By Marcel Gauthier, Head of School
When I attended boarding school at Western Reserve Academy some 40 years ago, some things were exactly the same as they are now for our students here at Country Day. The subjects and graduation requirements were the same, with core expectations in math, English, history, the sciences, and the arts. I had to take the SAT as well as decide how many AP courses I would challenge myself with. As a student, I felt the pressure of high standards, grades, and the inevitable lens of the college admissions process. And yes, it could be stressful, and I remember pulling a few “all-nighters” to complete a paper or project.
But one element was different: I did not have a cell phone, and there was no internet…which meant that access to knowledge occurred in the library amongst the rows and stacks of books. It also meant that pretty much all communication occurred in person, in a handwritten note, or in a phone call. When my friends and I wanted to communicate, we hung out. When we were done hanging out, we had the haven of our dorm rooms or—if a day student—our homes. When I studied at night, there was really no other obligation but to sit down in the quiet of my own space and do the work. The absence of technology created natural boundaries—these were not a choice; they simply were.
No longer. Modern technology has added a huge dimension of distraction as well as expectation to our students’ lives. The expectation to never stop communicating with friends near and far. The expectation to be always immediately accessible. The expectation to record all aspects of one’s thoughts and lives and seek validation for them. Home is no longer an absolute buffer against the social stresses of the day, as it has only virtual walls…And let us be honest: the same goes for we adults.
This absence of natural boundaries and havens has created a dimension of stress, anxiety, and liability that did not exist in my school years. The question of whether the impact of modern technology is right or fair is moot; the fact is, it must be managed. This is why we have begun this year—in partnership with The Social Institute—a systematic education with our students in grades 4–12 on the realities of social media. Our goal is to help students become self-aware, to understand the implications of their choices, to help them make right choices and control their identities and their lives. It is an effort we would extend whether cell phones existed or not, as it is a part of our Mission as a school. We appreciate your partnership in this endeavor.
~ Mr. G
In 2023, Marcel Gauthier started a blog, "Reflections with Mr. G." Through this platform, Mr. G reflects on pivotal moments that resonate with our school's mission. His insights and perspectives provide a unique window into the heart and soul of Country Day, offering a deeper understanding of the values that unite us as a community.