Pressed, years ago, to define MA’s primary scholastic goal, our faculty pushed past mere content mastery, and chose instead: scholastic maturity, i.e., the grown-up, deft, balanced approach to learning and to schools and teachers, which makes for academic success in any school.
Yes, we all agreed, it is important for students to learn to factor an algebraic equation; it is good for them to read Hamlet and Lear; it is useful for them to recall, in case the question appears on an entrance exam, the names of Cordelia’s sisters and who asked, “To be or not to be?” We agreed, too, that an educated adult should know about the alpha helix and recall what happened on December 7th in Hawaii and at Hastings in 1066. Yet we could not agree that learning such facts suffices. For we also agreed that MA would fail in its profound mandate—as crucible for the maturation of character—if its graduates could not organize their academic tasks and social lives so as to be good friends, but also to get assigned essays turned in on time; or if, when pressed, they could not negotiate with a teacher in a diplomatic way for an extension; or if they felt no scruple about cheating on an exam or plagiarizing a paper; or if they could not feel empathy for the agony of an old man holding his dead child in his arms.
In short, we agreed that academic maturity is the central goal for MA’s school. For we see that young people become truly effective students only if they grow up emotionally, cognitively and ethically, and only if they integrate these aspects of personality into vigorous participation in the classroom. The Greeks knew that to produce competent adults would require an education that kept in balance a student’s participation in formal academics, in the fine arts and in music, in athletics, and in the society of other human beings. They knew that academic achievement is linked, in the broadest sense, to character development. And so we agreed that, rather than merely drill for mastery of course content, we would foster academic maturity, so that MA graduates can perform with distinction in any demanding college, and will go on learning for themselves for the rest of their lives.