What does it mean to be prepared?

I just spent three days at a wonderful independent school in Columbia, South Carolina. The students there are the types of young people you want to meet and hand over the keys of the world to — smart, thoughtful, and generous of spirit. They’re also the kind of community that is asking all the right questions.

I was most struck by a billboard they commissioned, shortly after their most recent graduation, in which the class of 2014 throws their mortarboards into the air, and the image is accompanied by a single word: PREPARED.

What a powerful way to convey the essence of what a school exists to do, and be. And what a singularly useful word for calibrating what we want our schools to continue to be about.

But here’s the thing: defining what it means to be “prepared” is like a shoreline at high or low tide — always shifting. What, then, does it mean to prepare young people for the rough waters of young adulthood, and how can we build a solid foundation on a shoreline of shifting sand?

Schools like Hammond are actively exploring that question, despite their proven track record in the previous era (e.g., make kids take lots of AP classes and extracurriculars, and then get them into well-respected colleges).

What is your school preparing young people for, and how is your definition changing with the times?


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