Dear KES Family:
The yearbook for last year has just arrived. Once again, editor and librarian extraordinaire Marilyn Curry and her yearbook team have done a marvelous job. The graduation section is particularly interesting, not just because of the candid baby photos next to each grad’s formal portraits, but because of what is written. Class of 2021 graduate Will Zhao wrote: “Just like the Ship of Theseus Paradox, when everything around you changes, would you still be yourself? If you want to know the answer, please go to Room 306 in the Senior building and have a wonderful, splendid, fabulous, extraordinary discussion with Mr. DeCoste.”
I love this for several reasons. Firstly, like Will, I enjoy my conversations with Mr. DeCoste immensely. I am thrilled that students enjoy deep conversations about life with their teachers. Secondly, Will’s insight into his changing environment and self as he enters university is profound. In real terms, he has flipped the paradox around because presumably Will is not changing, just his surroundings. Theseus’ ship was preserved to the extent that so little of the original ship remained the question arose about whether it was still Theseus’ ship. The ancient historian Plutarch describes the debate in his writings. Millenia later, philosopher Thomas Hobbes added to the debate asking if all the original discarded planks and rigging were used to construct a second ship, wouldn’t it have a better claim as Theseus’ ship?
Which brings me to our graduates. Are they the same person they were when they entered the School? Physically, the answer is no. Like the boards on Theseus’ ship our cells are being constantly replaced. For most of us it takes about 7 years for our body to completely replicate itself. Quite literally, I am not the same person I was back in 2014. Physically, I am a facsimile. A clone. But am I me?
Because teenagers are growing so quickly, creating and replacing cells constantly, this process takes less time for them. Depending upon when they arrived at KES, they are quite literally not the same people when they graduate. But, as Will asks of his classmates, “would you still be yourself?”
It seems to me a school whose mission is to change its students is doomed for endless conflict. However, a school that sets out to support students in the discovery of their best and truest selves has a noble mission. No doubt this journey of discovery will have its challenges, its minotaurs and labyrinths, but that is what makes growing up such a heroic endeavour.
Click here for this week's photos.