My initial reaction was one of concern when I saw his back-to-school letter referenced in an article discussing Manhattan’s class wars. Rarely does something good come to a headmaster when you are quoted in the Times, particularly headmasters in the rarified air of prep schools like Trinity which struggle to balance the egalitarian desires of independent schools with the reality that, as schools, they are populated by the top fraction of the ‘one percenters.’
North Cross School is most certainly not Trinity School. Our tuition is not $50,000 (K-12) per year divided into two equal payments. Nor do we have seven applicants for every one spot in Kindergarten. Nor have we had 71 students over the past five years go to Harvard, Yale, or Princeton. But it is helpful, I think, to consider that some of what John said in his back-to-school letter is applicable to our situation.
John asks the question, “How ought we to educate our students so that they leave us with a commitment not just to advance their own educational interests, but also serve the common good and give generously to others for the rest of their lives?” While in Trinity’s case, this may be a question of noblesse oblige, here in Roanoke, we may ask the same question out of a religious sense of obligation or a well-defined understanding of community. In fact, our Mission Statement reads: “our graduates will act as leaders in the local and global communities, persons of intellectual and moral courage, and scholars in the service of others.
Recently, we established a program where our Upper School advisory groups will each spend a day out of class working at the Rescue Mission. I do not for one minute believe this is the ultimate answer to creating a commitment to advancing the common good but I was very pleased that our first visits were so well received by our students. I was disappointed to hear from a number of parents and at least one faculty member who felt that this commitment was not time well spent. I believe if John Allman can ask his school community to begin a discussion on engaging his city, nation, and the world, we at North Cross should join him in asking similar questions.
We will begin on Tuesday at our weekly Senior Staff meeting by discussing John’s letter and what implications it might have for North Cross School. I ask that you read John’s letter as well and when you have the chance, I would be interested in talking with you individually, or in small groups, about your reactions.
Christian J. Proctor, PhD
Head of School