Our son is blessed to attend a rare school where it is not considered cool to behave like an idiot. It’s a rare environment these days where the kids know how to have fun, but the focus is on achievement. Some days he and his friends actually wear suits and ties just to look sharp. They already have a uniform dress code of polo shirt and pants, but they are allowed to wear suits any time. It’s a positive peer pressure thing. When Will was a freshman, he saw the older male students sometimes wearing suits, so the younger guys imitated them.
I think it’s sad how often anything interesting in a young person gets stamped out by the hordes in schools these days. Christian schools are no exception to this. It is a unique faculty and school leadership that can foster excellence and an atmosphere where good grades and doing well is admired. It takes committed families and a vision by leadership to be different.
It may not seem like a big thing, but I would add that having had students in private and public schools over the years, the dress of both faculty and students is important. If teachers want to slouch around dressed like overgrown adolescents and try to impress the kids with their relevance, they will find that the exact opposite happens. Will’s teachers behave and act like adults. His favorite teacher is a tweedy, bearded historian and professor who also teaches at a local university. He’s a walking encyclopedia of history and a master of his subject matter. He has respect because he makes no pretense at being anyone other than himself. He is an expert. Kids know he is the real deal, and they admire that. Additionally, he is an excellent male role model for the young men.
I saw a bumper sticker that said, “Resist peer pressure.” It’s funny how the assumption was that the only kind of peer pressure is the negative kind. But positive peer pressure is just as real. The challenge is to find places for our kids where the positive influences dominate.
Will had a friend over one night recently. Tom and I were upstairs when suddenly music sounded from below. We both couldn’t believe our ears. We heard the sound of piano and…singing? Beautiful singing from a tenor voice! Will was accompanying his friend on the piano as he sang, “Caro Mio Ben”. The friend had brought over the sheet music for Will to play for him. He said Will’s music interests had inspired him to take voice lessons again. The world is a more beautiful place because of it.
I love to see teenagers swim upstream against a culture that worships ignorance and moral chaos. Anything we can do to help our young people develop their interests and gifts and ignore the braying of the celebrity icons is a good thing. They, and the rest of our society, will be the richer for it.