Welcome to Heads Up, a blogging experiment that aims to:
- connect the people, parts, and principles of Durham Academy;
- share ideas about learning and human development;
- spotlight a few of the many wondrous things I get to see every day at Durham Academy.
Thanks for reading the posts below — and sending news, links and ideas worth sharing.
Michael Ulku-Steiner, Head of School
Wake and thrive
Upper School history teacher Jim Speir shared an interesting story from Saturday's Durham News. The opening paragraphs:
Wake Forest University is joining a few other campuses nationally in starting a new initiative dedicated to the well-being of students, faculty and staff that goes beyond academic performance and into physical, spiritual and other realms.
The school launched the initiative, called Thrive, on Friday and has hired a director of well-being, who starts work next month. Thrive includes eight markers of well-being: emotional, environmental, financial, intellectual, occupational, physical, social and spiritual.
The initiative is something more than trying to ensure students, faculty and staff are happy, said Penny Rue, vice president of campus life at WFU. It's about trying to help students find meaning and purpose, not happiness.
"We're looking for something a little deeper than that," Rue said. [Click here to read the full article]
Given that DA's mission compels us to equip students for "moral, happy, productive lives," I'm intrigued to read that Wake and other universities are putting their money where their mouths have been for hundreds of years: the formation of lives of meaning and purpose. Especially in the current climate of economic anxiety, in which technical and career training can seem better investments than education in the liberal arts and sciences, I am not surprised to see universities swinging some pendulums back toward more holistic and humane goals.
The word "happy" has always struck me as thinner and flimsier than the goals we actually chase for our students. In speeches to students and parents, I have often pointed to Aristotle and his idea of the long-term purpose of education. The Greek word EUDAIMONIA, often translated as happiness but better understood as “human flourishing,” was the highest good for Aristotle. Just as flowers open naturally toward the sun, all humans want to flourish. We attain EUDAIMONIA by creating habits of virtue and by honing them toward excellence.
For Aristotle and the best teachers I've been around, the real purpose of school is to help students fulfill their highest destinies, to maximize their potential, to bloom into the unique and fully human creatures they are destined to become. Of course the road to this "highest destiny" is often less flowery than it is rocky, twisted, and steep. Nonetheless, it's a trip worth taking - and we'll take advice from Wake Forest and anyone else on the same journey.
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