The Pegasus School
Issue 14/Spring 2018
Pegasus Magazine Spring 2018
05 HEADâ€™S MESSAGE
08 OVEREXPOSED AND UNDER SCRUTINY
06 AT THE HEART OF PEGASUS
14 POP GOES THE BUBBLE 12 CHANGING THE CONVERSATION: PREPARING STUDENTS FOR LIFE, 20 WE DON'T TALK THE WAY NOT COLLEGE WE USED TO 24 PLAYING THE WHOLE FIELD 26 COLLEGE CRAZED 28 HONING IN ON THE HOMEWORK CONUNDRUM 30 THOSE WHO SOAR 32 ALUMNI CONNECTIONS 2
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SPRING 2018 www.thepegasusschool.org
Nancy Conklin, Director of Admission Rick Davitt, Photographer Jennifer DeGrave, Director of Advancement Karla Joyce, Writer Jason Lopez, Head of School Shalini Mattina, Director of Communications and Marketing Marrie Stone, Writer Nancy Wilder, Middle School English Teacher WRITERS
Benjamin Jenkins Karla Joyce Jason Lopez Marrie Stone CONTRIBUTING WRITERS
Ginny Allhusen Jessica Brennan Dustan Bridges Nancy Fries Carin Meister Julia Ostmann Daniel Patterson CREATIVE AND ART DIRECTION
The story of Pegasus begins with intellectual curiosity and compassion. We are a vibrant academic community that inspires bright, motivated students to discover and develop their unique gifts. Teachers and students build trusting relationships that foster self-reliance, confidence, and innovative thinking. A Pegasus education equips students to achieve future academic success and make a positive impact on society.
Sund Studio PHOTOGRAPHER
Rick Davitt PRINTING
Responsibility Kindness Teamwork Generosity Creativity Curiosity Courage Integrity Perseverance
PORTRAIT OF A GRADUATE
Academically Confident Well Balanced Critical Thinker Exceptional Communicator Collaborative Leader Responsible Citizen Environmentally Conscious Technologically Adept Economically Astute Versed in the Arts Globally Aware
Orange County Printing Pegasus Magazine is published annually by the Office of Advancement at The Pegasus School. It is archived on the schoolâ€™s website: thepegasusschool.org. Visit us online for additional information and supplemental videos. We welcome your feedback! Please address queries and comments to Shalini Mattina at email@example.com.
Pegasus Magazine Spring 2018
When little people are overwhelmed by big emotions, it’s our job to share our calm, not to join their chaos.” – L.R. Knost
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Even during the best of times, under the best of circumstances, childhood can be stressful. Mine was no exception. When I was in first grade, I tested into the gifted program, and my mother decided this was the best path. She was right—her choice afforded me the highest quality education my family could access, as well as many other things I didn’t yet understand. It also meant I couldn’t attend my local school. I bused, every day, miles away from home, from my brother, from all my neighborhood friends. I spent my days among strangers, outside my comfort bubble, not knowing why. A fish out of water knows he’s out of water, whether he’s told or not. I encountered all the socio-economic and cultural discriminations of the 1970s, being one of those kids who came from “down the hill.” In the end, in addition to receiving a wonderful education that stimulated my lifelong love of learning, I also developed resilience, autonomy, and the perspective that comes from looking at the world from a different point of view. Today I’m fortunate to observe our own teachers at work in their classrooms, making hundreds of their own difficult decisions every day. In many ways—with the influence of technology, social media, world affairs, and the increasing pressures of our competitive global markets—their challenges are far more complex than they were 40 years ago. I believe this is one of the many things that sets a Pegasus education apart—in addition to receiving a robust academic experience, our teachers and administrators don’t shy away from the tough topics that, in the end, will have a lasting impact. Our faculty prepares students not only for the educational challenges that lie ahead of them, but also the life challenges. Students learn how to manage anxiety, homework, and athletics. They’re given skills that teach them how to talk to each other, and how to listen to each other. They’re provided the perspective to know when to stress, and not stress, about their future. In this issue of the Pegasus Magazine, we explore these larger questions and life-lessons that Pegasus alumni report is the true essence of a Pegasus education, and we lean into the reality that life has become more complicated. In the pages that follow, we’ve chosen to highlight many of these challenging topics. You’ll hear how our teachers are introducing the rigor required of civil discourse. You’ll discover the communication techniques
our teachers employ, and how they’re managing the many unknowns of technology. You’ll find out how they’re balancing the great homework debate, and gain insight into what our coach thinks about childhood athletics. You’ll get a glimpse of the changing experiences and perceptions of Pegasus parents, students, and alumni as their education has progressed. The Pegasus Magazine is another valuable piece of our story, inviting our community to join us in thinking critically, with an open mind. The articles within ask you to consider these difficult issues, and to be collaborative partners in education. During these challenging times, children need our calm guidance and our steadfast belief in them. They need to know, as Daniel Patterson tells us, their best is good enough. We hope this edition both inspires you and challenges you, along with your children, to be lifelong learners. And we hope you’ll continue supporting our mission to maintain this dynamic environment where bright minds soar.
Jason Lopez Head of School
Pegasus Magazine Spring 2018
Heart Of Pegasus
Kickball in His Dress Shoes
Every spring, the faculty takes on the entire fifth grade in an intense game of kickball. Because some of us are old and out of shape, we rely on our star player, BEN JENKINS, to bring home the championship. And while he typically arrives to work as the Associate Director of Advancement in a pressed suit, Jenkins is always willing to roll up his sleeves and find a way to bond with students. The students don’t love his home run kicks, but they love Mr. Jenkins. While Jenkins’ central role in Advancement is coordinating events and alumni relations, making connections with current students is one of his top priorities and greatest gifts. As an eighth-grade advisor, Jenkins chaperones a weeklong Grand Canyon trip where he focuses on learning about his advisees. Through the advisory program, Jenkins has made a lasting impression on students such as eighth-grader Reagan Smith who says, “Mr. Jenkins just wants us to have a safe, fun, open place to talk about anything and vent. He always respects our different points of view and really seems to care about our lives.” This bond helps him stay better connected to our students as he reaches out to them post-graduation through alumni events.
All Heart If you are a Pegasus student, eighth grader ARIANE REDNOUR, affectionately known by faculty and peers alike as “Ari,” is the student you want to captain your team, sit beside you in class, or call your best friend. From the moment she arrived at Pegasus in 2010, she had clearly found the right place. She was kind, motivated, helpful, and . . . asked A LOT of questions. Innately curious about everything, the questions did not relent until she had a satisfactory answer. She was persistent. Over the years, Ari’s persistence and work ethic, which she attributes to her parents’ example, have paid off. In middle school, she’s been a distinguished honor roll recipient each semester and has earned multiple academic awards. From middle school soccer to the Algalita program, Ari has also participated in a variety of Pegasus programs. Her varied Pegasus activities and academic achievement made Ari a natural choice for our student ambassador program where she has used her sincerity and eloquence to engage with prospective families and advocate for our school. James Swiger, eighth-grade social studies teacher, recognizes these strengths: 6
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For Jenkins, one of the highlights of planning these events is witnessing the longlasting connections among faculty and students. It is this connected community that Jenkins says brought him to Pegasus in the first place. While Jenkins has lived much of his life in other parts of the U.S., including New Mexico and Rhode Island where he was raised by his educator parents, the West Coast is more in line with who Jenkins is—an outdoorsy, outgoing, affable guy who is always willing to play kickball in his dress shoes.
“I love how thoughtful words and deeds are simply a natural part of Ari and how she makes all those around her feel special, important, and welcomed. Never a day goes by when I don’t see Ari passing around smiles and optimism.” But truly, what Ari is best known for is her kind heart. Her love for animals has not wavered since her lower school days, and she currently volunteers at the SoCal Mini Horse Sanctuary, where formerly mistreated horses learn to trust humans. Chressa Fancher, third-grade teacher and fellow animal lover, notes, “Ari continues to be that compassionate, gracious, and curious little girl that I grew to adore in my third grade class. She still loves, wonders, and cares with all her heart.”
If You Plant a Seed If You Plant a Seed by Kadir Nelson illustrates how seeds of kindness can spread throughout a community, rewarding all. If ever a book represented a family’s ethos, this one belongs to the Trimble family. OLIVIA (6) AND BRITON (7) TRIMBLE gravitate to playtime traditions: building, inventing, and digging in the dirt. What sets them apart is their extraordinary commitment to kindness. But while the Trimbles share empathy, it was a summertime lemonade stand that further sparked a series of kindnesses. The stand wasn’t a summer time whim, but a thoughtful, deliberate service project benefiting Human Options. With help from their parents, Olivia and Briton constructed the stand and distributed flyers detailing the organization’s commitment to addressing domestic violence. An afternoon on the strategically selected 18th hole of a golf course resulted in a $1000 donation. At day’s end, the pair didn’t want to stop because they “were having so much fun helping others.” That lemonade stand was just the beginning. Heartened by the intrinsic reward that comes from helping others, this dynamic duo identified additional avenues to
spread their kindness. This fall, Briton used his birthday gathering to pack 74 bags full of games and puzzles for Children’s Hospital Orange County. CHOC was not chosen randomly—Briton’s friend, Alexander, has been treated there for cancer. After his most recent chemotherapy, Alexander faced the frightening prospect of losing his hair. To bolster his friend’s courage, Briton shaved his own head in an act of love and solidarity deeply appreciated by Alexander and his family. The Trimbles’ next act? Their passion for gardening gave them the idea to sell seeds and donate the profits. Once again, these extraordinary children will scatter seeds of kindness knowing they’ll receive full hearts and a strengthened community in return.
A Ticket, a Bass, and a Bank Loan A one-way ticket, a bass guitar, and a small bank loan. This was all BRIAN CULLEN, our current Board Chair, possessed when he arrived at John Wayne airport shortly after surviving a major car accident in Greece. The accident was a turning point and prompted him to take advantage of a visa lottery, leaving behind a network of beloved friends and relatives in Dublin to take a chance in California. From his entrepreneurial kin, Cullen learned risk-taking and industry; his brother and father developed a hugely successful gourmet jelly bean company in the family kitchen. This example coupled with his educational experiences contributed to Cullen’s later professional success. Those early years in the U.S. would prove fruitful. Cullen would become CFO of an environmental company and marry Teri, his wife of almost 20 years. The travelloving couple would soon welcome two daughters and Brian would become president of the water infrastructure company where he has worked for the last 17 years. When the time came to select a school for daughter, Linda, the Cullens chose Pegasus for its challenging environment, wellrounded curriculum, and strong sense of community. Over the past ten years, Cullen has found “the giving of time, expertise, and donations uniquely shows how all families are dedicated to
this wonderful school.” While youngest daughter, Jenny, graduates this spring, Cullen will continue to serve as Board Chair to “help transfer the legacy of Pegasus to the next generation of Pegasus trustees.” A board member since 2014, Cullen acknowledges how rewarding his work has been. Because of the many hours he dedicates to the Pegasus community, the reward is also ours. Teacher Amy Weiss notes: “Brian truly looks out for the best interest of the Pegasus students. It makes me so happy to have him at the helm because I know he will listen and do great things to make our wonderful community even better.” Carin Meister is The Pegasus School’s librarian and proud mother of Cate (’18), Reese (’20), and Sloane (’26). She is always in search of the next best read and a reason to wear a costume. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org Pegasus Magazine Spring 2018
Under Scrutiny How Today’s Technology is Impacting Tomorrow’s World Jessica Brennan
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Has your child recently indulged in “electronic cocaine” or “digital heroin”? Comparing technology with drugs may feel extreme, though some recent brain imaging research suggests that screen time affects the brain's frontal cortex in ways similar to cocaine. From the physiological effects to the truth about educational technology, our community needs to face some serious realities. The digital world evolves rapidly, and we’re playing a dangerous undefined role in guiding our youth through the world of infinite information. The Proof is in the Research Although we may be inclined to roll our eyes at extreme terms like “electronic cocaine” or “digital heroin,” relating technology with addiction isn’t far-fetched. Our devices raise levels of the feel-good neurotransmitter dopamine, a major contributor to addiction. Moreover, the U.S. military conducted a study on video game pain management. Burned combat victims played a virtual reality game, foregoing their typical large doses of morphine for daily wound care. Throwing snowballs at cartoon penguins in the game “Snow World” provided relief to the soldiers as they “felt no pain” during their screen time. Is there a similar chemical imbalance occurring in our kids as they text, “like” posts, or watch YouTube videos? Although screen time isn’t a physical substance we consume, our bodies are internally affected and respond much like substance abusers. Adults also report children with aggressive temper tantrums, wandering attention spans, bored, apathetic and uninterested behaviors when not plugged in. Recent studies also show that screen time contributes to gray matter atrophy, or the shrinking or loss of tissue in brain regions associated with processing. This is particularly true in children. Deterioration in these areas negatively affects executive functioning, planning, organizing, impulse control, empathy, compassion, task performance, ability to sleep and more. Much of this loss or impairment occurs in the frontal lobe—the part of the brain that “largely determines success in every area of life,” says Dr. Dunckley in Psychology Today,” From a sense of well-being to academic or career success to relationship skills.” Screen time alters the brain development of our children, even in “regular” amounts of exposure. Voices from Our Campus Two Pegasus eighth-grade students, Nikki Swenson and Matthew Salerno, opened up about technology. Matt mentioned he'd “feel left out” if asked to relinquish his device for 24 hours, because he “likes knowing what's going on, and it makes it easier to talk to people.” Nikki also mentions that she keeps in contact with her friends via group chats. According to Common Sense Media, 78% of teens
check their devices at least hourly and 72% of teens feel the need to immediately respond to texts, social networking messages and other notifications. This instantaneous information flow causes a dependency on devices. With accessibility to unlimited information come side effects. Carin Meister says, “Every morning, I arrive at the library to about 10 children at of teens feel the need to the door who immediately respond want to get on to texts, social networking the computer and messages and other notifications. play games.” As school librarian, she faces a pedagogical battle of balancing books with electronics. “We talk all the time about the number of tabs to be open. It is so easy to switch to another tab and be off task,” says Meister. “That's hard as a teacher. You're trying to engage them, but up against this outside force that we weren't use to having.” This creates an additional curriculum that teachers need to address on top of current units of study. Nancy Wilder, eighth-grade English teacher, also notes “because information is at students' fingertips, there's less wondering, being able to sit, wonder and dream.” She continues to elaborate that due to the immediacy of information, our children aren’t challenged to think or imagine for themselves. Students’ need for instant gratification shows a lack of patience. The rate of ADHD rose by over 50% in the past 10 years. While over-diagnosis and family dynamics may contribute to that rise, some researchers point at the hyper-stimulating digital content that schools use to engage students. Dr. Nicholas Kardaras, an addiction expert, clarifies, “The more a child is stimulated, the more that child needs to keep getting stimulated in order to hold their attention.” Most adults recall school field trips, getting their hands dirty, or visualizing a beautiful story read in a book. Sarah Thorne, head of London Acorn School, says, “School is a learning journey and you want to make it as complex, rich and interesting as possible. The problem with instant information is that the ease with which you can get from A to B and find the answers doesn't reflect real life.”
Pegasus Magazine Spring 2018
The rate of ADHD rose over in the past 10 years.
Competing in the Technological Arms Race Although technology has shown some negative impacts on learning, teachers identify its many advantages in the classroom. With quick access to content, various ways to engage students in the material with apps, digital textbooks, and interactive whiteboards, the advantages are indisputable. Just this year, some Pegasus classrooms introduced interactive whiteboards, allowing teachers to capture student interest by physically interacting with the content during lessons. In addition, students with access to one-to-one devices can collaborate outside of school on group assignments. We fear children will fall behind if we don't involve technology early and often. Don't fret about your little ones being “left behind” in the technology arms race. Even Silicon Valley tech executives and engineers limit their own children’s access. According to Business Insider, technology moguls Steve Jobs and Bill Gates both limited their children's time on the very products they helped create. They also said no to cell phones until the early teenage years. Gates recognizes that technology should be useful for a student's educational development, not as entertainment. Finland, a leading country in education, should also ease our competitive minds. The country rejects screens in the classroom. As a “Finnish-style” school creator, Debra Lambrecht best states, “It is true that most children will
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use technology in their jobs and everyday life. It is also true that most children will learn to drive a car. Certainly, we would not give a 7-year-old child the car keys to give them a jump-start to be a more skillful driver. In the same way, we want to ensure children can effectively use technology as a tool and will bring all of their best thinking, creativity, and innovation to bear.” Let’s not allow fear of falling behind to camoflauge rationality. Modeling is Mentoring How do we support our children to balance reality and the digital world? For starters, let's remember Bandura's Social Learning Theory, summed up as “monkey see, monkey do.” Our kids are watching how much time we engage with technology. Validating our actions with “checking work emails,” is equivalent to our children playing online math games. In a Commonsense Media survey of 8- to 13-year-olds, 54 percent of children felt that their parents checked their devices too often, and 32 percent of children felt unimportant when their parents were distracted by their phones. These statistics are eye-opening to many adults, as we cling to our own devices while pointing the finger at our youth for a common vice. Fortunately or unfortunately, our children will be exposed to technology for the rest of their lives, and our monitoring can go only so far. We will not always be in the
of children felt unimportant when their parents were distracted by their phones.
Working Together to Achieve a Common Goal With the rapid evolution of technology, many haven't taken time to create clear expectations for the family's media use. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) outlines recommendations for screen time according to each development level. They recommend that children 2-to 5-years-old limit screen time to one-hour per day of “high-quality programs,” co-viewed with the parents. For children 6 years and older, consistent limits should be room checking placed on time spent using media and technology. AAP of children felt that their search also strongly encourages families to designate mediatheir parents checked history, or their devices too often. free times together, such as dinner or driving, along placing filters with media-free locations at home, such as bedrooms. on their search Resources such as www.healthychildren.org can help engines. It's inevitable that our youth will come families develop a media plan for each member of your across mature content. Even our own technology household and provides resources to promote online department at Pegasus this year has taken specific citizenship and safety. measures to protect students against mature content. Seventh-grade social studies teacher and Pegasus Students won't always be on the Pegasus Wi-Fi. parent of three, Amy Weiss asserts, “Bottom line, there Just as we've taught our children to choose appropriate has to be a partnership between home and school. It's not books from the local library, talked about enough. I'd like to get back to a culture we need to provide our that we had before, where it's better to be a person of teens check youth with the skills and who wonders rather than a person who knows.” their devices at response strategies when So, how do we get our students back to the least hourly. faced with difficult web basics of imagination, creativity, resilience, and content. Meister puts wonder? Kardaras suggests we provide children her Pegasus parent hat on when she illuminates, with Legos instead of Minecraft, books instead of “What (students) learn on the playground isn't iPads, nature and sports instead of TV, and save the filtered. What we want them to do is talk to a growndevices until they’re at least ten years old (others up. The more comfortable they are to talk about a topic, recommend 13). Rather than discussing whether the safer they will feel.” schools should be Apple Distinguished, Microsoft When Salerno and Swenson reminisced about who Showcased, or multiplatform schools, let’s take a step taught them digital citizenship, both referred to the back. We need to clearly define our partnered role caring adults in their life. Matt further explained that between parents and educators to best support our he remembered Mr. Crabtree (Lower School Pegasus children in the technology world — this path will lead Computer Science Teacher) told him in third grade to their discovery of society’s next best innovations. that “you should never post something online that you don't want your grandmother to see.” With a chuckle, Jessica Brennan is a Pegasus fourth-grade teacher and Salerno continued to say that he still lives by this motto coaches various Developmental Soccer League (DSL) teams. today, with his grandmother as one of his most dedicated Contact: email@example.com followers on social media. Pegasus Magazine Spring 2018
Clarify what you want for your child. If the answer is happiness and autonomy, I encourage you to pivot.
Changing the Conversation:
Preparing Students for
Life, not College
The line separating supportive parents from helicopter parents can be blurry. Especially when students are young. How do we help children succeed today, prepare for tomorrow, and remain happy and balanced? We want to give our children all the opportunities in the world. But, to them, those opportunities can often feel like burdens. Not enough support—you’ve failed as a parent; too much support— students never achieve autonomy and independence. There is no judgment here, only a charge to examine our norms in an effort to decrease academic anxiety and increase authentic student success. Even elementary school can be stressful. For many parents, fear sets in early. Is their child’s classroom experience enough? Is the program giving them everything they need to succeed in the future? Is there an alternative that will make them more competitive? If college is a zero-sum game, no time is too early to gain an edge. How often do we hear:
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What classes does your son have? How are they doing in math? Oh, you have Mrs. So-and-So, then you’re gonna need a tutor. If you want them to get into Trendy-Prep-School, you better make sure they take This-Really-Hard-Class. This worry soon turns into shotgun scheduling — piling up an arsenal of experiences, resume builders and academic interventions. With each new line item added, paternal anxiety subsides, while child anxiety increases. Supplemental activities—club sports, tutors, strength coaches, private music teachers, or outside academic classes—can improve a child’s intellectual capacity and potential. After all, there’s nothing more dangerous than children with too much free time on their hands. However, as other parents add activities for their own children, anxieties resurface. A second opportunity is added to the docket. And a third. And so on. This ultimately results in another childhood danger: overextension.
Academic overextension emphasizes (or values) being busy — and associates busy with success. Therein lies the problem. Our educational norms have placed a disproportionate value on the product, and not enough value on the process. The product is merely a list of markers: report cards, test scores, IQ tests, and reading levels. It functions on the fuel of extrinsic motivation. The process, on the other hand, consists of abilities: work-ethic, values, communication skills, routine, trial and error. It functions on the fuel of intrinsic motivation. The product defines what a child is, whereas the process defines who they are. The same anxieties that impact parents also affect students. Adolescents are highly sensitive beings, and often use peers as barometers to measure their own value. What classes do you have? What grades do you have? What team did you make? What score did you earn? What’s your GPA? These are common peer-to-peer questions, but get asked largely because of learned behavior. Would they ask such questions, with such fervor, if they didn’t constantly hear it from the adults in their lives? In short, no. You cannot change society, but you can change the conversation. •
A crucial first step in changing the conversation is to first clarify what you want for your child. If the answer is happiness and autonomy, I encourage you to pivot. Measure success and growth through the lens of the process. Focus on implementing a solid read-eat-sleep-play-laugh ratio. Your child’s current performance is not an accurate indicator of their future potential. And you’ll never discover that potential by exhausting them. As opposed to adding another obligation or academic resource to the table, work in the opposite direction and try removing one. Sometimes, with children, less is more. The next crucial step is to slow down. Go slow to go far. Imagine the process of honing authentic knowledge and talent to that of laying a foundation for a home. Of course, you can produce a beautiful house of cards if you pay little attention to the integrity of your foundation. Curating sustainable knowledge and talent is not a sprint; it’s a marathon. And the magic is in the pace. Before you add a supplemental math class, for example, evaluate if the step intends to foster your child’s innate curiosity for math, or to check a perceived box on sociallynormed must do list.
The last step, easily the hardest, is to insulate yourself from the reality of others. Not to be confused with isolation, insulation is an imaginary buffer built to thwart reactions not best suited for your child. The reality of other families is not yours, nor your child’s. Only take the steps necessary to help your unique child reach her unique potential. If something external will help bridge the gap between your child’s performance and his capability, it may make sense to pursue it. But if it’s being done merely because the child next door is doing it, rethink your strategy. Grades, extracurriculars, social connections, all of it—your child is not someone else, despite anyone’s efforts to change that fact.
Academic anxiety thrives on the principles of trickle-down economics — and we should work to stop the flow from parent to child. This alone will stunt the epidemic. Okay, guy, you’re telling me to cut it all out? Stop the tutors, the sports, the music? No, I’m simply asking you to assess the who before the what of your child before adding another activity. As a realist, and former teacher/administrator at a highly competitive high school in Orange County, I’ve seen good intentions crumble. Teenagers lose their internal drive. They’re devoid of grit. They lack the independent critical thinking skills commensurate with rigorous curriculum. They spend unending hours training for sports they hate and, without fail, they blame their parents for the aforementioned. So, as you approach tomorrow—focus less on tangible supports, and more on the intangibles of reassurance, belief, patience and acceptance. Your child, after all, is not a resume, they are a person. And people matter most. Daniel Patterson is a former teacher/ administrator turned author, advocate and educational-centered coach. Contact: daniel@ pattersonperspective.com
Pegasus Magazine Spring 2018
P P Goes the Bubble
Geopolitical events are streaming, without filter, to younger and younger audiences. Opinion dominates the airwaves. Decorum is dead. Welcome to the world, kids. Our decision to discuss extreme rhetoric and partisan hostility in this issue of Pegasus Magazine is embedded with risk and requires (in election-speak) frontloading. The subject, by its nature, taps into the ideological tribalism that quietly divides even us, the Pegasus community. It is my duty, both as writer and role-model to my daughters, to present unbiased commentary; our teachers are held to the same standard. The reason weâ€™ve decided to tackle this subject is because...we canâ€™t not. Name-calling, profanity, and SHOUTING is threatening to inhibit genuine debate and, as a result, critical, independent thinking. Even at Pegasus. And, that is the ultimate risk.
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Bubbles exist for good reason. In the weeks after birth, babies are susceptible to infection because their immune systems aren’t fully functional. So, we keep them home. Following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, studies revealed that young children had developed acute stress reactions from cumulative exposure to media coverage of the event. The Journal of Pediatrics routinely publishes research on the wave-like consequence of trauma —or its mere representation — prior to cognitive, emotional, and social maturity. Banning television on weekdays or keeping computers out of bedrooms has become Flintstone-ian in its thinking, but the urge to bubble-wrap our children or invent implantable, uber-silencing headphones is real. When second graders have cell phones, they are privy to “presidential” tweets. Hours spent like-ing silly selfies in fourth grade is loose cover for amassing “friends” and, by default, their views, their language, and their links. And, by middle school, online exposure, regardless of usage-limitations, delivers an unending, unfiltered deluge of the distressing information, insulting language, and explicit imagery in our world today. Let’s face it: the bubble has popped. Civil Discourse: Oh, How We Took It For Granted A Pew Research Center survey identifies our era as the apex of ideological division in the United States. Was it the election of Donald Trump that triggered it, or more sinister socialmedia algorithms segregating us into like-minded factions? (The jury is split.) Most political scientists agree, however, that the 2016 presidential election itself stands out for an unprecedented level of discord in the political sphere. “There has never been a presidential election where you had such a high negative rating for both presidential candidates and where each candidate was distrusted by such high majorities of Americans,” said Larry Diamond, a Stanford University political science and sociology professor and senior fellow at the Hoover Institute. Faster than a fly, the stumpers’ mudslinging metamorphosed into partisan hyperbole, habitual skepticism, and almost war-like division. The electorate, comprised of legal adults, processed the maelstrom to the best of its ability which, to this day, hasn’t been very adult-like at all. In effect, in 2016, the world came rushing in. Despite every well-meaning effort to keep it at bay, to shield our students to meet developmental readiness, that negativity wormed its way like a noxious gas into the Middle School classrooms of The Pegasus School. “At the beginning of last year,” recalled James Swiger, eighthgrade social studies teacher, “we were noticing that the political and cultural climate in the United States was clearly affecting everyone, including our students here at Pegasus.” (During the
2016-2017 school year, the Middle School social studies team included Amy Weiss, James Swiger, and Jim Conti, teaching sixth, seventh, and eighth graders, respectively.) “Increasingly, we saw people less willing to listen to each other and trying to present their views ‘louder’ than any opposing views.” From the presidential-debate dais to the middle school doorstep, “we were seeing political discussion that included opinionated commentary and, far too often, vitriol.” “That's just not democracy,” said Swiger, Parenting OC’s 2017 Top 25 Teacher of OC winner. “In a democracy, and in a classroom, you should be able to comfortably bring up ideas that challenge others. But it's imperative that all sides of an issue are respectful, avoid bias, use empirical evidence, and be open to new ideas.” Argument itself isn’t out of the norm at this age, he admitted. “And that’s been the beauty of Pegasus Middle School. We have always allowed kids to voice opinions and exercise these social skills in a way that won’t come back to bite them.” Inherent in that success, however, was the ability to filter out—“not censor,” he insisted—the emotional visual components of current events. “We can no longer do that,” Swiger lamented. “They are simply bombarded with media.” He knew he needed to address head-on what they were incidentally seeing and hearing, from tweets to insults to fake news, and give them the tools to process it all prior to developmental readiness. So, he devised a curricular unit on civil discourse. Together, with Conti and Weiss, he intentionally brought the mechanics of democracy into classroom discussions. “I think we were effective,” he said. He even admitted to having his personal opinion influenced by a student’s deeper, attentively-unbiased current event report and the ensuing class discussion. “Exercising civil discourse creates opportunities for us all to get to a better place,” Swiger said. “And that's democracy.” The Illusion of Opinion, Part I: A Moral Matrix While blaming Trump for (fill in the blank) is tempting, it’s not like we woke up the day he formally entered politics and decided to hate each other more. According to Jonathan Haidt, social scientist and author of The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion, it is our own moral psychology that forms the basis of our political choices and deepening disconnection. In other words, tribalism is a basic aspect of human cognition. Haidt insists, however, that the power to evolve within that framework remains in our hands. Long before Trump, Haidt was urging his audiences to “disagree more constructively.” “People need their views challenged and shaken in both political and theological debate if they want to truly grow,” said Haidt at a TED panel discussion two weeks postelection. “It’s so important to avoid the deadening conformity
Pegasus Magazine Spring 2018
of getting stuck in a circle of people where everyone agrees.” But the introduction of disgust into our political discourse has transformed debate. “Disgust is different,” he said. “It paints an ideological opponent as subhuman, morally deformed, satanic. And then, of course, we want nothing to do with them.” (He cited recent speaker expulsions on college campuses as an example of this urge to silence disagreement by simply keeping people away.) Less exposure to different viewpoints can breed epidemic intolerance, Haidt warned through analogy. “We are essentially all trapped in ‘The Matrix.’ Each moral community is a consensual hallucination. And so if you're within the blue matrix, everything's completely compelling that the other side is filled with troglodytes, racists, the worst people in the world. And you have all the facts to back that up. But somebody in the next house from yours is living in a different video game, so they see a different set of facts and different threats to the country. What I've found from the middle, trying to understand both sides, is that both sides are right. There are many threats to this country and each side is constitutionally incapable of seeing them all.” Are we guilty of this as parents? Do our zip codes, friend-circles, or civil associations unconsciously shape our perspectives, or can we still see both sides? Do we espouse critical thinking skills but reinforce consensual hallucination? Do we empathize…not just with the politically-preferred classes of victims but with them, the political other? Do we reach out, listen, and model objectivity? Surely, we try. Unfortunately, even if our self-reflection skills are spot on, the mushrooming use of online algorithms to curate our very exposure is silently censoring contrasting perspectives, blocking other points of view. And the isolation continues.
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The Illusion of Opinion, Part II: Filter Bubbles Shortly after 9/11, a 20-year-old named Eli Pariser created a website calling for a multilateral approach to fighting terrorism. Within two weeks, half a million people had signed on; two months later it merged with MoveOn.org and he ultimately became Executive Director then Director of the organization’s Board of Trustees. A self-proclaimed progressive—“Big surprise,” he joked—Pariser had always been purposeful about maintaining his relationships with conservatives and followed their links and posts on Facebook…“to learn or thing or two.” One day he noticed that the conservatives had disappeared from his Facebook feed. “I was clicking more on my liberal friends' links than on my conservative friends' links so, without consulting me, they were edited out. They just disappeared.” His fascination with algorithmic editing of web content led to his 2011 book, The Filter Bubble, which shows how modern search tools, our filter to the wider world, are returning only those search results it thinks we want to see. As web companies strive to tailor their services (including news and search results) to our personal tastes, Pariser said, there's a dangerous unintended consequence: We get trapped in a "filter bubble" and don't get exposed to information that could challenge or broaden our worldview. “Your filter bubble is your own personal, unique universe of information that you live in online. And what's in your filter bubble depends on who you are, and what you do. But the thing is, you don't decide what gets in and, more importantly, you don't see what gets edited out.” It’s not just Facebook or Google, either. This is sweeping the Web. According to Pariser, “Yahoo News, Huffington Post, the Washington Post, and the New York Times are all
flirting with personalization.” Pariser opened his 2011 TED talk with a chilling statement made by Mark Zuckerberg in response to a reporter: “‘A squirrel dying in your front yard may be more relevant to your interests right now than people dying in Africa.’” (That’s called censorship, kids!) Essentially, Pariser went on to explain, a web that is based on relevance keeps us comfortably cut off from things that are uncomfortable, challenging or important…a.k.a. other points of view. Imagine the ramifications in middle school. Two students, hailing from different matrices, embark on a research paper from their home computers and receive vastly different links, culled from family online behaviors. If there was a time when the nightly news posed a threat to young ears, imagine the volume of stealth ads and algorithmic redirection that occured on our computers after the last presidential election! Pariser, Haidt and Swiger all argue powerfully that this will ultimately prove to be harmful to democracy. Information suppression, moral sequestration, and demonizing rhetoric not only exacerbates the bitterness of the political realm, it seeps freely into our children’s lives. In a strange way, maybe a bubble-free view of this new norm will help students learn to identify groupthink, strive relentlessly for multiple perspectives, and come to recognize that civility applies to the manner in which we debate, not the content of our arguments. Achieving civility cannot be buzz-speak for silencing those pesky dissenters. Meanwhile, technology is continually changing, and human creativity can surely tackle the adverse upshot of progress as it happens; if algorithms can create bias, they can identify it as well. The takeaway from all three is the same, and works for adults and teenagers alike: make friends with people on the opposite side of the political spectrum; engage in honest conversations; create opportunities for mutual listening and consideration and, maybe, lasting friendships. And remember: friends don’t SHOUT.
People need their views challenged and shaken in both political and theological debate if they want to truly grow.
Karla Joyce is an alumni parent, a Board Trustee, and a contributing writer to Pegasus Magazine. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
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Pegasus Magazine Spring 2018
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No matter the world around them, a child’s inner compass should point towards joy. There is time enough for the rest. Time enough for homework, grades, and college. There’s time enough for life to have its way. But there’s little time to be a child—to play, to laugh, to feel carefree. LET THEM HAVE THOSE MOMENTS. Pegasus Magazine Spring 2018
We Don’t Talk The Way We Used To Marrie Stone
How to Help Our Children Communicate Better . . . and Kinder Tell me children weren’t nicer to each other back in the 80s. Well, maybe the 1880s. The 1480s? Every generation believes teenagers today (whenever “today” is) are a new breed of mean. The trend goes back a long way:
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“The children now love luxury. They have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders and chatter in place of exercise.” — A 1907 dissertation discussing youth in ancient times
“I would…that youth would sleep out the rest, for there is nothing in the between but getting wenches with child, wronging the ancientry, stealing, fighting.” — William Shakespeare
“The young are heated by Nature as drunken men by wine.” — Aristotle
Still, imagine Aristotle’s kid with Snapchat. If Shakespeare’s children had been exposed to screaming pundits on news networks all day, surely they would have behaved even worse. There’s always a new study that suggests our situation is becoming more dire, and statistics to support it. Regardless, whether you believe recent statistics or you think nothing has changed since Socrates was doing hemlock shots, we could all use a little help when it comes to putting some “civil” back in our discourse. You Can’t Take the ‘Self’ of out ‘Selfie’ Even for thoughtful and engaged institutions like Pegasus, students are not immune from the influences of the outside world. “It does seem to be getting worse,” says Amy Weiss, seventh-grade social studies teacher and mother of three. “There’s an empathy piece that’s starting to fade with this generation.” Some suggest empathy has been on the wane for some time. A University of Michigan study conducted in 2010 reported that, “Today’s kids are 40% lower in empathy than in 1980. And, in the same 30 years, their narcissism rates have risen 58%.” Psychologists call this the “selfie-syndrome.” Since 2010, with all the additional technological intrusions and political turbulence, those numbers haven’t improved. A more recent survey conducted by KRC Research claims online incivility is up 25% since 2011, with 69% of Americans blaming the internet and social media. Pegasus Magazine Spring 2018
Even if you’re skeptical of studies and a student of color as a representative Today’s kids are 40% surveys, sources closer to home echo spokesperson for their race in class the same message. discussions. lower in empathy Weiss recognizes Pegasus students Students talk about the ways in are still exceptional and continue which they’ve been harmed, or recognize than in 1980, and to be generally kind. But, she comments they’ve made in the past as says, they’re not quite as quick to potentially hurtful. “It’s an eye-opening their narcissism rates take responsibility for their actions, experience for everyone involved,” says have risen 58%. instead couching cruel comments with Swiger. “Minority groups of all kinds have responses like, “I was just kidding” or “I to worry about their surroundings 24/7 in a didn’t mean it.” Weiss says even within the different way than I do. How they’re served in a last five years, she’s noticed the generation as a restaurant; how they’re treated in the classroom; how whole is not quite as respectful as millennial alumni, less they’re viewed in the workplace; how they’re spoken to with willing to take “no” for an answer. She refers to this as the such disrespect on a daily basis. Racism is so layered. It’s far more “Yes, but…” phenomenon (I acknowledge the rule, but I’m prevalent than I ever imagined.” somehow the exception.) The topics extend beyond race to every marginalized group, Microaggressions, too, are on the rise. Defined as “a including oppressive comments based on gender, religion, and comment or action that subtly and often unconsciously sexual identification and orientation. “The multiple identities or unintentionally expresses a prejudiced attitude toward people carry have an exponential impact,” says fourth-grade a member of a marginalized group (such as a racial teacher Kelly Barlow, who also attended the PoCC. “Africanminority),” microaggressions are so inherent in our everyday American girls specifically face challenges in math due to the conversations that Pegasus middle-schoolers almost compounding of their race and their gender.” universally reported being either the recipients or the The point, Barlow says, is to bring awareness to our own offenders, and often both. blind spots, and recognize how our words impact others Eighth-grade social studies teacher James Swiger attended without our even being aware of it. the People of Color Conference (PoCC) last December. “It was transformative for me,” he says. Swiger thought he Providing Academic Context for Aggression was mindful and sensitive to harmful speech, and he wasn’t Swiger says he also uses his social studies curriculum to wrong. But even he admitted to not knowing the depth or give students historical context for harmful labels and complexity of the issues involved. racist remarks. So what are we doing to solve this empathy conundrum? What’s the origin of antisemitism? Where did the litany How are we getting our students to speak civilly again? And of stereotypes about the Jewish culture come from? (Hint: what more can we do? the answer isn’t Hitler.) By giving students the history behind stereotypes—who was served by propagating hatred Cultivating a Culture of Inclusion and fear, and who held the power—they can more easily Aside from the addictive effects of spending much of our disregard propaganda when they hear it, and become time staring at screens, our devices put us into a psychological suspicious of its source. state of passivity. Empathy, as Dr. Michele Borba titles her Barlow incorporates these lessons into her fourth-grade 2016 TED Talk, is a verb. It requires action, engagement, and California Missions unit. “The mission system greatly understanding. The opposite of the iPhone. mistreated the natives in California and brings up issues of Part of Pegasus’s commitment to its students is to foster power and freedom of religion and belief,” says Barlow. “It’s a vibrant and engaged community. To that end, here are a our job to engage [students] in age-appropriate discussions very few of the many direct actions the Pegasus faculty are about what really happened in our history. It's critical they see taking to create a culture of empathy in an effort to reduce history from multiple perspectives.” microaggressions, cruel comments, and aggressive behavior. These skills will help students not only with longstanding stereotypes, but will teach them to see new ones coming, Microaggressions Unit making them more critical thinkers, more responsible This year, following their attendance at the PoCC, Pegasus consumers of media, and more tolerant and engaged citizens. teachers Amy Weiss and James Swiger have woven a Students will also be better equipped when they overhear Microaggressions Unit into the curriculum. Students learn the offensive comments and uncivil discourse, better prepared to differences between overt racism and subtle comments that advocate, and less likely to sit idly by when injustice occurs. either intentionally or unintentionally upset the listener. Examples of racially insensitive microaggressions include: Searching for Teachable Moments “No, where are you really from?” “You don’t act like a normal Swiger and Weiss both say they scan the social horizon for black person.” “You’re really pretty for an Asian.” Or using opportunities to turn uncomfortable confrontations into 22
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teachable moments. When students push the boundaries of the dress code or teachers observe bullying behavior on the playground, Pegasus faculty universally watch for chances— both inside and outside the classroom—to teach. A common comment Barlow overhears: “That’s racist.” It's often said about a completely innocuous thing, like identifying a plant as black, or a crayon as white. Students often worry that even noticing someone is Asian or Latino is racist. “Rather than let this comment go or tell the kids, ‘It's not racist’ or ‘Don't say that,’" says Barlow, “I make a point, no matter of how messy or hard it may be, to make the students stop and think about what they are saying. I've explicitly asked them, ‘What does racist mean? Does simply identifying someone’s race make someone a racist? Why would calling something black or white be racist?’" Barlow says shying away from tough topics propagates confusion in children. “They need the adults in their life to open the conversation,” says Barlow. “I feel strongly that saying nothing at all is the most wrong thing we can say.” Parents as Partners: Education Starts at Home By becoming more engaged partners in their child’s education, parents can reflect and reinforce the lessons they’re learning at Pegasus by practicing them at home. “We’re not getting full buy-in from all our parents,” says Weiss. “And that’s a problem.” To the extent you haven’t already, here are a few things to consider: Model Healthy Communication If you don’t think your children are watching you, think again. Modeling behavior, Swiger says, is the single best way to teach. Every member of the Pegasus faculty is acutely aware of this truth. They make conscious efforts to engage in constructive communication, both with students and with each other, demonstrating what civil discourse, thoughtful discussion and open-mindedness looks like. How you speak to your spouse, with your friends, about your colleagues—know that your children are listening. And they will emulate your style, whatever style you decide that will be. Manage Technology at Home In an interview with Sherry Turkle, author of Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age, comedian Stephen Colbert asked her: “Don’t all these little . . . sips of online connection add up to one big gulp of real conversation?” In a word: no. People are complicated and messy. They have reactions, opinions, and emotions. Online interactions, generally, remove those complications, reducing the other down to a simple stereotype or two-dimensional caricature. Cyberspace also allows us to curate ourselves. We can edit our words, touch up our photos, and sanitize our interactions. Or we can be cruel, saying things we otherwise never would behind the safety of an anonymous screen.
While texting may be easier and more convenient, it’s no substitute for human interaction. We’ll never get to the bottom of who someone really is through an email or text exchange. Authentic conversations require face-to-face, voiceto-voice, actual human interaction. And this generation is rapidly losing that skill. Pegasus does a far better job than most in promoting in-class discussions and healthy debates. But those conversations must continue at home. Value Kindness as Much as Grades In Michele Borba’s 2016 Ted Talk, Empathy Is a Verb, she challenges parents to examine their metrics of success. Instead of focusing only on our children’s GPA or SAT scores, she asks them to widen their spectrum of success to include “Humanity 101.” “When was the last time,” Borba asks, “you saw a bumper sticker on the back of a car that said, ‘Proud Parent of a Kind Kid’?” Empathy is low on our societal agenda. Like any muscle, it requires practice. Practice leads to habits. But those habits are not innate. Technology, social media and the geopolitical climate are only making things worse. Commit to practicing kindness, and rewarding kindness, and your children will follow suit. Marrie Stone is a local writer, interviewer, and co-host of “Writers on Writing” at KUCI, 88.9FM, and the mother of Haley Rovner ('15). Contact: email@example.com
Pegasus Magazine Spring 2018
Play the Whole
Advice from the Coach Dustan Bridges
Growing up in the 1980s and 90s, whenever I wasn’t in school, I gathered up the guys on my street, cranked up Def Leppard or Guns and Roses, and played some sort of game for the next several hours. The game changed from day to day, or hour to hour. We played basketball in the driveway, baseball in the cul-desac, tennis in the street, football in the vacant field, ping pong in the garage. Any game we could think of, it didn’t matter, as long as we were playing something. I played organized baseball since I was four, and I knew I wanted to play it for as long as I could. Even though baseball was my passion, I loved playing basketball, hockey, football, or any other competitive sport. Things have changed a little over the last 25 years. Young people get together for fun less often.
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It’s more common to drive them to some megaplex for adultdriven, skills-based practice. It’s also more common for them to specialize in one sport, instead of playing different sports every season. Sports specialization is defined as intense, year-round training in a single sport with the exclusion of other sports. Some club sports and travel teams start players as young as six years old. Sometimes parents feel this is the best way for their child to have success. I get it. After playing baseball through college, I thought my future son would train harder and better, and he would fulfill my own dreams of becoming a professional athlete. But years of coaching and parenting make me realize my vision and dreams weren’t what my children wanted. They weren’t even important to me anymore. More than parents, coaches and trainers often encourage young athletes to commit to one sport. A coach’s encouragement and assurance that committing to a sport will change their game can carry a lot of weight. Parents may even feel pressured to stay quiet, thinking coaches know what’s best. As a middle school coach, I can see why coaches encourage athletes to specialize at a young age. Talent goes hand-inhand with the hours they’ve dedicated to honing their craft. Specialized athletes come in with more experience, talent, confidence, and leadership abilities. It is not a surprise that coaches and trainers encourage athletes to specialize early, given that it helps their program, not to mention the financial advantages they may see. For the athlete, though, early specialization can lead to a higher probability of burnout, sport specific injury, and psychological stress. Early diversification has a greater potential of minimizing dropouts while maximizing sustained participation, fostering positive peer relationships and leadership skills, and creating intrinsic motivation through participation in enjoyable activities. “We expect our students to obtain a well-rounded education by requiring students to learn different subjects from primary school and
But years of coaching and parenting make me realize my vision and dreams weren’t what my children wanted. They weren’t even
well into college before majoring 3. Pegasus athletics taught in a single subject,” says Coach them more than to just how important to me Liz Ortiz. “Why should it be any to play a sport. Nick Crabtree different for athletics?” anymore. '12 (football player at Boise State) The Pegasus School has worked hard says, “Playing at Pegasus helped over the years to create a sports program me form and learn the fundamentals that is diverse, fun, and competitive. Playing of working as a team, and what it means to sports at Pegasus also teaches athletes lifelong lessons. compete with character and sportsmanship.” Bryan Students can participate in a competitive league of volleyball, Rhodes '05, who played basketball at Mater Dei, says, football, basketball, soccer, and golf while learning how to balance their time with academics. When talking to former “What made Pegasus unique was the dedication to Pegasus student/athletes, there are three things they observe: coaching character as much as technique. My coaches at Pegasus taught me valuable lessons that extend • 1. Pegasus sports helped them with time beyond the field of play.” management skills. Jessica Harris '12 (volleyball player at Princeton) says, “I felt playing sports Maybe the 1980s weren’t perfect. For one thing, the music at Pegasus actually made me a better student has evolved. But we can take a few lessons from our past and give students time and space to play. For fun. Not just with because it forced me to manage my time, be better the pressured focus of a future Olympian. organized, and be proactive with my studies.” 2. The joy they got playing with their classmates. JB Green '05 (volleyball and football player at USC) says, “I will never forget the brotherhood and bond created between the players and coaching staff, not only during school but outside as well.” Hannah Hunt '06 (volleyball athlete at Occidental) says, “Playing at Pegasus allowed me to make friends with older peers who became a positive influence and great role models with whom I am still friends today.”
Dustan Bridges is a Pegasus Middle School math teacher, boys’ basketball and girls’ volleyball coach, Camp Pegasus summer program director and dad to Riley (‘20) and Cameron (‘23). Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
Pegasus Magazine Spring 2018
Why Parents Should Calm Down About Their Children's Future
When my oldest son, Ian (‘10), was entering kindergarten, another parent told me she had chosen a faraway private school for her son. “They teach the long vowel sounds in kindergarten,” she explained. I panicked! I had no idea vowel sounds, long, short or otherwise, mattered in kindergarten. Could this spell the end of my child’s collegiate dreams? It sounds ridiculous to me now that Ian is a senior in college, but that thinking followed me throughout both my children’s K-12 years. It’s natural for parents like us, who are focused enough on education to choose Pegasus, to want to give our children the best preparation for college. So I sought the advice of two experts—a high school counselor and a college admission officer—on what Pegasus parents ought to be doing now to give their sons and daughters an edge. You may be surprised that their answers had nothing to do
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with SAT drills or advanced math, but rather with managing expectations. “So much is driven by the false notion that there are only 25 good colleges out there,” said Frank Smith, Director of College Counseling at Sage Hill School. “Parents think their job is to get their child prepared to get admitted to one of those super selective schools, and it’s a losing battle from the very start.” I know what you’re thinking. How can it be a losing battle if my child is earning As, learning computer coding, taking extra language classes, playing club soccer, and digging wells in Botswana this summer? “Preparing and exposing students early is a great thing,” said Rick Clark, Director of Undergraduate Admission at Georgia Tech University and the father of two children, ages 7 and 9. “But if the real genesis of that is because we want to make sure they get into Stanford, that’s probably not going to happen regardless,” he said. If Clark and Smith sound discouraging, it’s because numbers don’t lie. Last year, Stanford admitted 4.65% of its applicants, and many of those admitted were athletes, underrepresented minorities, first generation college students, or others who meet certain institutional priorities. When you divide the remaining applicant pool in half to achieve the gender balance most schools desire, you wind up with about a 1% chance for admission. To parent your child in pursuit of that 1% chance, according to Clark and Smith, is pointless. “It becomes this validation of parenting,” Clark said. “‘I did a good job if my kid gets into wherever,’ and that’s insane.” Smith and Clark agree that many parents have it backwards: They are choosing activities and academics with the goal of positioning students for college admission, rather than nurturing their genuine interests and joy in learning, and allowing success to be a byproduct. Sending your child
to Pegasus is a great way to foster joy of learning in a supportive and collaborative environment. Clark’s children attend The Museum School in Atlanta and are exposed to outside activities like sports, culture, and travel. But beyond exposure, he and his wife follow their children’s leads. For example, even though Clark played college soccer and most of his son’s soccer teammates are starting to play on club teams, his son remains on the local rec team. “He is just not a star,” Clark said without a twinge of detectable regret. Yet the boy loves Tae Kwon Do and is motivated to progress through the belts, so that’s what Clark encourages. My son Ian milked every trip to a museum, a concert, or an historical site for all it was worth. Despite being dragged along on all these excursions, his brother Eric (‘14) has more conventional interests. They had comparable high school grades and test scores, yet they are completely different people, each with his own unique appeal to colleges. The point is, you can’t mold your child into someone he or she is not. Smith says at Sage Hill they can usually tell which freshmen might be candidates for competitive colleges even before their first semester ends. “They’re already intellectually curious. They’re already creative. They typically have genuine and authentic interests. Parents will say, ‘That’s the way little Johnny has always been. We’ve never had to encourage him.’” He added that parents who accelerate their children academically run the risk of burning them out before high school or college. The Sage Hill curriculum prepares all students to be competitive for college, he said, and academics should never be pursued to the exclusion of outside interests and a balanced life. Similarly, the Pegasus curriculum prepares students well for success both in high school and on standardized tests. Local ACT/SAT tutor Christian Greene says he can often tell which of his students attended Pegasus by their mastery of grammar and reading. “They have shown greater preparedness in those areas than my other students,” he said. “Parents need to give kids the time and space to discover their own interests and talents,” Smith said. Clark says one
admitted student who stood out raced NASCAR. “He’s outstanding because he wanted it and loved it and pushed and became who he is,” Clark said. “I don’t think that was manipulated or packaged. I don’t think when that kid was in third grade they said, ‘This is what we’re going to develop.’ The problem is, people have this sense of what am I going to create my kid to be versus allowing them to evolve.” I’ll never forget reading about a student who built a nuclear reactor in his garage, yet was denied admission to Massachusetts Institute of Technology. I’m willing to bet he didn’t regret building the reactor, because it was something he truly wanted to do, not just to win a spot at MIT. That’s how all students should approach their outside activities so that ultimately, they have no regrets, no saying, “Why did I spend all that time dancing or fencing or building computers if it didn’t get me into Yale?” When we drop the obsession with admission to “top” colleges instead let our kids develop their authentic intellectual and extracurricular interests, they become the people they are meant to be. And they thrive. The boy who learned the long vowel sounds in kindergarten turned out to be brilliant. He was a top student in high school. And his mom was devastated when he wasn’t admitted to Stanford or any of the Ivies. I’m not sure she’d say the faraway kindergarten wasn’t worth it. But the good news is, he will graduate this year from an outstanding university where he flourished. And best of all, he grew up to be a very fine person. Nancy Fries is a freelance writer who also advises students on their college admission essays. She is the mother of two Pegasus graduates, Ian (’10), a senior at Reed College, and Eric (’14), a senior at Corona del Mar High School.
CLICK HERE TO WATCH A SPECIAL VIDEO SUPPLEMENT TO THIS ARTICLE
Pegasus Magazine Spring 2018
Honing in on the
Ginny Allhusen Homework. It’s like talking politics at a family holiday gathering…invoke the word at your own peril. Whether you are a tween struggling to make time for everything, a parent anxiously hoping to position your child for certain academic success, or a teacher trying to strike the right balance, it appears that the mere mention of the “H” word elicits no shortage of strong opinions. Too much or too little? Critical skill builder or useless busywork? Downfall of Western civilization or the only way to remain competitive on a global stage? Regardless of your vantage point, it seems there are “great people on both sides” of the Great Homework Debate. But it should come as no surprise that at Pegasus, our educators have been thoughtfully reflecting on this rancorous topic over the last several years, and have been introducing changes across grade levels to address the matter. Case in point: our youngest growers of Pegasus wings. A Pegasus generation ago, our pre-K students would be introduced to the notion of “homework” through play: teachers would send
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home two balls of Play-Doh in primary colors and assign the homework of having the child mix the two balls together and come back to school the next day prepared to report on the resultant color. This blending (quite literally) of work and play set the stage for an academic lifetime of extending learning opportunities and preparing the young child to learn valuable skills like planning, time management, and responsibility; the lesson of finding out that blue plus yellow yields green was but a by-product of that experience. By Kindergarten, the stakes were raised ever so slightly, and children were encouraged (but not required) to write “book reports” (rudimentary 2- to 3-sentence synopsis of the plot of a favorite picture book, complete with an interpretive illustration of a main element of the story) as homework. So far, so good, right? Alas, as with any good idea, there is potential for corruption of the original intent. In recent years, the Kindergarten team found that some children felt increasing pressure (whether imposed from within or without) to maintain a competitive edge and crank out as many book reports as possible. Suddenly, what had been intended as an enjoyable exercise in literacy
was becoming an ogre lurking in a dark closet as children felt pressured to produce. This observation prompted a re-evaluation of the book reports and other take-home assignments. The Kindergarten team concluded that their young scholars work hard enough during the day, and that the after school hours should be reserved for time to stop and smell the roses with parents and playmates. Today’s kindergarteners still have limited nightly homework to practice emerging academic skills, but teachers actively encourage parents to limit (or avoid altogether) the hamster wheel of after school academic enrichment programs, tutors, and the like. “At this age, the development of social-emotional skills is extremely important,” says Nancy Larimer, veteran Kindergarten teacher. “We encourage parents to read, go on a nature walk, just spend time together with their children.” With regard to peer interaction, Larimer recommends plenty of time for unstructured playdates, which provide young children with opportunities to learn conflict resolution-skills that, in turn, become valuable in the classroom. Fast forward to the other end of lower school: fifth grade. On this, the precipice of the brave new world of middle school, what does homework look like? Once again, change came about when our intrepid fifth-grade team made an observation and identified a need. In a somewhat informal poll administered by the teachers, it seems the fifth-grade students were giving their overall satisfaction with school some disappointingly low scores (in the 5-6 range). The culprit? That’s right—homework. “When we asked them how
they would rate their overall school experience if we were to eliminate homework altogether, their satisfaction scores shot way up to a 9 or 10, even with continued high expectations for performance,” says Shannon Vermeeren, another longtime faculty member and Pegasus parent. This finding prompted the team to take a hard look at every last item that had been going home, with an eye to whether it added value to the curriculum. If the answer was yes, then the team found ways to make room in the school day to allow students to complete the work there. The net effect was a 1520 minute reduction in the amount of time spent on nightly homework, down to 30 minutes or less per night. Better yet, the teachers found that the decrease in nightly homework had no appreciable effect on how much material was covered in a year or how well prepared the students were for middle school. Like Larimer, Vermeeren sees great value in freeing up the after school hours for non-academic pursuits. “We want our students to be able to follow their passions—whether it’s arts, science, sports, or something else—with the same dedication that they show to their academics.” The “take home” message (pun intended) across all grade levels is that Pegasus teachers consistently work hard to strike that right balance when it comes to the homework load—to make sure children are prepared but remain engaged, that they are given meaningful take-home work that sharpens or reinforces emerging skills, but still allows them time to take that deep dive into other areas of interest outside of school. In other words, let students take that academic ball of Play-Doh, smash it together with their outside interest ball, and discover what magnificent color emerges. Ginny Allhusen is a developmental psychologist, mother of Abbie (’13), Blair (’15) and Kate (’18), and habitual homework procrastinator. Contact: email@example.com
Pegasus Magazine Spring 2018
The of a Scholar, the of a Poet Julia Ostmann
Kinsale Hueston (’14)
“That was a really transformative moment,” she says. It was leaving behind the accepting environment of Pegasus—where she and her mother spent a day each year Kinsale Hueston '14 sits at her laptop furiously typing. “It’s teaching her peers about Navajo culture—that first inspired kind of like I’m going into a trance,” she says. She translates her to put her half-Native American, half-Irish identity into “all the images and senses, the sights and the smells” of her her poems. memory into poetry. “Maybe if I put my culture in a poem, and express my The national Scholastic Art & Writing Awards saw identity through my art, that can make it accessible” for 330,000 entries this year. Just five students from that pool other students who know nothing about Native American were selected as National Student Poets. One of these is culture, she thought. Her poems cover everything from Hueston. the Navajo language to Native American women who have She wrote her first poem at Pegasus, deciding to compose experienced domestic violence. her “weekend log in my little second grade composition In her spare time, Hueston writes songs for ukulele, won book” in rhyme. The class was floored. Emboldened, she a national playwriting award, performs in Los Angeles in started writing more poems. works by Native American playwrights, plays lacrosse, and “I can trace everything I do now back to something that runs a club at school. I’ve done at Pegasus,” Hueston says. For instance, writing a Hueston grows particularly excited when she paper on marriage equality for Mrs. Wilder’s eighth grade speaks about social justice projects. She loves English class was the first time Hueston realized the the books on American race dynamics power of putting her personal life into writing. she’s reading at St. Margaret’s Episcopal School. She feels deeply passionate about her work for the Attorney General of the Navajo Nation. There’s a unique thing Being National Student that poetry does of Poet of the West will make a jetsetter of Hueston. Already she putting the reader in the has met the Librarian of Congress in Washington, D.C., and Sarah speaker’s place Jessica Parker in New York. She and position." will soon travel to Alaska to speak at a museum and hopes to speak in Hawaii. She’s creating a service project to bring poetry to Native American students in California boarding schools—schools that were once used in failed attempts to oppressively “assimilate” Native American children. “There’s a unique thing that poetry does of putting the reader in the speaker’s place and position,” she says. She encourages any Pegasus student with a love of writing to apply for the Scholastic Awards.
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THOSE WHO SOAR
seems, is all about making connections. “It’s my job to find out who Mom and Dad are,” he says, and then figure out what ties or connections they might have to USC. Then he delves into the stories of the recruits themselves. “I find out what type of people they are,” he says. Rios is a natural at this kind of relationship-building. Every year he’s been working in the “front office” of USC football, the team has signed the number-one recruit in the PAC-12. In 2015, USC signed the number-one class in the country. Rios himself was named one of college football’s “30 under 30.” Clearly, Rios has been successful. But he prides himself most on succeeding ethically—a belief he developed at Pegasus. In Coach Tyler’s PE class, Rios remembers learning how to live by a key phrase: “It’s not if you win, it’s how you win.” Third grade at Pegasus was a particularly formative year for Rios. He learned about “doing things independently, something I take pride in a lot today.” Selling charms for snap-back hats during third-grade businesses taught him “how money operates and how to find something that people want and need.” Years later, Rios feels deeply grateful to his parents for introducing him to Pegasus. Whether he was performing an interpretative dance at the talent show or developing lifelong friendships (such as with his brother Austin ‘07), Rios found at Pegasus the support he needed to break out of his shell. “Through the Pegasus family,” says Rios, “you can be the person you are.”
Sports Connections Alex Rios (’05)
While Hueston takes on responsibility far beyond her teenage years as poetry ambassador to the West, Alex Rios '05 lives a teenager’s dream life: splitting his days between the football field and social media. Each morning, when he arrives to his job as USC football’s Director of Recruiting, he sits down to check what he’s missed from the night before. Maybe there’s an exciting event on social media. Maybe there are direct messages from one of his recruits—all high school juniors or community college students whom scouts have determined show exceptional football promise. Maybe a recruit has posted something online about his favorite TV show. Then “I’ll make a graphic for him showing his favorite TV show, with him Photoshopped in there,” says Rios. The point is to show recruits that USC is paying attention and interested in their lives. Rios spends afternoons watching the Trojans practice or attending meetings. The job of Director of Recruiting, it
Julia F. P. Ostmann '07 is is a freelance writer and a researcher on Cosmos, Neil deGrasse Tyson's science documentary TV series. She has degrees in the history of science from Harvard and the University of Cambridge. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
Pegasus Magazine Spring 2018
Alumni Connections Benjamin Jenkins
Sara Becker ’02 married Andrew Gardiner in the summer of 2016. The wedding was on their farm (at the time) in Maine.
Sara Wells ’02 accepted a job with Craig Hospital in Colorado as their Event & Communication Specialist.
Monica Schnapp ’06 finished her Master of Arts in Higher Education Leadership in May 2017 at University of San Diego. She accepted a position at UC Riverside working in Student Life.
Monica Schnapp ’06
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Eric Hallett ’07 recently started a job as a math teacher at Flintridge Preparatory School, in La Cañada, near Pasadena, teaching Geometry and AP Calculus AB. Hallett currently lives in Westwood, near UCLA. Austin Rios ’07 graduated from USC Marshall School of Business in 2015. After graduation, Rios moved to Santa Monica for a year and a half while working for Eastdil Secured, a real estate investment banking firm. Rios’ focus was investment sales transactions for industrial properties in Los Angeles. Under the same company, Rios moved to the New York office where he still worked in commercial real estate in Manhattan, but office sales rather than industrial properties. While in New York, Rios enjoyed spending time with the Pegasus family, including Max Gerard ’07, TJ Danner ’07, Abigail Michaelsen ’07 and Andrew Kurzweil ’07. Most recently,
Taylor Simpkins ’04 is participating in something extraordinary. Last November, Taylor set out on an unprecedented 21 day scientific expedition in the Great Barrier Reef along with an international team of world renowned ocean reef experts. As a member of the Great Barrier Reef Legacy (GBR Legacy) crew, she will assist other marine biologists in the search for Super Coral. Simpkins is a marine biologist and educator working on the Great Barrier Reef. She began her involvement in research when she was 11, collecting data over 10 years that showed pre-production plastics were washing up on Southern California beaches via upstream industrial runoff. Simpkins completed her bachelor's in marine science at the University of San Diego in 2013 and has been working as a marine ecology research assistant, educator, and scientific diver since graduating. Her passion for marine biology has taken her around the world to places like Panama, Baja, and now Australia where she works at Wavelength Reef Cruises, and volunteers for GBR Legacy, the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, and the Australian Institute of Marine Science. Simpkins will begin her master's in marine biology in 2018, and will be further investigating the current threat of coral bleaching on reef systems.
students. Emerson received a B.S. in Computer Science and Physics. Emerson, who is a Presidential Scholar and a member of the WVT Rusch Honors Program, was described as a prime example of the multidisciplinary tendencies of this class. She has served as an undergraduate teaching assistant for computer science and an undergraduate research assistant. Emerson was also president of the USC Women’s Ice Hockey team and a Viterbi Student Ambassador. She is a member of both ACM and Eta Kappa Nu. Emerson recently accepted a position at Amazon. Jay Murray ’09 moved to Portland, Oregon over the summer and after spending two weeks in June training on the East Coast, has started working at a data construction software and consulting firm as an analyst.
Camden Blower ’10 is currently attending the University of Arizona.
Nicole Apodaca ’11 attends University of California, Berkeley and is majoring in biology.
Dylan Cotton ’12 is attending University of Hawaii, Manoa as a sophomore. He competed in a prestigious surfing competition in Santander, Spain. Cotton was invited as an international wildcard. He was the youngest of the 40 competitors at 18 years old as well as the only person representing the United States. Cotton placed 10th and won the biggest wave award.
Abbie Allhusen ’13 graduated from Mater Dei High School and headed to Boston College last fall. Over the last three years she has been volunteering with “Free 2 Be Me,” an adaptive dance program for children with Down Syndrome. Abbie volunteered weekly at their dance classes, assisting her dance partners in learning new combinations. Classes promote motor, cognitive and social development for
Lauren Fishman ’13
Rios has returned to California to work for Dynamic Rentals, a camera and production equipment rental business located in Burbank.
Cole Blower ’08 graduated from University of Washington and is currently working on getting his real estate license.
Ellen Emerson ’09 was selected valedictorian of the USC engineering class of 2017 in a graduating class of about 650 Fellow classmates of 2013: Sam Nitz, Jamie Ostmann and Darius Lam reunited on the east coast as Lam and Ostmann attend Harvard, and Nitz is attending MIT.
Pegasus Magazine Spring 2018
participating students as they learn to follow instructions, try new things, and make meaningful connections with peers and teachers. The program director honored Abbie’s contributions to the program by establishing the Abigail Allhusen Scholarship, which will be awarded to future Free 2 Be Me dance students. Lauren Fishman ’13 represented Sage Hill School for the City of Newport Beach 2017 Scholarship Award. This award is given by the Newport Beach Chamber of Commerce. Fishman currently attends Stanford University as a freshman. Sam Nitz ’13 was honored by The Commodores Club of the Newport Beach Chamber of Commerce at their 56th annual scholarship awards dinner. Nitz was recognized as one of the top scholars from Newport Beach high schools. He now attends MIT and studies chemical engineering.
Jessica Yang ’16, pictured second in on the right
Adam Meyers ’14, senior tight end and wide receiver at Ocean View High School, has been offered admission by Division II Florida Tech and San Diego State University. Florida Tech and San Diego are recruiting him as a tight end.
Shreya Patel ’15 is currently a junior at Phillips Andover Academy. She has started the website spotlightonascientist.com, where she publishes interviews with women in STEM. Her goal is to encourage and empower girls to pursue STEM. Last summer, Patel worked at an MIT particle physics lab, assisting graduate students to build neutrino detectors. She is also a member of her school's Model UN team, and recently assisted in organizing an interscholastic conference.
16 Charlie Toney ‘13 at his at his 2017 St. Margaret's graduation wearing his Pegasus tie.
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Chirag Singh ’16 is enjoying his sophomore year at Troy High School, especially playing soccer for the varsity team. He is on the debate board and is still participating in parliamentary debate with Rahul
Patel ’16 as his partner. Singh has also been on the Principal's Honor Roll all three semesters. Jessica Yang ’16 represented Sage Hill this past year, competing in the Orange County Journalism Education Association (OCJEA) Regional Write-Off and receiving First Place Feature Photo. Yang advanced to the SCJEA competition, where she received eighth place for photography in Southern California. She also played as a starter on the Sage Hill Girls’ Varsity lacrosse team, scoring 3 goals throughout the season (as a defensive player). Since then, Yang has started attending Cate School in Carpinteria, where she is a member of nine different clubs, including: El Batidor (school newspaper), The Mesan (school yearbook), Asian Student Union, Environmental Club, Debate Club, Writing Dangerously Club, Human Rights Club, Activism Club, and Women’s Forum. Yang is in a music ensemble called REJE (Rock/Electronic/Jazz Ensemble) and has been able to work with Elliott
Chirag Singh ’16
Haley Rovner ’15 took her hoops to Oslo, Norway last December with Le PeTiT CiRqUe, a professional humanitarian cirque troupe. Rovner joined the troupe over three years ago, traveling with them to Las Vegas, Montreal, and countless local events. Le PeTiT CiRqUe performed for the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize concert honoring ICAN (the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons). Broadcast around the world, a live audience of over 10,000 people included the Norwegian royal family, as well as co-stars John Legend, Lukas Graham and more. Golden Globe nominee, David Oyelowo, hosted the
event. Rovner also took the stage at the UCI Minds Gala in December to support Alzheimer's research. Suzy Melin, widow of Spud Melin who founded Wham-O and brought the hula hoop to popularity in the 1950s, was honored at the event along with Maria Shriver. Rovner surprised Melin with a solo hoop dance performance and then taught the crowd some hooping moves on the dance floor. Rovner is a junior at Sage Hill, where she occasionally performs for morning Town Hall meetings and football games.
Lanam, who helped produce “Roar” and “Dark Horse” from Katy Perry’s PRISM album and was nominated for several Grammys for his work. Lanam has been teaching Yang the basics of EDM music production through mixing program called Logic Pro X. Right now, they are focusing mostly on the utilization of electronic keyboards. Even though Yang has never played piano before, she learned the skills to compose a fully produced song with Mr. Lanam for her trimester project. It’s a piece that was meant to emphasize and encourage the combination of different genres of music. Yang used digital orchestras layered with R&B style drum tracks and even some bells. Yang is thrilled about this opportunity as she dips her toes into professional music production. However, according to Yang, the most important news that she can relay is that she is still keeping in touch with Mrs. Wilder, eighth-grade English teacher, via email.
Pegasus Magazine Spring 2018
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