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“Be Good For Something”

“Be Good for Something”

At the end of the 4th century BCE, an Athenian jury convicted Socrates of impiety and corrupting the youth and then sentenced him to death. Upon receiving his sentence, Socrates instructed his jurors that his scrutiny of his own life and others’ lives had been the “greatest good to man,” and asserted that “the unexamined life is not worth living.”[1] Socrates had essentially been convicted of asking too many provocative questions. He insisted that a meaningful life requires active consideration of what you are doing, why you are doing it, and whether it is valuable and ethical.

In the spring of 1848, Henry David Thoreau wrote to his friend, Harrison Blake, warning him not to waste his life on trivial matters. He encouraged Blake to think carefully about his life, to consider whether his activities were worth his time, and to spend his energies on things more “solid and enduring” than the mere habitual activities of a day.[2] Thoreau told Blake to pursue living a meaningful life like a persistent dog circling around his master’s chair. He advised Blake not to be “too moral” or to bow to convention without reason, but instead to “aim above morality.” He urged him to “Be not simply good—be good for something,” and so combined Socrates’ insistence on both the value and ethics of one’s actions in a well lived life.[3]

“Be Good For Something” will be our theme for the coming year. As Weilenmann School of Discovery begins a new school year, we ask each member of our community to be more aware of how we spend our time and efforts, and to ask ourselves whether what we do has a valuable purpose and an ethical objective. And then, in the midst of that self-examination, to discover how we may act so that we can be “be good for something.” Whether or not we always succeed in this objective, we will keep at it. For, as Thoreau expressed, “If a man constantly aspires, is he not elevated?”[4]

I am delighted to welcome new and returning students, families, faculty and friends to our WSD community. As we begin the 2015 – 16 school year, I acknowledge the good people and good work achieved at the school with the support and efforts of our community. Even so, WSD will never be a school that considers itself to have achieved its benchmark. Our school’s mission insists on continual evaluation, refinement, improvement, and even change to our programs in order to provide the best education and experience that we can to our students. As we embark upon our sixth year of educating students, I look forward to a purposeful and productive year of learning and growth.

[1] Plato, Apology, 38a
[2] Henry David Thoreau, Letters to a Spiritual Seeker, ed. Bradley P. Dean. (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2004): 37.
[3] Thoreau, Letters to a Spiritual Seeker, 38.
[4] Thoreau, Letters to a Spiritual Seeker, 37.