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30 Year Anniversary - Looking Back: "Educating the Heart and Mind”

30 Year Anniversary - Looking Back: "Educating the Heart and Mind”

Anniversaries offer an opportunity to reflect on our past and contemplate the future. As we celebrate the 30th anniversary of The McGillis School, throughout the year, we will be “looking back” and honoring our beginnings by sharing stories, reflections, milestones, and memories. 


“Educating the Heart and Mind” by Meg Leonard

Originally published in The McGillis School News, September 19, 2003


I have a poster displayed in my office which is both artistic and meaningful to me. The poster is Norman Rockwell’s colorful mosaic of “The Golden Rule: Do Unto Others As You Would Have Them Do Unto You.” I have known this phrase all my life as a core value taught to me by my parents. I have tried to live it in practice. Although I have not yet seen the original mosaic in person, I understand that one can find it in the entrance hall of the United Nations building in New York City. Though this particular wording is part of a longer passage from the New Testament, Matthew 7:12, similar passages can be found in various religious texts from major world religions, such as: “What is hateful to you, do not to your fellow man. That is the entire Law; all the rest is commentary.” JEWISH (Talmud, Shabbat 31a) or perhaps “Hurt not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful.” BUDDHIST (Udana-Varga 5:18), and finally, “No one of you is a believer until he desires for his brother that which he desires for himself.” ISLAMIC (Sunnah). There are other examples I could have listed of what we refer to as “The Golden Rule” found in other relations as well. This universal phrase may differ in language, but has historically been emphasized in both religious and educational settings through the years. 


“Moral education is not a new idea. It is, in fact, as old as education itself. Down through history, in countries all over the world, education has had two great goals: to help young people become smart and to help them become good. We know that smart and good are not the same.” (Lickona 1991). In Dr. Thomas Lickona’s book Educating for Character, he discusses the need for schools to commit to teaching moral value and developing good character. In summarizing the case for values education, he cites the following troubling trends as indicators that as a society, we are falling short in providing for the moral development of the young: violence and vandalism, stealing, cheating, disrespect for authority, peer cruelty, bigotry, bad language, a loss of innocence, increasing self-centeredness and declining civic responsibility, and self-destructive behavior. While some of these trends may seem far removed from our particular school setting, if respect and responsibility are not expected and practiced consistently within a school environment, apathy in attitude and action soon permeates among students, which unfortunately, leads to more pervasive problems. 


“The McGillis School is a non-religious school, but the school culture and curriculum is infused with Jewish values we consider to be universal such as respect for education: tikkun olam or “repairing the world”, tzedakah or “giving to others less fortunate,” gemilut hasadim or “doing good and kind deeds,” and derech eretz or “having respect for all.” (Jolley 2003) 


In looking at the year ahead, we plan to not only state our mission, but to truly practice it. We will work closely with our students in order to: give back to the community through our service learning projects, emphasize the importance of working cooperatively and respectfully within a diverse school community, apply social responsibility and model good citizenship by following class and school rules, communicate both positive comments and concerns to parents in an expeditious manner, and assist students in developing not only good academic habits, but good habits of the heart. 


To achieve these goals is a process that will require students, parents, teachers, and administrators working thoughtfully together. During the past eleven days of school, I have observed many positive examples of students showing respect and doing good and kind deeds. Classes have been discussing their class guidelines, analyzing the “Code of Mutual Respect” with their administrators, (found in our Student and Parent handbook); students have been listening thoughtfully to one another and adults, helping injured or sick classmates travel to the office, modeling good citizenship to young students and vice versa, and Middle School students have been busy brainstorming ideas in the service learning course. All of these little actions add up to a positive, respectful, and safe school environment. It is my home that we may all continue along this path of understanding one another.


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