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The New Face of Rigor


Educational rigor has a different face these days; at Brookwood, we know that new face well. Here, we know that preparing a student for the world in which we live today is a task entirely unlike that which faced educators twenty-five years ago.

We know it is no longer enough to require the memorization of important facts and figures, for there no longer exists a discrete and finite body of knowledge (dates, definitions, formulas) that students can learn in order to master a subject. We know also that it is not enough to learn to compete against peers in a host of challenges; instead, the student of today must learn to build and sustain the collaborative relationships demanded by the interconnectedness of our world. He or she must learn to manage the avalanche of information that proliferates daily; to access, organize, evaluate and apply that knowledge to circumstances that can change overnight. Our students need analytical skills in order to deconstruct the complexity of their lives and the problems they will face; instead of simply finding answers, they need to learn to make good decisions. And to make these decisions, they need to know themselves well and to understand the principles they seek to advance. We know that command of their language will give them command of their lives and, above all else, we know that Brookwood students must come to love learning, for it is a process in which they will necessarily be engaged for the rest of their lives.

Just as our undertaking with students today has evolved away from a focus on memorization and competition, changed also is what we know about learning. Over the past 50 years, psychologists and neurologists have taught us that the traditional face of rigor in an academic environment is not necessarily the best one to wear: Unlike our predecessors, we know now that emotions actually influence thought and that students learn best when they feel physically healthy, personally recognized, and emotionally safe. We know that personal change and growth occur through the experience of relationships, and that students construct the meaning of their worlds as a function of their stages of development in life, rather than by simply accepting an objective definition of that reality. Very simply put, we know that how kids feel determines in large measure whether kids learn, and that is a powerful bottom line.

At Brookwood, we develop academic excellence, and we do so using the means and methodologies we know to be best suited to that end: We are "warm" and "child-centered" because it is educationally sound to be both; we are mindful of the relationships we offer and those we nurture and supervise because we know that vigilance to be an educational imperative. We know that the mind cannot develop if the self lies unattended, and that neither will develop if both challenge and support are not equally tendered to the learner. We know that our students will someday be required to solve problems of currently unimaginable complexity, and that their own safety and the survival of our world depend ultimately on their having not just the intellectual acuity to understand those problems, but also the skills to work with others of diverse backgrounds as they tackle them, and the "conscience, character, compassion and cultural competence" required to persevere.

Our educational environment is one designed for our age, and we are proud of the superlative scholarship that it engenders.