A Fresh Approach to Freshman Year

By Guest Writer Zac Gordon (Class IV)

At Nobles, we are lucky to hear from successful graduates, teachers, and speakers in long assembly who are inspirational leaders as well as deep, ethical thinkers. What I have come to realize is that I was drawn to their success ––  not just in their careers, but in their personal development. In thinking more about the kind of person I aspire to be and the things I want to accomplish, I have realized that I, too, want to be a deep thinker and inspirational leader.

In a New York Times article, David Brooks raises the point that “our culture and our educational systems spend more time teaching the skills and strategies you need for career success [rather] than the qualities you need to radiate that sort of inner light.” Unlike other schools, I believe that Nobles understands the latter philosophy and works to provide role-models and examples of leaders to its students. However, Nobles does not give freshmen a way to engage actively in figuring out for themselves who they aspire to be and what their morals are. While there is a relevant course for upperclassmen, I am a huge proponent of a mandatory ethics class for freshmen, which would reflect the school’s belief that meditating  seriously on issues of right and wrong is imperative. The course would not attempt to advocate a particular set of values; it would simply encourage students to develop their own ethical credo. Everyone’s first year of high school may look quite differently, but I would argue that an ethics course would be a universally beneficial experience for all freshmen as they begin their high school career. 

(Credit: https://www.nytimes.com/2015/04/12/opinion/sunday/david-brooks-the-moral-bucket-list.html)

Nobles’ mission statement is: “inspiring leadership for the public good”. However, an important question to consider is: can you “inspire” anyone to be a great leader, or is leadership a quality you are born with? Harvard offers courses that teach leadership to K-12th graders because they believe that leadership can be taught, and that it is not an inherent quality. In other words, they have a growth mindset. A growth mindset is when you believe, for example, that anybody with a lot of practice could be as good at basketball as Stephen Curry. This perspective contrasts with a fixed mindset, which suggests that you are born with certain skills and anyone  without a natural inclination can never improve enough to a level of success. 

While I believe that some people are born with an inclination to lead, I also think good leadership can be developed and trained over time, just like basketball. I want Nobles to teach leadership with a growth mindset, and the first step could be a formal introduction to ethical thinking. If we begin working on our inner characters, we can all be inspirational leaders in our communities, because everything begins and ends with our morals.

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