News - Administration
Sojourn at NAIS
By Marcel Gauthier, Assistant Head of School
Last month I attended the conference for the National Association of Independent Schools, the over-arching accrediting organization of which our own PNAIS (Pacific Northwest Association of Independent Schools) is an extension.
This annual event is an opportunity for independent school educators across the country to gather in one place, discuss issues common to us all, and hear what selected NAIS presenters suggest our priorities should be for the present and future.
The theme for this year was INNOVATION! with specific emphasis on technology, globalism, economic sustainability and increasing ethnic and economic diversity. The call for innovation, ironically, is not new for NAIS. In some form or other, the organization has been calling upon schools to think in “adaptive”, “revolutionary” or “cutting edge” ways for years.
On one hand this theme was exciting. There was a kind of giddy energy generated by a thousand people gathering for the purpose of discussing the “new.” The language of “moodles” and “skypes” and “digital portfolios” filled the air.
On the other hand, it posed a conundrum. How innovative would we all be if we all chose to be cutting-edge in the same way? To put it more simply, how “independent” is a school if it is striving to be independent like everyone else?
In one sense, what makes Waterford Waterford is that it is not Rowland Hall or McGillis or Wasatch Academy. And does not wish to be. This does not mean that we cannot all learn from each other or share practices that are universally sound.
As I listened to the presentations at the conference, I was reminded of the steps Waterford has taken into the new: our exceptional Robotics program, our impressive digital photography curriculum, our hosting of international students through ASSIST, our exploration of possible educational partnerships in China or Korea. The list goes on.
But I was also further convinced of the efficacy of our classical stance. In an age of reductive and shortsighted educational fads, technological evangelism, and feel-good-at-all-costs pedagogy, we stand by a commitment to the fundamental value of a rich, grounded liberal-arts education. Our traditional stance, ironically, makes us unique.
I left the NAIS conference as one often leaves a giant, over-crowded mall: with a few good items in hand, but happy to be headed toward home.