BK Primer #6

Brothers Keeper is complicated.  It takes years to understand.  (In fact, my father, Hyde’s founder, gets very specific about it, claiming that it typically takes three years.)  One of the great things about Hyde’s charter schools is that we start working with the kids in elementary school on concepts like BK.  It’s perhaps unfortunate that in our boarding schools we often find ourselves giving a crash course to students who may only be with us a couple of years.

Last weekend I attended a school meeting at Woodstock that featured recent alums on stage talking about their efforts to apply what they’ve learned at Hyde to the challenges of the outside world.  During the Q&A phase of the meeting, one student pointedly asked the alums, “Do you really do Brother’s Keeper in college?”

One of the college students replied, “Definitely.”  Nearly all of the others nodded in agreement.   What was clear was the difference in mindsets between the questioner (a newer student who didn’t appear to be much of a fan of BK) and the “answerer” (an alum who, having once been a Hyde student, could certainly identify with the questioner’s attitudes about BK).  They were two ships passing in the night.

The student, still in the early stages of understanding, meant, When you see kids breaking rules, do you turn them in? Being a relatively new student, he has trouble seeing beyond BK as anything other than a snitch system.

The alum, thinking on a deeper level (and having been knocked on his tail a time or two since graduating from Hyde), observed that college becomes both easier and productive once you establish a network in the form of a productive peer group that will both support and challenge you.  College (and life itself) is pretty tough to do on your own.  And a peer group works both ways: you give and you get.

This alum’s off-the-cuff remarks focus the reason we value BK at Hyde.  Neither I nor Hyde’s most seasoned veterans have ever assumed that Hyde grads will fall into lockstep with BK as practiced at Hyde.  After all, this goes back to the comments I made in BK Primer #4 (12/1/11) about Forgiveness.  BK works at Hyde for the very reason that Hyde is such a forgiving place.  It also works because all members of the Hyde community have made a commitment (even if it might sometimes be uttered under false pretenses!) to uphold the Hyde ethics.  When kids get to college, they enter a world that is far less forgiving to say nothing of one that features a diversity of ethical viewpoints.  It’s natural for college kids to both test and explore their ethics.  Furthermore, it’s entirely appropriate given the fact that unlike Hyde students, they are also adults.

It is our hope that exposure to BK at Hyde will prepare our students to establish interpersonal relationships – with both individuals and groups – that will help them be the best they can be.  We also hope that they will someday pass the importance of this idea on to their own children.

Onward,  Malcolm Gauld