Like many of you, I have to admit, I have scandal fatigue. The daily headlines continue to shock and disturb, and recently hit very close to home. The college admissions debacle that rocked the world of higher education last month, also shook the world of secondary prep schools. Several editions ago, in the WEBB magazine, I referenced the selective college admission process in America as a game of sorts. Not a fun game or in any way positive, but rather as an insidious game of rankings, superficial bolstering, all with high-minded applicants hanging in the balance. Many people responded to me that they agreed: there must be a better way.
As we begin to plan our final push toward The Centennial in 2022, I’ve become increasingly intrigued by the idea of permanence, particularly organizational permanence. What makes some institutions stand the test of time and others simply vanish?
Now that regular classes are officially underway and we are beginning to settle into our regular routines, I am sending out my annual reminder of some of the small but important rules which relate to deportment, respect for one another, and overall civility. Webb prides itself on honor, trust and community. As such, please keep the following in mind as we set out to build our community for the 2018-19 school year.
Honor Each Other
I understand that the use of electronic devices is everywhere. But please, let's say hello to one another when we pass each other on the quad or on a pathway, or wherever we see each other. Let's not forget the power of personal conversation. And let's respect each other enough to drop our phones—if even for a moment—to say hello, and to mean it. Let's also put phones away when in the chapel, and whenever we are an audience.
Good afternoon everyone, I’m Taylor Stockdale, Head of The Webb Schools, and it’s my privilege and pleasure to officially welcome you to Webb. I’m delighted to kick-off the school year with you today in this atmosphere of such palpable optimism, energy, and anticipation.
From the time I arrived at Webb over 30 years ago, I have only deepened my admiration—and my love—for this extraordinary institution and this remarkably beautiful place. There’s always a distinctive flavor to any Webb gathering—whether it’s today’s new parent and new student orientation, or our Parents Weekend, or our Affiliates fundraiser and dinner party. I must tell you, too, that the same distinctive flavor is evident even on many of our most ordinary days here on campus.
Recently, when on a conference call with fellow board members of the World Leading Schools Association, we were asked to brainstorm a theme for our upcoming conference in Prague in the summer of 2019. There was a small but important group of educational leaders from all over the globe on the call representing schools such as Harvard-Westlake and Webb from the west, Groton from the east, Eton College from the UK, and top schools in China, Africa and India. As we started to bat around ideas for the world educational summit, we talked about the changing nature of the workplace given advanced technologies; what it means to be a global leader; how to retain school culture while embracing this new world. These were all rich topics we agreed, and ones we should and must be addressing. But then the conversation took an interesting turn.
I don’t know about you, but when I graduated from college I felt lost. I put up a strong front. I had a degree in history and political science—which, suffice to say, didn’t lead to corporate recruiters kicking down my dorm door and hiring me on the spot. And while I had a plan that at least set me on a course for getting started with my professional life, I knew deep inside that I really had no idea what I wanted to be or ultimately do. I had a job offer from Bank of America in San Francisco, so I took it. It was something.
Taking stock. This is how it begins—simply though completely. After more than a year of planning, gathering data, meeting, discussing, writing and rewriting—and after a four-day campus stay by our CAIS/WASC visiting committee (California Association of Independent Schools / Western Association of Schools and Colleges)—the evaluation work is done.
Statecraft is risky business. In fact, at times and for some, a matter of life and death. The fickle fortunes of city-states and nations, their rise and fall throughout history, can seem both destined and accidental.
I wanted to write you and reflect a bit on this important day, and also share some thoughts on the times in which we live. As I looked out to the flag pole this morning and saw the flag at half-staff, I was reminded of that unforgettable morning 16 years ago.
As we return to campus and settle in to begin Webb’s 96th school year, I am hopeful everyone in the community had an exciting, yet still restful, summer. As for me, I was busy early on with a great deal of travel—visiting alumni and parents across the country and around the world, from Florida and Northern California to Shanghai, Hong Kong and beyond.
In the summer of 1980 I was on top of the world. I was heading into my senior year of prep school. I had an interesting summer job working at a gas station on Cape Cod. And I was getting in shape for my final year of football, a sport I loved.
As an educator of more than 30 years, reading Friedman’s book reinforced my deeply held belief that how we think, interact, learn and teach in the next 100 years will be both fundamentally new and radically old-fashioned.
Each August, as Head of Schools, it is my privilege and pleasure to welcome our new students and families to the Webb community. Our opening days always begin in an atmosphere of such palpable optimism, energy, and anticipation.
Recently while attending a Webb reception in San Francisco, I spoke with alumnus Dan Murray ’89 for some time. Dan, now in his 40s, was one of the original students I met when interviewing for my first job at Webb in 1988. While we were reconnecting, Dan described for me his feeling that being at Webb felt to him like being made of wet clay. Meaning, as a high school sophomore, he felt he was still very much developing as a person—and he knew that the faculty at Webb at the time were playing a huge role in shaping him.
Several times a week, I get up early and hike the beautiful trails in the mountains above the school with my dog. It’s not only good exercise, but it’s also good meditation. My dog is excellent company – he keeps the bears away and never disagrees with anything I say. From the summit on a clear day, I can see as far away as downtown Los Angeles, the adjacent cities beyond Claremont, and clear down to San Bernardino and Riverside. Looking out, over and beyond I have a complete picture of the Webb campus - the football field, the museum, the pool, and of course our beautiful chapel. What a sight! It all gets me thinking about our learning community in this unique and truly dynamic part of the world.
I was recently back at my childhood home in Coronado, Calif., taking care of my mom who still resides there. We love to tell stories of when we were young and growing up in that enchanted town in the 1960’s and 1970’s. Back then it was a sleepy beach community with only a ferry connecting the island to San Diego. There was very little development beyond the iconic Hotel del Coronado, rows and rows of Craftsman homes, and a few stores lining the main street of Orange Avenue. There were no fast food restaurants allowed in Coronado at the time, and the concept of “fast food” was still relatively new.
It is no accident we are celebrating our Honor Symposium this year on the occasion of Martin Luther King Day. From the very beginning, we wanted to showcase the virtues of moral courage and honor through the teachings and life examples of this truly great American hero.
I always smile when I see T-shirts made by student clubs or classes with terms and acronyms only Webb students would know such as Webb Day, Peccary Trip, CBO, ASB Ball, or Theme Nights. As of this fall, you can add another phrase to the list of Webb-only terminology...The Phone Plate.
It’s hard to believe the Webb admission season is upon us. Our admission team has been covering the country and world in search of the very best for Webb’s incoming class next fall. This annual process of combing through hundreds of applications has got me to thinking about Thompson Webb – and his approach to selecting his students in the school’s formative years.
Early on in his quest for fossils, our beloved Ray Alf set up a small museum in the basement of the Jackson Library with the purpose of telling the story of life. He created a time spiral made out of heavy wire along which were marked various events in the history of the planet. First, an oxygenated atmosphere created a basic prerequisite for life. Then came nucleated cells and sea creatures, followed by amphibians, dinosaurs and eventually mammals.
While on a plane this fall, I was skimming CNN’s Money when I came across a story entitled “Hosain Rahman’s Beautiful Failure.” The headline grabbed me. Earlier that day, I had had a conversation with the Freshman Dean at Harvard about the essential qualities needed to succeed in our nation’s most selective colleges and universities. Resiliency, inner strength and moral courage were three of the top characteristics mentioned. It got me to thinking.
I just saw Spielberg’sLincoln. It was a movie I long anticipated, and it did not disappoint. At the same time, I am currently rereading Larry McMillin’s wonderful account of Sawney Webb (Thompson Webb’s father).TheSchoolmakeris a work of art, and in it, Mr. McMillin describes in detail Sawney’s war years as a confederate soldier from 1861-1865. Sawney’s school making years were preceded by hellish times in the trenches of battle.
This spring a series of ranking lists for U.S. high schools once again set the news media abuzz. The three most prominent rankings released were compiled by U.S. News & World Report, Newsweek/The Daily Beast and The Washington Post.
Years ago when my kids were young and Anne and I were shuttling from play dates to soccer matches, my mom said something to me that stopped me in my tracks. She said, “As busy as you are, savor these times. Raising kids is all about long days and short years.”
Recently I had lunch with a Webb graduate from the 1940s, and we got to talking about Thompson Webb – the man, the husband, and the school founder. He told me a wonderful story of how he and his buddies, when they were caught causing mischief around campus, were assigned work crews which consisted of helping Dr. Webb lay the adobe bricks for his chapel.
Dr. King is remembered today and every day for struggling against the cultural legacies of American race-based slavery. He is also remembered for advocating the inclusion of equal rights for all people in the Declaration of Independence, the document that began the United States of America.
When I first heard the term, I thought it must be something in our paleontology museum – some type of an extinct marine fossil such as a Trilobite. But as it turns out, a zettabyte is a term used to define enormous amounts of data on the web. Several steps beyond a terabyte, a zettabyte represents roughly ALL of the content on the World Wide Web from the beginning of the Internet until 2010 – a staggering amount of information by any measure.
As the ten-year anniversary of “9-11” approaches, it is important to reflect upon that event and its meaning as we look toward the future. Not to do so is to lose our perspective and our vision, both of which are needed to be good Americans and fully human.
As the week draws to a close, I wanted to reflect a bit on the powerful days of learning which took place on Monday and Tuesday. Most of you know that during these two days, Webb celebrated some important traditions: Men in the Arena for the boys’ school and Dies Mulieres (Day of the Woman) for the girls’ school. To the casual observer, these days might seem a little odd. Why does the Webb community devote itself to honoring the formative differences between boys and girls? How do days such as these contribute to our unique single sex/coeducational community?
Recently I attended a fascinating lecture by Dr. Yong Zhao, Associate Dean for Global Education at the University of Oregon. For those who are not familiar with his work and research, Dr. Zhao is one of a growing number of scholars who challenge the notion that the United States educational system is woefully inadequate when compared to the hard charging, intensely rote schooling systems found in China, India, Korea and other emerging nations.
A good education is important – vitally important. It allows you to reason, to calculate, to think creatively, to understand, and have perspective. Grounded in the liberal arts, it can provide the historical context to evaluate and detect patterns, to judge and formulate sound self-government. Pursuits in the arts drive the heart of our language and culture. Studies in science and math are the very foundations of medicine and engineering which of course lead to innovation, product conceptualization, design, and manufacturing which eventually leads to economic growth and development.