He writes thoughtfully about people who radiate “an inner light” and attempts to understand “how deeply good people got that way.” Brooks observes “that wonderful people are made, not born — that the people I admired had achieved an unfakeable inner virtue.” An authentic goodness.
I’m grateful for Sam Blyth, a friend and colleague with whom I’m proud to be part of a team of wonderful people working to launch Blyth-Templeton Academy, a quality, affordable, private high school that opens this fall in Washington, D.C. Sam not only forwarded me the Brooks op-ed, but he also did so posing the following, powerful question that captures the essay’s essence:
“What kind of adventures produce goodness, rather than build résumés?”
I believe that this question gets to the heart of a key tension — one that is far from new, but is coming to a head like never before in an age of increased population, transparency, and in turn, college selectivity. To reword Sam's question: How do we encourage and enable young people to follow their hearts and do extraordinary things — yet do them not as a means to an end, but to do them with authenticity?
I say this question is far from new because I recall a time in my increasingly distant past when many of us were encouraged to do more community service and other “good” things in order to round out our résumés/college applications.
Interestingly, more and more colleges are beginning to promote what their students have done or created — not their SAT scores. See Boston University’s “Interesting Student Facts” as a case in point. But are these students doing and creating authentically? Does it matter?
At WonderLab, we think it matters a lot.
Which leads me to Gage and Robby. In yesterday’s WonderLab Learner Exhibition, they both presented their work to an audience of family and friends. Gage is on a mission to design — and one day build — a children’s museum like none you’ve ever seen. Robby is designing/building a Rube Goldberg machine that is as unique as Robby himself.
Both are working on these projects because a trusted, caring adult — in this case, Anna Smith, their WonderLab Mentor Guide — began a line of inquiry that is at the heart of what we do here: What motivates you to love learning? More specifically, she asked: what are you good at? What do you love? What does the world need? What might you get paid for (eventually)? Where do your answers intersect?
In the end, might these inspired projects build their résumés? Sure. That said, I assure you that the results of a straw poll that I took in the wake of the event revealed that not a single person fortunate enough to have attended yesterday’s Exhibition doubted their authenticity and/or their goodness.
These are the kind of adventures that produce goodness, and these are the kinds of kids developing their inner light. Perhaps you'd like to refer a Learner who should join them?