Select Page

“The mind is not a vessel to be filled, it is a fire to be ignited.” So wrote the ancient Greek philosopher Plutarch in Moralia, and this sentiment has been repeated by educational thinkers ever since.

It makes a kind of gut-level sense to those of us who had educational experiences of the “memorize this, then take a test” variety. In test-driven schooling, usually through no fault of their own, teachers can come to feel that they have to stuff information into their students’ heads and then quickly sit ’em down for a test before anything leaks out. But, as almost anyone who’s ever memorized information knows … there’s a hole in that bucket.

At Harley, we are generally not in the business of filling vessels; we’re setting fires. As teachers, that makes us a gleeful band of educational arsonists! But those fires are the sustaining energy of real curiosity, passion, and growth, and such an approach keeps alive the joyful inquisitiveness every child brings into the world.

It’s almost too obvious to say, but here it is: that’s not what most other schools are doing. So many schools are subject to systems of vessel-filling, and test scores drive everything. Cultivating passion or sustained curiosity becomes a secondary concern or worse, and then the central engine of real learning can sputter and go cold.

Igniting and sustaining the fires of joyful and deep learning: that’s what we at Harley are doing. I get that people want to compare schools—how do Harley’s test scores stack up  to Sutherland’s or Fairport’s or AC’s, etc.—and we happen to do really well on such comparisons (we’re usually #1). But, truly, great test scores and college lists are a happy byproduct of our true mission, they’re not the mission itself.  

So, what to do when your neighbors sidle up and want to compare school experiences? Well, the good news is that if you want to keep it simple, you can: Harley has the best test scores, smallest classes, and the most charming cherubs in town. But the truth is, a great education isn’t actually simple, it isn’t filling a bucket; igniting and feeding the fires of real learning is complex, long-term work. It’s the work of Harley, and we’d be happy to host those same neighbors to see for themselves—better, you see, is indeed possible.Michael Frank discusses the philosophy behind our new space and the opportunities it opens up for students.

I love the point that Michael makes toward the end: it’s not about the gizmos, it’s about the program.

And next up, tons to report on the construction of the Peckham Wellness Center. Behold the dashing visage of Harley’s Athletic Director Peter Mancuso:

  • Athletic Director Peter Mancuso highlights some of the ways our new the Peckham Wellness Center will be used with students in each division.