My wife of 67 years and I attended this week my 70th reunion from Phillips Exeter Academy along with just 6 other classmates.
All 7 attendees met for about an hour, had little or nothing in common other than Exeter and also discovered there are still about 100 (out of about 200) of us alive somewhere, close to 90 years old, who had the good sense to stay home. Perhaps forgetfulness interfered with personal memories among some of us.
There is almost NOTHING of the old experience left now, except a lot of wonderfully modernized old buildings, which relate to our educational experiences in the late 1940s.
I have to admit that I did not really attend for the reunion itself.
I happily have 3 (out of 9) grandchildren (2 girls and 1 boy) who are there now and it was a great chance to go see the old school through their young, modern eyes.
It was/is downright amazing.
But, what we saw was so much more interesting and challenging than what I remember, it really made me want to start over.
To begin with, more than half the students now are female (51%) vs NONE when I attended. As you would expect, these girls are great in all obvious respects. And they are extraordinary in one other respect: as a group, the girls routinely outperform the boys. No surprise! Apparently, the ‘distraction factor’ of the other sex is largely a thing of the past. Or maybe distractions may help explain the girls’ superiority?
Another highly visible difference is diversity. WASP/J type kids are now distinctly in a minority giving way to African Americans, Asians, Europeans, Latinos, etc. Together they appear to be well over half and are more than fully competitive.
I recall in my first year, we were asked to elect a class president in our first week at school. There was one African American kid in our class [school], and he was the only one whose name was known to more than a few of our classmates, and thus he stood out well enough to get virtually all of the votes. Talk about a long way from Tipperary!
Then there is the educational process itself.
I recall we all had largely preset and similar schedules and stuck to them religiously to avoid confusion. Today, everybody has their very own personalized and accepted schedule from 8 AM to about 8 PM. That schedule is run on an Academy App and every kid has a smart phone which tells them daily where and when to be on deck. It also is used to give them assignments, to change time and dates and no end of information on what they are supposed to be doing, and when and where.
They really are busy and they love ALL their teachers and classmates from whom they also learn.
They not only learn a lot about history, information and ideas, they are also exposed to the latest in science, the arts and the many, so-called, extracurricular activities and sports that soak up whatever time they have in between everything else.
It used to be that ‘the campus’ was the main center of interest at a boarding school.
Today, it is virtually everything else which is held together and coordinated through the school’s computers and communications technologies.
And, not to forget the teachers! They are there in abundance—about one for every ten students, very informal, friendly and very skilled at teaching—not by preaching, but by drawing the kids in and out and getting them to discover for themselves – which is the very essence of great teaching.
We attended classes in French, Spanish, Biology, and Chemistry as well an Art program in printing designs and a Lab experience in titration.
And, we watched a part of the rowing activities that two of our grand-kids participate in.
The big take away from this wonderful experience was that these kids are being brilliantly prepared for the new and rapidly changing world they will soon inherit.
The world needs them – and many more like them.