Independent schools have a habit of focusing a fair bit of resources on values and mission. We might call them pillars, or guiding principles, or essential elements, or some other lofty variation. There is nothing wrong with living by a clearly defined set of values, or of boldly stating a community’s mission or purpose (yes, we have a mission too!) In fact, these carefully wordsmithed statements become a bond which, when used well, tie together an independent school community across curricula, departments, and decades.
Yet, we might also see that we create our own limits when we live and work in such a neatly defined manner. What a definition of purpose delivers with details may, on the flip side of that same coin, limit in our perspective.
Perspective – the stepping back and taking in of a broader understanding of the community experience – requires both attention to detail and the allowance of space for new ideas. So, why “Outermost”? Well, for a perhaps overly bookish reason, of course. (Afterall, I was an English major.)
Henry Beston’s 1928 book “The Outermost House”, the inspiration for our firm’s name, is all about getting perspective. Beston, a naturalist, spent a year living in a tiny shack in the dunes of Eastham, MA – our home and the founding place of OES. He wrote about the vast natural world around him, laying out in great detail the minute actions of foxes and fish alike, while at the same time reflecting on the society he left behind. Like Thoreau before him, Beston finds his perch overlooking the Atlantic to be a “neutral ground” from which he might consider the world at large. In focusing on the minutia of the dunes, the forest, and the sea, Beston found room for a fresh perspective.
So here I sit on that same stretch of sandbar, nearly 100 years later, sifting through a different set of details – the particulars of boarding school life – in the pursuit of perspective.