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Mike Munson - Social Sciences - mmunson@treknorth.org

When I was growing up most everything that stirred passion in me had something to do with sports. Depending on the season, the fate of my mood on the success I felt with whatever team sport I was involved in. At times I'd come home in full pout, toss my bag down and try to complain about losing or not getting enough playing time. My dad had a very simple and consistent response: "if you want to play more, play better. If you want to play better, work harder." Then, depending on the season, he'd grab a bag of baseballs or hockey pucks and drag me outside to work on whatever weakness he thought needed fixing. He wasn't really much of talker and didn't spend a lot of time explaining why it was ok or not to feel upset about things, sports or otherwise. By nature he was more a doer. If something wasn't going right, he figured people should just do what's necessary to fix it. As I’ve grown older, I’m no longer surprised at how I've acquired his habits.

I was in college when he gave me the first of many gifts that acknowledged my career as a teacher. His first "teacher gift" was A Nation At Risk, the 1983 report from the National Commission on Excellence in Education. This probably doesn't seem like an unqualified embrace of my chosen career but it was. I recognized it as an indication of acceptance because it meant he'd turned away from his hope that I’d follow his footsteps into the accountants' world of balance sheets and financial planning. Nation at Risk was a gloomy, yet urgent, text. It detailed how public education in America teetered on the edge of irrelevance. It predicted dire consequences for the nation at large unless the problems faced, and sometimes created, by public schools were not remedied. My dad wasn't a pessimist; he was a bit of a perfectionist who was perhaps puzzled by a son who got lost in tales of history on his way to choosing a career, but that booklet was his communication of faith that I could make a difference. I know he laid that report out as a challenge just as he repeatedly laid a baseball on the inside corner if he thought I needed to work on pulling an inside fastball.

When I think of all the material things he gave me over the years, I realize that A Nation at Risk is the one thing that has influenced every moment of my interaction with students. Its' introductory finding that a majority of Americans had lost faith in the ability of public schools to provide a meaningful education rings in my mind as loudly today as it did 24 years ago. I believe the reports conclusion was wrong. I don’t think Americans have ever really come close to giving-up on education as an institution. Most people I've discussed this with over the years agree that educating our young people has always been too important a task to be neglected. Schools and teachers are far too vital to be left with stagnant, declining, insufficient, and dated resources. TrekNorth is an innovative, academic, and personal school that gives meaning to students who learn to work hard, and happily, toward a brighter future. And I’m very proud to be part of it.

Early in this century, as the Hapsburg domains surrounding his native land crumbled under the weight of forces the old empire couldn't escape, the poet Rilke wrote:

I am too alone in the world, and not alone enough
to make every moment holy...
I want my own will, and I want simply to be with my will
As it goes toward action,
and in the silent, sometimes hardly moving times
when something is coming near,
I want to be with those who know secret things
or else alone.

Our time is neither silent nor hardly moving, but something is definitely coming near, a future that many of us adults could not have imagined during our own school days. The power of science and technology are impacting this age in a way that historians of the future will label as revolutionary. Our children need to be equipped with the tools, the knowledge, and passions that will allow them every possible advantage in dealing with the complexities of the world they'll soon inherit. TrekNorth provides a core curriculum, grounded on Advanced Placement and the College Board’s Vertical Program of academic skill-building. Our goal is straight forward; college preparation.

When I think back on the message of A Nation at Risk and consider the recent No Child Left Behind legislation, I am as eager and thrilled to face the challenges to public education as I was 24 years ago. I remember how it felt to get it right when I’d turn on that inside pitch, proof that if one wants to get better, one needs to work harder. What that means is that we all, old and young, need encouragement to engage our lives fully. Proper schooling gives this to us. This fact is the TrekNorth is her. We are a community of teachers, learners, and adventurers with our minds and eyes filled with the possibilities of an interesting and changing world and a very large life to be lived. We know there is good work to be done.

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