The Exeter Bulletin — Fall 2010

Youth for Every Quarter

October 15, 2010

Becoming Citizens of a Global Community

By Principal Thomas E. Hassan ’56, ’66, ’70, ’06 (Hon.); P’11

I believe that, in helping our students understand and appreciate the different points of view brought by a group of distinctive individuals from all walks of life around the globe, we are creating—to paraphrase the Deed of Gift—“youth for every quarter.”

We can’t know what was in John Phillips’ mind as he sat with his quill pen making notes for the Deed of Gift. Given his background and the characteristics of the times, I suspect that when he wrote these particular words, “the time of youth is the important period, on the improvement or neglect of which depend the most weighty consequences, to individuals themselves and the community,” he was not thinking of a “community” that encompassed the entire globe.

But for Exonians of today and for future Exonians,“every quarter” of their community is far flung and includes the entire world.

So the questions become: How are we educating today? How should we educate our “youth for every quarter” in the future?

Let’s go back in time to Daniel Webster, who entered Exeter as a 14-year-old in 1796 and went on to become one of the greatest statesmen and orators of the 19th century. He said, the “mind is the great lever of all things; human thought is the process by which human ends are ultimately answered.” I believe educating Exeter’s “youth from every quarter” to become “youth for every quarter” begins with the life of the mind.

In preparing students for the challenges that every quarter of the world holds, we seek to provide an education that fosters in the minds of our students an intellectual excitement and confidence to deal with a multiplicity of viewpoints and experiences simultaneously. We want to couple that with the ability to listen to and engage with those of differing backgrounds and viewpoints.

Here at Exeter, we believe learning is best done collaboratively by as diverse a set of students as we can assemble, and while that learning experience is not all confined to our classrooms, there is no question that the quintessential example of “youth from and for every quarter” is our signature Harkness tables. This is the academic heart of our institution and the best example of how we all learn to think more creatively, deeply and compassionately when we experience the various viewpoints of others.

I have been giving much thought to how to encourage our students’ connections to the world beyond Phillips Exeter Academy and am in the process of forming a group of faculty, administrators and a trustee with the charge of examining ways for Exeter to strengthen and expand the connections of our teachers and students to the world beyond the Academy.

This effort alone, however, will not fully prepare our students for the world beyond Exeter. Exeter practices a unique pedagogy, and I believe we must refocus and rededicate our attention to the academic experience engendered by Harkness teaching and learning.

I would like to devote the next two years, leading up to the 80th anniversary of the Harkness gift in 2012, to exploring the topic of Harkness teaching and learning. A faculty committee will shape and initiate this effort.

As we begin this, the 230th year of Phillips Exeter Academy, we recognize that over the years, this school has learned much “from” and given much “to” the world. So it is our hope and this is our task: As we bring youth from every quarter of the world to study here, we need to commission ourselves to better serve that diverse global community as youth equipped for every quarter. I wish us Godspeed as we begin that work anew this school year.