Monday, March 1, 2010

Core Values

In 1995, Neil Postman, a Columbia University Professor of Communication and well-known cultural critic,, wrote The End Of Education. Postman posited that schools have lost their raison d’etre; they have become factories churning out test takers that have no higher purpose than moving on to the next step, no matter what that may be. If schools are "without a transcendent and honorable purpose, [then students believe] the sooner we are done with it, the better." Our students, however, are committed to Duke School. Do you ever wonder why?

Our new core documents ask and answer the following question:

Why Do We Do It?
To prepare the next generation of problem solvers for our complex world.

Duke School’s transcendent and honorable purpose is to prepare our students, your children, to help solve the legion of intractable problems facing the United States and the world today. No more lofty or important goal exists.

How do we prepare our students to be such problem solvers? Once again, look to the core documents:

What We Do
Inspire learners to boldly and creatively shape their future

Our children will create a brighter tomorrow only if they realize they are capable. Part of the Duke School experience is to present difficult, messy problems. Then we allow students the autonomy and self-awareness to approach them from a number of avenues and to persevere if the journey seems challenging. I want our students to emulate Thomas Edison who commented, “I have not failed. I have just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” Once they achieve something difficult, they will feel capable, leading to the realization that they can be what they want to be and do what they want to do. In one of my favorite poems, Eldorado by Edgar Allen Poe, the poet advises “ride boldly ride….if you seek for Eldorado.” We empower our students to boldly pursue and arrive at their own Eldorados.

Not every academic approach inspires engaged students. Memorizing and regurgitating information (even if it earns you an “A”) develops passive thinkers looking for the “one answer.” Duke School’s program approaches learning from a different angle. Again, I refer to our core documents.

Look at Ideas We Live By:


Learners are the center of a dynamic and collaborative learning,inquiry, and discovery process.

Active Inquiry

Intellectual curiosity through project-based learning propels learners to explore multiple paths to creative solutions.

Bold Thinkers

A deep love of learning and respect for our community forms bold, critical thinkers for life.

All of these ideas talk of active learning. Problem solving is an active process; a process in which we massage ideas and look to be creative. Duke School encourages learners to “explore multiple paths” to answers. The world is complicated and one approach, one answer is almost never sufficient. Our students will be prepared for such a world.

The Board’s approval of these new core documents solidified Duke School’s special approach to learning. They ensured that Duke School students will not only be prepared for the 21st century but also that they will help craft solutions to a better tomorrow. I could not be more proud of a school’s direction or to be part of such an exciting community.