Dr. Phoebe Chapple
The principal goal of education in the schools should be creating men and women who are capable of doing new things, not simply repeating what other generations have done; men and women who are creative, inventive and discoverers, who can be critical and verify, and not accept, everything they are offered. -Jean Piaget, psychologist (9 Aug 1896-1980)
North Brooklin, Maine
30 March 1973
Dear Mr. Nadeau:
As long as there is one upright man, as long as there is one compassionate woman, the contagion may spread and the scene is not desolate. Hope is the thing that is left to us, in a bad time. I shall get up Sunday morning and wind the clock, as a contribution to order and steadfastness.
Sailors have an expression about the weather: they say, the weather is a great bluffer. I guess the same is true of our human society—things can look dark, then a break shows in the clouds, and all is changed, sometimes rather suddenly. It is quite obvious that the human race has made a queer mess of life on this planet. But as a people we probably harbor seeds of goodness that have lain for a long time waiting to sprout when the conditions are right. Man’s curiosity, his relentlessness, his inventiveness, his ingenuity have led him into deep trouble. We can only hope that these same traits will enable him to claw his way out.
Hang on to your hat. Hang on to your hope. And wind the clock, for tomorrow is another day.
(Signed, ‘E. B. White’)
E. B. White won numerous awards in his lifetime, and with good reason. Born in 1899, he was one of the greatest essayists of his time, he wrote children’s books which have gone on to become classics, such as Stuart Little and Charlotte’s Web.
He was also responsible for writing hundreds of wonderful letters.
In March of 1973, he wrote the perfectly formed reply to a Mr. Nadeau, who sought White’s opinion on what he saw as a bleak future for the human race.
(This letter, along with 124 other fascinating pieces of correspondence, can be found in the bestselling book, Letters of Note. For more info, visit Books of Note.)
Today, childhood is spent mostly indoors, watching television, playing video games and working the Internet. When children do go outside, it tends to be for scheduled events – soccer camp or a fishing derby – held under the watch of adults. In a typical week, 27% of kids ages 9 to 13 play organized baseball, but only 6% play on their own, a survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found.
The average American (aged 16-44) spends 444 minutes or 7.4 hours staring at screens every day. That’s 147 minutes of television, 103 minutes on a computer, 151 minutes with smartphones, and 43 minutes on a tablet.
We live in a world of instant gratification. So much energy is devoted to immediate desires. But we all seek balance.
“Watch your now-to-later ratio. Too much focus on the now and you bankrupt your future. Too much focus on the later and you miss the beauty of life.”
There’s a famous experiment which studied the characteristics of delayed gratification in young children. The experiment participants were offered one marshmallow if they wanted it now, and two marshmallows if they waited for a short time. Not surprisingly, this long-term study showed conclusively that the children who were able to wait were more successful in later life.
Curiosity is the ability to seek and acquire new knowledge, skills, and ways of understanding the world.
Curiosity facilitates engagement, critical thinking, and reasoning.
We nurture children’s curiosity and other life-long learning skills when we encourage them to identify and seek answers to questions that pique their interests.
Sociability is the joyful, cooperative ability to engage with others. It derives from a collection of social-emotional skills that help children understand and express feelings and behaviors in ways that facilitate positive relationships, including active listening, self-regulation, and effective communication.
Resilience is the ability to meet and overcome challenges in ways that maintain or promote well-being. It incorporates attributes like grit, persistence, initiative, and determination.
We build resilience when we push students gently to the edges of their comfort zones. Our encouragement as they take risks, overcome challenges, and grow from failure helps them learn to bounce back from life’s ups and downs.
Self-awareness is the ability to examine and understand who we are relative to the world around us. It’s developed through skills like self-reflection. It’s situated at “true south” on the compass to symbolize that introspection is about looking into ourselves. Self-awareness impacts children’s capacity to see themselves as uniquely different from other people.
Integrity is the ability to act consistently with the values, beliefs, and principles that we claim to hold. It’s about courage, honesty, and respect in one’s daily interactions — and doing the right thing even when no one is watching.
Resourcefulness is the ability to find and use available resources to achieve goals, problem solve, and shape the future. It draws on skills like planning, goal setting, strategic thinking, and organizing.
Creativity is the ability to generate and communicate original ideas and appreciate the nature of beauty. It fosters imagination, innovation, and a sense of aesthetics.
Empathy is the ability to recognize, feel, and respond to the needs and suffering of others. It facilitates the expression of caring, compassion, and kindness.
We influence children’s abilities to care for others beyond themselves by creating meaningful relationships with them, ensuring that they are seen, felt, and understood regardless of how they learn.