December 17, 2019
Dear Parents and Guardians,
From the inception of Taft, our school motto has been “Non Ut Sibi Ministretur Sed Ut Ministret.” The common translation is “not to be served but to serve.” This statement of our values is one both integral to what we do as a community and requires that we continually remind ourselves of what Horace Taft meant us to know and do as a result. Our obligation to each other, our community, and the community beyond our campus is an essential value in all that we do.
I share this because that value seems to be getting lost in our modern experience and that loss is having a deleterious effect on our communities and children. I recently had the opportunity to hear Dr. Richard Weissbourd, a Haravard professor and Director of Making Caring Common, speak on the topic. He spoke about the problem that schools and parents have of conveying in word one set of values and conveying in action a very different set. Namely, we talk about the need to care for others, but then convey that achievement and individual happiness is paramount through our actions and acknowledgements.
Dr. Weissbourd’s research also indicates that people focused on caring for others and having a balanced understanding of achievement and happiness tend to be healthier, happier and more successful than folks focused on achievement or individual happiness. As parents, guardians, and teachers, how do we communicate the idea that we need to be caring? To start, we can change the phrase, “It is most important that you are happy,” to, “It is most important that you are CARING and happy.”
Similarly, Jim Collins, who wrote
From Good to Great
, spent some time with the cadets at West Point. He noted that:
"West Point is a highly competitive place. Every cadet wants to do the IOCT [a physical challenge course] faster than his or her peers. Every cadet also is extremely busy. Yet these cadets [ones not trying to complete the course] were taking time away from their studies and other duties to help their friends get through the course.
Their behavior in the gym was no anomaly. . . And not only were the cadets more collegial, but they seemed to be happier—much happier—than students at civilian universities, including those he had taught during his seven years on the Stanford faculty."
The caring nature of the West Point culture does not happen by accident. Cadets and faculty engender that caring in each other. Caring does not serve some transactional purpose. Rather, it is based in the relational nature of the experience. When Taft is at its best, when it is living out the values espoused by Horace Taft and central to our work today, we reflect a very similar type of caring for one another and the community.
I share this because it always bears reminding that we need to regularly express our values in both word and action. We cannot understate the importance of the value of caring for — serving — others. When we are at our best, we do this in ways that make this experience better for ourselves by making it better for others.
Thanks for your help and support in this work of helping your children and our students become the community members and adults we all want them to be. Enjoy the winter holiday and see you all in the new year!
All the best,