November 6, 2018

Dear Stanwich Parents,  

One of the many joys of my job is the opportunity to roam and observe our creative students and talented teachers in action. Invariably I am amused and edified (often simultaneously) by what I observe in the classroom and on the bulletin boards. Friday morning in the PreK classroom was no exception.   Memorialized on the class bulletin board were the students' reflections of their individual goals for the school year.  

Among the PreK students hopes for the year are "to learn to write my name" and "to build the biggest tower of blocks"-- the latter from two of the boys who must have established a competition in that regard. However, the student's "hope for PreK is to learn out how to color in the lines" struck me as particularly interesting in relation to the artwork supporting that child's reflection.  

Unquestionably it is important to learn how to color in the lines. But what a colorful abstract expression accompanied Mackenzie's reflection! The paper is filled with the crayon box's full color palette spinning out from what I interpret to be the student's head with one Picasso-like eye and smiling pink lips.  

Is this the first effort of a future Basquiat in the making? I may be over-interpreting, but I would like to thinks so. Basquiat and Picasso both could color inside the lines, but often for creative reasons chose not to. We want all Stanwich students to embody that duality, both literally and figuratively.  

In a recent Atlantic magazine, an essay titled The Humanities are in Crisis examined the causes and implications of the declining numbers of students choosing to major in the Humanities, particularly in traditionally liberal arts colleges and more elite schools. Although the decline began well before, the 2008 economic downturn accelerated the trend. Only ten years after are we fully able to comprehend the profound effects of the economic meltdown on our nation's political and cultural psyche.  

As the number of history, English, psychology, languages, philosophy, sociology, anthropology, and political science degrees have declined, the number of STEM majors, nursing, engineering, computer science, and biology have increased. The pressures of an increasing competitive job market, middle class marginalization, and technological world are doing more than affecting support for the National Endowment for the Humanities or the cultural level of cocktail party discourse.

"In 1970, seven in 10 students thought it was very important to 'develop a meaningful philosophy of life' through education, while about four in 10 (and five in 10 men) put a priority on using it to make money. By the mid-'80's, these ratios had flipped." Is it any surprise these days that empathy and altruism have difficulty resisting fear and isolationism?  

For life after PreK, writing their names is important; building the biggest block tower, maybe not so much. Mackenzie will undoubtedly learn to color in the lines, but Stanwich exists to ensure that during the process she won't lose the creative spirit and polychromatic world view of PreK. Primary and secondary schools that balance knowledge with understanding have increasingly become the bulwark in the humanities for their graduates. Thank God for the "Stanwich Seven," by whatever title we give them; may they always enlighten everyone in the Stanwich community.    

Charles Sachs
Head of School