“When are these colonies gonna rise up?” goes the lyric from Hamilton: An American Musical. In our fifth grade social studies class this week, the lyric was rewritten to ask why. “Why are these colonies gonna rise up?” In Lin-Manuel Miranda’s rendering Hamilton did not ask why because he deeply believed that America’s openness to his merit-based advancement, despite his origins and station, was a moral clarion call for human freedom. Our students, learning about the origins of the American Revolution and emboldened by the music, might take his perspective for granted. They needed to ask why, though, to get into the history and to think critically about Colonial Americans’ options in 1776. Why?
A key element of Einstein’s mission is fostering critical thinkers. It is the step that comes after fostering inquisitive learners and the step before fostering dynamic leaders. As a mission-driven school, developing critical thinking skills is crucial to our educational goals for students.
Critical thinking, though, is not why Einstein exists; our mission is not why we exist. Critical thinking is what we do. We also do a dual-language immersion. We also personalize learning through technology and blended, online learning. We also educate the whole student through art, gym, music, computer coding, drama, and more. We also introduce global citizenship, taking students on field trips, discussing current events, and helping students find the issues that engage them. We also teach character strengths based on Jewish values. What we do is rather impressive, especially when you look at student scores and alumni successes. None of that, though is why we do it all.
I have been thinking a great deal about the why of Einstein. We are, and have been, so much more than the only, and therefore, finest Jewish day school in the Brandywine Valley. From our founding in 1970 to our heyday in the late 1990’s to today, Einstein has worked hard to give our students the best: the best foundation, the best Jewish education, the best academics, the best environment, the best friends, and more of the best. I am guessing that “the best” often was Einstein’s what; it is what we did and what we were.
The more I think about the drive to provide and to be the best, the more I think that Einstein’s why is to help students soar on wings like eagles (Isaiah 40:31), our mascot. Our purpose is to raise up students with all the bests, with all the traditional wisdom, with all the 21st Century innovation, so that they can fulfill their potential. We serve as the foundation, the seedbed and the soil, for the flourishing of spirit, of learning, and of personality. By valuing each student’s uniqueness, we launch many variations on the theme of menschen (good people) and dynamic learners and leaders. So, why Einstein? We educate students to rise up.
For more, please see our Chailites newsletter where this post was originally published.