Headmaster’s Thoughts – September 2007

By the fifteenth of the month, I begin to get nervous that I have not yet written next month’s “thoughts.” Somehow or other, for a number of years, I have always managed to get some thought out on paper. Whether anyone reads it is a completely different matter, but at least every month I fight (and conquer) writer’s block.

If you are new to our school community, I might venture to guess that you are wondering what the “Headmaster’s Thoughts” are anyway. The answer, I am afraid, is that they are the self-indulgent ramblings of–yes–the headmaster. Sometimes they make my wife smile (she liked August’s), and, very occasionally, they result in replies from readers. They began because my students (I teach senior Ethics) complained that we, the teachers, graded their papers without the burden of having to produce any written work that the students could critique. So I voluntarily (foolishly) put myself in the position of agreeing to produce these written pieces every month. If nothing else, this discipline of writing a regular blog, which I think is what this is called, has forced me to write. For that alone, I am grateful and urge you to think of writing one of these, too.

This is the moment for the cliché of the month: throw caution to the wind (how does one do that?), ignore the possibility that others will judge what you put down on paper (they won’t!), and write away. Start a blog! It is really easy to put it out there on the web. When I was a young barrister in my early twenties, just having to stand up and speak to juries every day quickly got rid of any anxieties I had about public speaking. The same thing applies to writing. Repetition does not necessarily get you any better at it, but you certainly worry less.

The reality of the twenty-first century is that by now we know that routine jobs can be done by machines. If your accountant cannot add up your income tax properly, Turbo Tax, or some other software program, will do it for you. You can buy yachts online (and college degrees), and planes fly more efficiently, once they are airborne, if they are controlled by a computer. What computers cannot do is have original ideas, flexibly adjust to new and unforeseen challenges, and cope with the vagaries of human behavior. Nor can they write creatively. So it behooves us to teach good writing skills. The student who can set ideas down in writing is going to be a contributor to his or her society and will always be “in demand.” They will be invulnerable to off-shoring and automation. And to do this, to teach excellence in writing skills, we have to get our students to write often. And here, in the frequency department, we (parents and teachers) can teach by setting an example. We can write regular blogs.

Let me not waste this September “thoughts” by failing to welcome everyone back to the new school year. Welcome! Welcome! Welcome! I get somewhat impatient during the summer and cannot wait to work with all of you in the coming year. I always feel real excitement just before the beginning of each school year (and this is my thirty-ninth). I am enormously fond of the administrators and faculty that York is blessed with, and, although our faculty has enlarged slightly, virtually the entire faculty and certainly all of our administrators (the most stable administration of any school in the City), are returning to York. But a school is energized by its student body and there is nothing like the exciting pulse created by our active and engaged young people. In a few weeks it will all be running again. Joy!

In the meantime…..It is the fifteenth of the month and I am beginning to get nervous that I have not written the next month’s……you get the picture!

Ronald P. Stewart, Headmaster
E-mail: rstewart@yorkprep.org 

“Headmaster’s Thoughts” for previous months are archived in the section In the News . You may access additional months by clicking Headmaster’s Thoughts Archives on the same page.