“What values do you think Latin encourages in you? What should Latin stand for?”
The Strategic Plan Committee lead by Mr. Greer asked just that question this past Wednesday during advisory. A handout was passed around to every student in each advisory across the school. The intent was to create discussion that would lead to a Statement of Values, not unlike the classic “Kindness, Manners, and Civility” that defined the Lower School for many kids. Discussion ensued in the homeroom that I was in — my advisor, Mr. McCutcheon, had handed his students off to Ms. Schmadeke for the period. Comments were positive when students were asked what values Latin encouraged in them, although there were a few negative comments — “cool” feedback as Ms. Schmadeke put it. Students listed off adjectives anywhere from “loyalty” to “individuality” and many adjectives in between. The second question made me think.
“What should Latin stand for?”
It is noble that the school is trying to unify all the students and faculty beneath a common goal. But, I didn’t know if unification of purpose is really the right move for such politically and socially conscious high schoolers. Part of me wanted to scream out, “Nothing! Latin shouldn’t stand for anything.” I didn’t scream by any means but I did bring this notion up in the discussion. To paraphrase, I told Ms. Schmadeke that I didn’t think Latin should uniformly stand for anything because each student should let Latin stand for what they think it stands for, not for what they are told it represents. The comment was met with some people saying “oh, good point”, but most were probably thinking “Jesus, here comes Will with his philosophical crap again.”
But, either way, I think it is an important topic. Should Latin stand for anything uniformly among the students. For some students Latin is only a place to get a really good education, for others Latin represents their education, friendships, and all of their activities. Should Latin be more than that? I think for some people it is a lot more than that, and for others it is less, so then why should anyone be telling us what it stands for? In a logical manner, a Statement of Values makes sense, but in a realistic one, maybe it doesn’t. Can a set of values define the goals and interests of everyone at Latin? No, certainly not. It felt like our Statement of Values might be something that would be created to appeal to parents, potential students, and alumni in order to portray some kind of legacy or honor. Of course, if the administration thinks a Statement of Values is something that should define the Upper School student body, then so be it. But I’d argue that one single statement couldn’t characterize the lives and goals of every single Upper School student, and if a common purpose is not going to represent all students, why should it represent any of us?]]>