From the Desk of Jay Rainey – August 27, 2021

“I would like to understand things better,” the American polymath Douglas Hofstadter once wrote, “but I don’t want to understand them perfectly.” This is how I feel about the rules of four square, a deceptively elaborate court game that our Beasley students love to play during recess.

On Wednesday morning, while walking over to the Middle School, I stopped off at the playground to take in a few rounds, and I found myself marveling less at the game’s complex rhythms than at its capacity to teach. In no more than three minutes’ time, I witnessed cooperation, negotiation, deference, creativity, competitiveness, compromise, assertiveness, and leadership alike, all without a word or an intrusion from me or any other adult in sight. This was not merely a child’s game; it was active learning and healthy socialization at work.

Over at the Upper School, our wonderful faculty and staff have set up a makeshift badminton court and spikeball net on the lawn outside the dining hall, and on Thursday morning, I enjoyed watching several students compete at both games as their Krispy Kreme doughnuts—promised after last week’s “Clash of Classes” contest—continued to settle before their first class of the day. At about the same time, across campus in the MAC, our 8th grade students were also hard at play, hurling paper airplanes from the balcony for both distance and time aloft in the Middle School’s first advisory competition of the year. Congratulations to Lucas Sindler ’26 of the Militello Advisory for his victory in the former challenge, by the way, and to Katie Sheehan ’26 of the Zimmer Advisory for her victory in the latter.

Rita Koganzon’s Liberal States, Authoritarian Families, published in June, has brought renewed attention to John Locke’s 1693 treatise Some Thoughts Concerning Education, much of which remains remarkably relevant to the work of teaching and learning today. Locke contends, for example, that the obligation of a school “is not so much to teach [the student] all that is knowable, as to raise in him a love and esteem of knowledge.” In the same work, however, Locke expresses a low opinion of games and play, and in this respect I would argue that he was shortsighted. “One great reason why many children abandon themselves wholly to silly sports,” he claims, “is because they have found their curiosity balked and their inquiries neglected.” Look no further than MICDS, where curiosity is thoroughly encouraged and inquiries actively nurtured, and yet where “silly sports” play an important complementary role in the educational journey of the student, to find an emphatic rebuttal to Locke’s dim view.

Games and athletics simultaneously educate and connect individuals and inspire and unite communities in ways unavailable to other human endeavors. “No more truly democratic force can be set off against the tendency to class and caste,” President Calvin Coolidge declared in 1924, “than the democracy of individual parts and prowess in sport.” Said Nelson Mandela at the Rugby World Cup in 1995, “Athletics speaks to youth in a language they understand. It has the power to inspire, the power to unite people in a way that little else does.”

For these many reasons, how thrilled I was to see on my calendar this morning several games, meets, and matches scheduled for this weekend: Boys JV Soccer, Boys Varsity Cross Country, Boys Varsity Soccer, Varsity Football, Girls JV Volleyball, and Girls Varsity Golf. How extraordinary, too, that these are only six of our 32 fall-season teams—and that’s not even counting our dedicated four square athletes in Beasley! It is so very welcome, as we resume the joyful work of learning at MICDS, to resume the joyful work of play as well.

Always reason, always compassion, always courage.

Go Rams! I wish you and your families a very happy weekend.

Jay Rainey
Head of School

This week’s addition to the “Refrains for Rams” playlist: Pink City by Pink Sweats (Apple Music / Spotify)