If you read you will succeed. Take a look it’s in a book. Reading is FUNdamental. These are all true statements. The more you read, the more you’ll know about the world. And the more successful you’re likely to be.
But reading’s greatest benefit is that it gives you a richer inner life. It forces you to see more than is really there. Sure, it helps your brain know more facts about the world, but it also helps your heart understand what those facts might mean.
You have something to say. We know that everyone in this class is an expert on a variety of topics. We know everyone in this class lives with passion. And we know that everyone in this class has the ability to find their voice to move people to action.
While it may be easier for powerful people to find their voice, I believe that each of you can as well. And when you do, you’ll find that you can’t just go through life accepting it as is. You’ll be compelled to change it. And when you use your strong, passionate, insightful voice in concert with others, you’ll be able to do it.
My dramatic daughter told us a story about the time she fell on the ground and “all the ants in the world climbed on me.” That reminded me of reading E.O. Wilson say that the biomass of the all the ants in the world was equal to that of all humans.
That means that if you put all the ants in the world on one side of a seesaw and all the humans on the other they would balance out. Other scientists disagree and say there’s no way the tiny ant can equal the much, much bigger human.
But like most BIG QUESTIONS, this is not something we can know for sure (do you have a really big teeter-totter?). All we can do is create a good method for investigating the question and then decide how likely it is to be true.
We live in a ready-made world. Things are given to us and we use them until they break, never bothering to ask what’s inside or if we can fix it ourselves.
I hope that changes this year. I hope we learn to ask questions about how things work, why they work, and how we can make them work better (or at least in a different way). I hope we learn to take things apart, look at their guts, and repurpose those innards to create something, rather than just consume it.
Because most things in life don’t work in just one “right” way. The world is sitting there waiting for us to recreate it in our own vision.
We need you to build the future. We need you to figure out new ways to power our lives and feed, move, and house our growing population. To do that, you need to have a lot of knowledge. You need to know how we do these things now, how we’ve done them in the past. You need to know if solutions may work and why.
But you also have to be brave enough to try to do things in new way. You have the opportunity to imagine a better future and make it a reality. But if you only do what’s always been done, the future will be no different from the past.
Our classroom expectations have three levels: Do it right. Do it well. Do it with passion and compassion.
The first level is the easiest. It just means to follow procedures correctly. It means to make sure your work is all turned in. It means to be at school on time everyday. That’s easy! When you do it right, you make sure our learning community works.
The second level is a little bit more difficult. It means you’re making sure you’re always doing your best job on every assignment. It means you follow the rules even when no one is looking. When you do it well, you make yourself the best person you can be.
Doing it with passion and compassion is a bit trickier. It means you feel compelled to not only do your best but to help others do their best as well. When you do it with passion and compassion, you help every single classmate be the best person they can be.
Having big ideas about the world requires bravery. It’s easy to believe what everyone else believes. It’s easy to go along with the crowd. It’s easy to accept the world as it comes to you. Sometimes having big ideas means you disagree with friends and family. Sometimes having big ideas can be lonely.
But you’ll only ever change the world with your own ideas. And the world is always ready for the next big idea to change it.
We teach you to read, write, and problem solve because we want you to have big ideas about the world. You learn history and science because they are the stories of big ideas. How did the universe begin? Why do people do the things they do? These are some big ideas.
Big ideas are in stories and poems. People have had big ideas throughout history. When they have really, really big ideas, they write them down because it’s nearly impossible not to want to share your big idea.
You can survive in the world without big ideas, but you can’t be human without them.
I always enjoy talking with your families. It’s so much fun to get to know more about you, and it reminds me that you’re all way more than just students: you’re daughters, sons, brothers, cousins, and, most of all, people.
Thank you to all of you who came to conferences with your families, and I look forward to seeing more of you this afternoon.
The end of the school year is a good time to think about the future. Yesterday we read about some possible jobs in the future–drone engineer, aging specialist, water harvester. Today we’ll read a science fiction story about one author’s vision of the future.
When authors tell stories about the future, what they’re really talking about is how we live right now. By moving our lives to the future, we get to see our beliefs and actions in a new light. Sometimes, that makes them look silly, but it always forces us to reexamine them. Is what we believe true? Will it be true in the future? How can we tell.
Literature is really good about making us ask these questions.