Past & Present Fall 2004
Past and Present
Feeding the Minds of Young Men
The human mind is omnivorous. It swallows sensations and experiences whole and in parts, spiced and bland, stewed or raw. The human mind consumes the world like the larva of the Polyphemus moth. (This being a rather arcane and random simile, some explanation is probably due. The Guinness Book of Records states that the larva of the North American Polyphemus moth - Antheraea Polyphemus, for Latin scholars - consumes an amount equal to 86,000 times its own birth weight in the first 56 days of its life. In human terms, this would be equivalent to a seven pound baby taking in 273 tons of nourishment.) Don’t worry; I had to look this up. My mind may be omnivorous, but my memory is increasingly Teflon coated. I do remember, though, that Polyphemus was one of the Cyclops from Homer’s Odyssey, and lovers of Lepidoptera will know that this particular moth is one of the largest ones and has “eyes” on its wings that are supposed to frighten away predators.
Get to the point, Roberts.
The point is that the wizened teacher who daily faced trials and tribulations of teaching that little boy who grew up to be the naturalist who named Antheraea Polyphemus had no way of knowing that many years after his or her Latin lesson or Odyssey discussion, that little Hans so-and-so who yesterday put Helga’s pig tails into his inkwell, would discover this huge winged specimen and give it such an appropriate name. (It’s a playful one as well. While the moth is huge – as was
Polyphemus – the Cyclops had only one eye while Antheraea has one on each wing segment. I guess it was his idea of a joke – a real thigh slapper.)
Teaching is the most optimistic of occupations. We have no way of looking, as Banquo says to Macbeth, “into the seeds of time, /And say which grain will grow and which will not.” We put the world before our boys and challenge them to make it theirs. A teacher’s obligation is to provide his or her students with means, not ends. We set a smorgasbord of opportunities before them, offer them up warm with a dash of enthusiasm and pinch of good humour, with the hope that their imaginations can feast upon the banquet.
A good school, and I include Crescent in that group, must strive to offer it all, or perish trying. It’s a Sisyphean task. We can never hope to offer enough to satisfy the voracious intellectual appetites of our student body. Instead, we are destined to seek out and implement the best practices in boys’ education and roll that particular boulder up the hill forever.
At Crescent, we take on this eternal task eagerly. We will continue to serve up the best in academic, arts and athletic programming, and blend it in with our ongoing commitment to building young men of character. That’s the way it’s always been in the past and in the present. And I can assure you, it will continue to be the way we do things at Crescent in the future.