Encouraging Excellence or Mediocrity? | Teen Ink

Encouraging Excellence or Mediocrity?

March 7, 2008
By Anonymous

Intellectual, Social, Athletic, Emotional, Spiritual, and Aesthetic; everyone knows these words. They are the six potentials that MCDS students are expected to achieve. Many students recognize the prospects of this philosophy. “I think it’s good, but they need to work a little more on it”, says Dustin Ram. “I think it’s really good and every student should strive to achieve it, but in our school it’s highly improbable”, admits Hersila Patel. Despite good intentions, the shortcomings of such a philosophy often outweigh the success.

This philosophy – created 22 years ago – was not made to torture students, but rather, as Mr. Oronoz states “prepares them for the real world”. Today’s society is a unique one, where anyone can be prosperous – if they are talented, beautiful, and know all the right people. Yet, are these ‘beautiful people’ required to be genius athletes as well? Professional football players rarely paint in their spare time, and scientists rarely major in religion – unless they are investigating the theory of Intelligent Design.

When MCDS says ‘whole child’, many students think ‘be excellent in all areas’. In their attempts to be excellent in all areas of life, are students resorting to mediocrity? An anonymous junior described the philosophy as “pretty words and empty promises to parents”. Some students think that some potentials get more attention than others, causing other potentials to fall by the wayside. “I think that our school sometimes focuses more on athletics than academics”, says an anonymous freshman. Adam Lelchuck also states, “It’s only working one way, they’re only taking people from academics and putting them in sports”. Now, instead of allowing students to take as many challenging courses as they so choose, students must get permission to take more than four APs. Dampers are put on certain aspects “to promote the student’s best interests”, according to Mr. Curtis. Dr. Davies says these rules “help students achieve a certain balance” and that “a certain amount of stress is ok, but a large amount isn’t good physically or mentally”. An anonymous sophomore states that “The ideal whole child is 1/6 intellectual, which says a lot about my college chances”, echoing the school wide sentiment that such limits are roadblocks to success.

The Whole Child philosophy is meant to be one of exploration, where students are encouraged to “find out what their passion is”, according to Dr. Davies. An anonymous senior halfheartedly agrees that, “realistic or not, Country Day students do get to experience a lot because of this philosophy”. Exploration is all well and good; however, being a college prep school, shouldn’t we push our students to achieve their highest potential? In essence, reaching one’s highest potential is the very reason the Whole Child philosophy was created. In our attempts to amplify this philosophy, are we destroying the very thing we set out to create?

The theory is good but, as with many good theories, the execution is lacking. The problem may be that by not allowing students to fully focus on certain areas they are passionate about, MCDS is not encouraging a 'Whole Child', but instead a stressed-out jack of all trades.

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