As I thought about this talk, I realized there was something important I didn’t emphasize enough- the difficult transition from our achievement culture, which respect’s one’s status– to Hyde’s character culture, which respects one’s growth. But while kids respect Hyde for making education fair, Hyde is hard, and kids still have to deal with the achievement culture outside of Hyde. Since in character development you are the primary teacher and your home the primary classroom, we hope this weekend will reinforce your leadership to help your children make that difficult transition-just like 1,000s of Hyde families like yours have over the past 49 years.
Traditional education is basically concerned with implanting the student with knowledge, with the goal of making him or her “academically proficient.” Therefore students need to be compliant to allow this transfer of knowledge and molding of proficiency to effectively occur.
However, this educational process causes problems for our schools, because being compliant goes against our heritage. We Americans are, first and foremost, rebels.
Hyde instead builds its philosophy on the principles of liberty and equality with the premise “every individual is gifted with a unique potential that defines a destiny.”
Philosophically, present education seeks to develop an academically proficient work force in order to strengthen America. Instead, Hyde seeks to develop strong individuals who will then keep America strong.
Present education supposedly focuses upon serving the country. But it does little else to develop the deeper potentials of youth beyond their academic potentials, and it does virtually nothing for parents and families.
In contrast, Hyde encompasses the head, heart and soul of the student, including his/her unconscious where critical decisions are made, and conscience where destinies are followed. Hyde treats parents as primary teachers and their homes as primary classrooms and Hyde helps students become teachers through Brother’s Keeper. I think these efforts far better serve our country.
But students don’t see all this when they first come here; they simply see Hyde as another school . To them, school is owned and operated by adults designed to prepare them for college, and while they accept this in their interests, most don’t buy into it. They simply see school as an adult responsibility and they develop a deeply ingrained “work-play” attitude. They prefer to play; when prodded, they respond with work, but may resent adult prodding that cuts into their play time.
When such students come here, Hyde seems even more work than play, so it takes time for them to realize and then appreciate an education that is truly designed to personally help them with their own lives—of actually getting meaningful help with the problems they struggle with—lack of achievement, self-confidence, fears, anger, etc.—and of finding a self they never thought possible. This is simply beyond their comprehension of “school.”
We parents can help them make that transformation. How? By not standing on the sidelines and making our child’s progress our main concern. Because regardless of what progress our child seems to make here, we will eventually discover we both are still stuck in that work-play syndrome, and our child, uninspired, will not take responsibility for his/her life.
Our child has a challenge at Hyde, but so do we: Focus on achieving our own best in the Hyde process. This will become an incredibly powerful statement to our child. By actions, not words, we convey to our child our letting go of the work-play concept of education, demonstrate our belief in the Hyde process and most importantly, by example, give our child confidence he or she can achieve Hyde as well.
I can honestly say, when a parent “gets” the Hyde concept, I have yet to see a case where the kid didn’t get it as well, although not always by graduation.
The theme of this weekend—and certainly the focus of this school year at Hyde—is leadership.
Hyde was founded as a leadership school, as the means to inspire the development of each student’s unique potential, with courage, integrity, concern and curiosity the primary means to develop one’s leadership.
Now in our 49th year, Hyde has developed the capability to help develop these qualities and leadership in students, parents and teachers alike. It is a deep and challenging program and process requiring the best from parents as well as from teachers and students. As we learned 40 years ago, in character development, parents are the primary teachers and the home is the primary classroom.
On July 31st, America, and probably the world, lost its premier leadership guru when Warren Bennis died at age 89. The press hailed his pioneering work in leadership development, noting his wide influence, included advising Presidents Johnson, Kennedy, Ford and Reagan.
We at Hyde deeply felt his loss. Warren was a Hyde alumni parent with his son Will graduating in 1987. But more than that, he served as a mentor for me, writing recommendations for my books, and then serving in exactly the same role with Malcolm, right up to Malcolm’s publication this spring.
It has encouraged us that the Hyde process so closely mirrors Warren’s thinking about leadership.
Here I quote from the New York Times tribute:
“Professor Bennis believed in the adage that great leaders are not born but made, insisting that “the process of becoming a leader is similar, if not identical, to becoming a fully integrated human being” . Both, he said, were grounded in self-discovery.
In his influential book “On Becoming a Leader,” Professor Bennis wrote that a successful leader must first have a guiding vision of the task or mission to be accomplished and the strength to persist in the face of setbacks, even failure. Another requirement, he said, is “a very particular passion for a vocation, a profession, a course of action.”
“The leader who communicates passion gives hope and inspiration to other people,” he wrote.
Integrity, he said, is imperative: “The leader never lies to himself, especially about himself, knows his flaws as well as his assets, and deals with them directly.”
So, too, are curiosity and daring: “The leader wonders about everything, wants to learn as much as he can, is willing to take risks, experiment, try new things. He does not worry about failure but embraces errors, knowing he will learn from them.” End Quote
Warren Bennis not only believed character was at the foundation of leadership, but of human growth itself as well, which was noted in the Washington Post tribute:
Quote “Those who aspired to lead others and develop their talents, he maintained, needed to learn to understand themselves and develop their own best selves. In holding to such principles, he showed an affinity for the ideas of humanistic philosophy and a belief in the richness of human potential that often goes untapped.” End Quote
When I wrote Hyde: Preparation for Life in 2003as a textbook of Hyde, in the chapter on leadership, I referred to Warren’s book , “Geeks and Geezers: How Era, Values and Defining Moments Shape Leaders.” Warren and coauthor, Robert Thomas decided to interview leaders from two distinct eras—those under 35 and those over age 70—which they irreverently and affectionately call geeks and geezers.
The authors hoped a study of these two disparate groups might answer the-are leaders born or made argument-and further reveal just what factors contribute to, as well as determine, true leaders.
Generally, the authors found leadership cannot be explained by—intelligence—birth order—family wealth or stability—level of education—ethnicity or race. Their new discovery was that every leader, regardless of age, had undergone at least one intense transformational experience—what the authors call a “crucible.” Such events either make you or break you.
If it makes you a leader, the authors list 4 essential qualities that empower you to remain one. They are:
1. An adaptive quality that enables us to survive inevitable setbacks, heartbreaks and difficulties as well as learn from them.
This is why Hyde consistently focuses on challenge, like a wilderness experience for an underperforming student; designating wrestling instead of basketball to challenge an attitude, confronting shyness by asking the student to lead a school meeting, addressing deeper family issues in an FLC, and so on.
2. An ability to engage others through a shared meaning or common vision.
Hyde school meetings, discovery groups, seminars, and FLCs help us internalize and utilize the power of synergy, which links us to others.
3. A distinctive and compelling voice that communicates one’s convictions and desire to do the right thing.
Hyde requires us to continually develop and express a strong and confident voice.
4. A sense of integrity that allows a leader to distinguish good from evil.
The final step on the Hyde pathway of excellence is Integrity, defined: “I am gifted with a unique potential. Conscience is my guide in uncovering it.”
At Hyde, the crucible metaphor becomes the cocoon metaphor. The caterpillar needs to struggle to develop legs strong enough to break out of the cocoon, which then become wings strong enough to fly. Eliminate the struggle, and the caterpillar will simply die.
The metaphor fits our children’s challenge. As children, they are dependent upon us, their parents. In order to break out of their cocoons, they must let go of us so they can learn to truly depend upon themselves and then internalize those 4 leadership steps at Hyde.
So how do they let go of us? Inevitably, it depends on how well we, the parents, are letting go of them. At birth, we start with 100% responsibility for their lives while they have 0% responsibility. If we teach them correctly, at age 19, they would have at least 51% responsibility, and we only 49%.
So as of now, ask ourselves, just how much responsibility has each of us been able to teach and successfully transfer to them? Is our teaching and letting go behind the learning curve? Were there too many times when we stepped in and interfered with what should have been an important learning experience for them, no matter how painful? Were there other times when we failed to follow through with an effective accountability for their misadventures?
Now comes a critical question: do we trust that our child is, or is becoming, self-sufficient? If the answer is no or even doubtful, we need to realize we are presently influencing our child negatively, because we don’t see the child breaking out of the cocoon. As our child’s primary teacher, if we do not believe our child is on a path leading to self-sufficiency, then neither will our child.
However the solution, while hard, is simple. Just accept both we and our child are behind in the letting go process and we need help to catch up. The quickest way is, until we catch up, plan to go all in at Hyde; if we can’t get out of it; get into it.
Our work in the Hyde family program will ultimately absorb this adjustment in our family, which will empower our child to make the transition at Hyde into leadership and then into self-sufficiency after graduation. In essence, our family is using Hyde as a bridge to accelerate our child’s self-sufficiency process.
As parents, we lead by example. By committing ourselves to the Hyde process, we establish the example for our child to follow.
The importance of doing this before college was recently underscored by Former Yale professor William Deresiewicz, author ofExcellent Sheep: The Miseducation of the American Elite and The Way to a Meaningful Life, Hewrote the most read New Republic article in their 100 year history entitled: “Don’t Send Your Kid to an Ivy League School: The nation’s top colleges are turning our kids into zombies.”
Deresiewicz believes elite colleges today have replaced their traditional purpose of building moral character instead with helping students build competitive résumés. He calls students “excellent sheep” because they are primarily being groomed for work instead of being prepared to live full and enriching lives.
As we remember Warren Bennis’s emphasis on character and on becoming a fully integrated human being, we realize this new elite college emphasis not only ignores its traditional moral purpose of helping students become authentic and good individuals, it apparently does little to help them become leaders.
So your work in the Hyde family program as the primary teachers, with our support, is critical to the leadership development of your children, because they are not going to get it at college.
So begin by taking leadership in your family, which you can do in your seminars this weekend. As Warren Bennis said, “The process of becoming a leader is similar, if not identical, to becoming a fully integrated human being.” Good Luck!
Joey Gauld; October, 2014