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Academic Lens: Balancing Virtues

Summer has officially begun! Advisors have mailed letters to students recapping the academic year and reviewing grades and teacher comments. Reunion weekend was a success, and a time for faculty to reconnect with past students. As Chuck’s Corner described, the opportunity for in-depth conversations with past graduates is both refreshing and invigorating as we are reminded why we do what we do at Proctor.

Alumni from Proctor, like any school, take a number of different paths. Some choose to work on Wall Street, while others, like John Pellet ‘04, produce high end video for nonprofits around the world like the video below he produced for Proctor. What we hope each graduate is able to do regardless of their pursuits is to strike a balance in the virtues guiding their lives.

New York Times columnist and bestselling author, David Brooks, discusses his perspectives on balancing what he calls “Resume Virtues” and “Eulogy Virtues”. His short, five minute Ted Talk is worth a watch as he describes the contrasting ideals of a capitalistic society.

What struck a chord with me is how this same balancing act must be emphasized as we educate our students. The world in which we live is driven largely by economic realities, but that doesn’t mean our students need to be. Brooks’ ‘resume virtues’ of being worldly ambitious, innovative, and ‘successful’ fill the minds of many of our students (and parents). It is our goal, however, to help families understand that while these are noble pursuits, they must not neglect the nurturing of ‘eulogy virtues’ as well; the ability to hear your calling in the world, to have inner strength and consistency, and to be willing to lose yourself in order to truly find yourself.

Society favors “resume virtues”, but if we look through history, perhaps we have greater respect for those who lived their life with “eulogy virtues” as guiding principles. The part of us that is built on our strengths (resume virtues) wrestles with the part of us built by fighting our weaknesses (eulogy virtues). This wrestling is a good thing, something we teach our students to do every day. We do not approach education focused solely on further building a student’s strengths, but instead acknowledge weaknesses and teach self-advocacy skills that will allow students to effectively articulate their “eulogy virtues”.

Proctor’s off-campus and experiential programs are core to establishing this balance. When our highest achieving students decide to spend a term sailing Ocean Classroom or traveling on European Art Classroom, they seemingly make a conscious decision to put their resume virtues on hold while they delve into a learning experience that will undoubtedly nurture eulogy virtues. A quick look at the matriculation list of seniors who studied off-campus this spring (including Brown University, Stanford University, Williams College, NYU, Connecticut College, Skidmore College, NYU, Savannah College of Arts and Design, and Boston University) proves academic rigor and studying off-campus are not mutually exclusive. It also says much about both the internal and external academic credibility associated with Proctor’s off-campus programs.

You see, Proctor’s educational model of experiential learning, off-campus programs, authentic relationships, and academic support instills in our students a self-awareness uncommon in adolescents. It is an awareness that carries into their adult lives and allows them to intentionally wrestle with both their “resume” and “eulogy” virtues, realizing (as we all should) when you have balance in your life, your resume will take care of itself. 
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Located in  Andover, NH,  Proctor Academy is a private coeducational day and boarding school for grades 912. Students benefit from a rigorous academic program, experiential off-campus programs, fine and performing arts, competitive athletics, and a wide selection of extracurricular activities.
204 Main Street  .  PO Box 500  .  Andover, NH 03216
p. (603) 735-6000   f. (603) 735-6300