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Peter Gow ’68 Shares Insight on New Guiding Principles for Schools by Nina Barone On Jan. 29, Peter Gow ’68 returned to Nichols for the first time in nearly 50 years to share his experiences with academic scheduling in independent schools. After graduating from Nichols, Peter earned his degrees from Yale University and Brown University. He began his independent school teaching career in 1974, and has been at Beaver Country Day in Chestnut Hill, Mass., since 1980, currently serving as the Director of College Counseling. Having occupied various roles at the school, Peter is well versed in all aspects of the independent school environment. While at School, Peter met with faculty, members of the Administrative Cabinet and the Board of Trustees to discuss ways to strengthen the School and continue to create a unified community. He said the opportunity to visit his alma mater gave him the chance to rediscover his old School. He shared the following words with the Board of Trustees: “It was a Golden Age in Buffalo, but it was even more importantly the height of the first golden age for American independent schools. The great boarding schools of the East were blossoming as they enrolled the children of the fast-growing upper and upper-middle classes. It was the heyday of the great urban day schools, too, in cities across the nation. Imitating the architecture and programs of the boarding schools, their mullioned windows and Ivy League- and Seven Sisters-educated faculties produced an education as solid as that available in any boarding school, and their graduates were to be found in all the most prestigious universities. You didn’t have to go to St. Paul’s or Andover to win admission to Yale or Princeton or Miss Porter’s to get into Radcliffe or Smith when a Nichols or a 12

Nichols School

University School or a Hockaday or a Laurel was around the corner… We talk today about curriculum, but in that era, school was about courses taught by men and women of sterling character and great educational attainments. The focus was on strong foundations in Classical and European history and literature, what

are now the lower levels of mathematics, and a dose of foreign language, Classical and modern. In time, higher levels of mathematics and some serious science worked their way into the programs, but in many cases these things paled beside the importance of merely being taught by powerful, often remote but still charismatic, teachers… My grandfather [Peter Gow, Jr.] appears to have been a fine example of that breed of teacher, a formidable taskmaster in the classroom who was held in awe and reverence by his students, one of whom

happened to be Philip M. B. Boocock, later Head of Nichols. My grandfather loved his students, and they him, but it was an affection seldom expressed openly. When I passed through Nichols 40-some years ago, this Golden Age was juddering to a halt. The ideals of the post-World War II educational meritocracy had finally taken hold, and colleges like Yale were rejecting the notion of more or less universal admission based on legacy or selective prep school enrollment; no longer could Nichols or Choate or Miss Porter’s guarantee most of their graduates access to the most prestigious universities—test scores and grades, personal qualities, and extracurricular attainments would begin to matter more than bloodlines. The curriculum at schools like Nichols hadn’t changed much (although the sciences in my day were quite advanced), and neither had the notion that a good college degree and well-muscled forearms (a signal characteristic of many of my teachers here) were the requisites of fine teaching. Students and the world at large were about to challenge all that… By 1974, all the Ivy League colleges and a host of others had “gone coed”—the phrase itself implies a descent, or at least a departure from the established path. Even Nichols was coeducational. All the certainties and assumptions that had long comforted students, parents and educators in independent schools seemed to be gone. Students seemed to be questioning everything, and as young teachers we were caught up in the uncertainty. How I stuck to it through my years teaching in several different schools in the 70s I do not know, but somehow I did. …I’ve been away from here a while, and Nichols has more than caught up with

Summer 2009  

Summer 2009 Toaxnoes

Summer 2009  

Summer 2009 Toaxnoes