tell me about your lack of credibility with your own children, I do not dare approach my older son with any advice on what he and his wife should be remembering as they raise their two young boys! After all, who am I but a father who did his own imperfect job as my son was growing up? This is the never-ending cycle of parenthood that becomes so frustrating to the older generation that now looks back with the wisdom only experience can provide.
It is with this sense of lost opportunity that I reach out to you at the New Year. It is highly unlikely that you will abruptly silence me with a sharp “none of my business” retort. And, even if you were to choose that reaction, you do not have control over how frequently I will now be given an opportunity to see my grandchildren!
If I had clear access to my son on the topic of his parenting, I would reference Robert Fulghum, author of the widely discussed book, All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten, published 25 years ago. A prolific writer on the topic of parenting, he has been quoted as saying, "Don't worry that your children never listen to you; worry that they are always watching you.” Ouch! Just think over these past holidays alone, the ways in which we may have unintentionally taught our children something irresponsible, a life’s lesson that you would have never intended to convey.
Moving closer to the present, but still a reverberating echo from 15 years ago, Carlos Cortes, author and media expert from the University of California, Riverside, wrote the book The Children are Watching: How the Media Teaches about Diversity. As if he were speaking to parents today, he addressed the notion of “media educators” versus “school educators.” "The media teaches because their products--programs, papers and magazines--serve as textbooks on democracy." He added, "the media curriculum becomes a series of many voices when all the textbooks are put together-it becomes an unplanned curriculum.” In the field of education, this “unplanned” curriculum is also known as the “unintended” curriculum.
In the year Cortes wrote this book, he advocated for parental “spin control,” that is, the importance of parents’ intervention to adjust for their children the artificiality of the media in defining life. Cortes lobbied for an alliance (today we say “partnership”) with the schoolhouse in diluting the allure of violence and bigotry, driven by the cacophony of sounds, language and imagery, over the lessons of civility. He speaks of a “generational mania about rights,” an easy way-out for parents, which ignores responsibility. He questioned a child’s right to pursue any exposure available to him or her, as long as this exposure was taking place in the privacy of the child’s own bedroom.
Now, even fifteen years after the publication of Carlos Cortes' book, school educators are pleading more than ever that parents, guardians, aunts and uncles partner with them to teach the difference between the intended and unintended curriculum. School educators are steadfast in promoting the former, where some media exposures can define current culture by the latter. Here at The Benjamin School, targeted and consistent programming takes place on the topics of bullying, social media, the cyber-footprint, substance abuse and diversity of all categories. You will see these efforts manifested in all three divisions--Lower, Middle and Upper School.
We are driven by the truth that “what you permit is what you promote.” Thank you for hearing our plea to partner with us in a home-school relationship that inspires our students, your children, to be the most caring and productive citizens possible in this rapidly changing landscape we call the 21st century.
Really excellent independent schools not only encourage, but rely on this partnership for their success with children. Our society offers daily examples of how one without the other does not work. Among my very favorite topics to explore is the tremendous advantage a school like Benjamin brings to each of its students with these two major forces in their lives aligned. In the fleeting moments remaining to me before your attention is required elsewhere, please indulge me as I briskly enumerate some of our students’ praiseworthy accomplishments already defining school year 2014-2015 as well as the ways in which we are continuing to enrich and expand the Benjamin experience for each of them.
Eighteen Upper School juniors and seniors have signed commitments to play their sport in college, including soccer, lacrosse, golf, volleyball and baseball. These young men and women student-athletes have committed to:
University of Florida (3) University of Kentucky University of Maryland
Tufts University Rider University Palm Beach State College
Lehigh University (2) Mercer University Hofstra University
Northwestern University University of New Hampshire Rutgers University
Wake Forest University Ohio State University Kenyon College
Our athletic teams have already this year won district championships, advanced to state regional play, ranked high in Palm Beach Post Top 10 (with girls soccer as #1), won invitational tournaments and boasted a Palm Beach Post Coach-of-the-Year.
Early college acceptances have been plentiful and too numerous to list here in their entirety. Feel free to contact me for a more complete list; however, please realize that ours is always a rapidly growing list with almost daily additions. We have not yet reached the calendar date for many of the colleges to announce their decisions. This is true for the University of Florida, always offering admission to a uniquely large percentage of our applicants.
Among the colleges and universities already offering early admission to our Class of 2015 are:
University of Alabama Louisiana State University
University of Arizona University of Maine
Audubon University Mississippi State University
Case Western Reserve University University of Mississippi
University of Central Florida Roanoke College
College of Charleston Savannah College of Art and Design
Clemson University University of South Carolina
Colgate University University of South Florida, Tampa
University of Colorado at Boulder Southern Methodist University
Elon University Stetson University
Fordham University Tufts University
University of Georgia Tulane University
Harvard University Wake Forest University
Indiana University at Bloomington West Virginia University
Our S.T.E.M. program expands in depth and breadth throughout the three divisions in curriculum, facilities and offerings. More robust student enrollment in Lower, Middle and Upper School has swept in new faces on the faculty who bring continued energy and expertise across the subject areas. We have identified the best and most experienced teachers to join our school as a result of aggressive national searches. The exciting completion of Benjamin Hall scheduled for early spring has become a metaphor for our forward movement and forever-soaring reputation locally and across the country. Of our record-breaking number of new students to Benjamin this year, ten states other than Florida (as well as ten foreign countries!) are represented. As our very successful capital campaign moves energetically towards its goal, we at the School proudly affirm its promise that we are moving forward in Leaps and Bounds!
Please accept my most sincere wishes for a happy, healthy and fruitful New Year! I look forward to seeing all of you in the weeks ahead.
Robert S. Goldberg
Head of School