Tough love at the Hyde schools
Shortly after his initial visit, I asked James Traub whether he planned to evaluate Hyde according to how effectively we honor our mission or on the basis of how closely we embody his perception of the good school. Reflecting the latter, Traub’s “The Moral Imperative” (Features, Winter 2005) is a thoughtful piece on a complex subject. I write to fill in a few gaps.
His education worldview focused tightly through the window of the classroom, Traub naturally begins with a classroom drama. Although his depiction of the scene might be familiar to Hyde students and faculty, the accompanying illustration is so incongruous to their experience that they have uniformly wondered if the drawing was intended to apply to another article in the magazine. (For one thing, any Hyde student would tell the kid in the front, “No hats in the building!”)
In examining the Hyde “ship,” Traub’s bias (that is, school = classroom) prevented him from setting foot into its powerful engine room: the Hyde Family Education Program. Hyde’s 40-year trial-and-error quest to discover the best way to develop character has led us to our most significant discovery: good teaching will invariably lose out to poor parenting. The dynamics within our families can either catapult us to personal greatness or chain us to desperate dysfunction. Traub’s decision to disregard Hyde’s family education program prevented him from seeing what makes the place tick.
While Hyde’s holistic balance of academics, character, and family is undoubtedly at odds with Mr. Traub’s preferences, Traub misleads the reader when he suggests that Hyde has abandoned academic requirements for graduation. Our enterprising culture did indeed lead us to a brief flirtation with this notion in our earliest days. However, stringent traditional requirements have been in place for more than 30 years.
I must strenuously object to at least two examples of the writer’s tendency toward broad-brush characterizations. His depiction of the members of the Hyde community as “wounded souls” is both inaccurate and unfair. Character development is good for both wounded souls and confident ones. Both can be found at Hyde. He also goes way over the line in claiming that the “Hyde content” has been drained out of Hyde-New Haven. Suffice it to say that Mr. Traub neither visited the school nor spoke with anyone who works there.
The mathematician would categorize as “necessary but not sufficient” his reference to Hyde as a family “caste.” To be sure, the Gauld family has long had a heavy hand in the leadership of Hyde. However, Mr. Traub fails to mention that three of Hyde’s four schools are led by individuals with no familial ties to the Gaulds. There are no family members on Hyde’s board of governors, the authority to which all four of those teams report.
Pointing to our 100 percent college acceptance rate at Hyde-DC (all four schools combined annually attain 98 percent), Traub seems begrudging when he offers that we “must be doing something right.” We offer him a standing invitation to take a hard look at our “engine room” should he want to discover the nature of that something.
President, Hyde Schools
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