James K. Scott ’70

President’s Desk: Our Compass During Uncertainty

Our country has emerged from a national election that resulted in the current climate of ongoing political divisiveness and general uncertainty.

As educators, we have a responsibility to our students, their families and our communities. We are entrusted with shaping the intellectual, social and emotional lives of children who carry our hopes for a better world into their futures. This requires our careful attention to the ways in which our thoughts, actions, gestures and even tone of voice send a message about the values that define our school, and what we aspire to model for the next generation.

At a recent Punahou student and faculty panel discussion entitled “Good Teaching in a Divided Country,” participants voiced a range of perspectives in dealing with the strong and sometimes conflicting opinions that our school community is experiencing. But one thing was clear during that discussion: Respect for each other and being open to respectful dialogue are fundamental to fostering a school climate of trust and safety required for students to thrive. It also ensures appropriate civil discourse.

We are a community of learners that values the many ways one can live a meaningful life. We believe that each child has unique gifts that we can help them to discover, develop and share with the world – which is why the diversity of perspectives and experiences available at Punahou is so critically important. There is no single journey through this school, just as there is no single definition of success upon leaving it. Educating our children means cultivating their capacity to think critically, to ask good questions, to empathize and communicate with others, and to apply their learning to the world around them in meaningful ways. We strive to empower our students to discover what is true for them, to reach their own authentic conclusions, and to pursue their life with conviction and passion.

Times of uncertainty are often the most important moments for us to re-examine and test our core values. While our school community is committed to cultivating an atmosphere that welcomes thoughtful dialogue and disagreement, we must also remain rooted within our guiding principles.

Punahou’s mission, which has stood the test of time longer than many American institutions, affirms the worth and dignity of each individual. Our vision frames the environment needed to help students reach their full potential. The Aims of a Punahou Education articulate specific skills and capacities to equip students with critical and flexible thinking, and a questioning attitude – while calling them to a life of compassion and engaged citizenship.

These values can be reinterpreted by each generation, but they must be upheld. They provide us with a clear vision of the learning environment we seek to nurture, and with a compass to guide us.

James K. Scott ’70

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