Last week I read an interesting op-ed column by David Brooks on “The Employer’s Creed,” in which he makes a number of valid points about hiring to promote cultural values (The New York Times, April 1). Who wouldn’t want workers imbued with resilience, honesty, and humanity?
That said, Brooks assumes that uniformly high grades are a signal of conformity, and that switching to less prestigious options would be a sign of courage and nobility. These are superficial and unhelpful measures to identify people with the values he esteems — I know from my experience with BUA students that his assumptions are not uniformly so.
Someone can have a passion for a single subject as well as be able to speak truth to power (both of which Brooks advocates rewarding) while maintaining a straight-A average (which he says points away from these traits); and someone who steps off the fast track for a less prestigious alternate route might be doing so not because of some noble goal (as Mr. Brooks posits), but because she or he is conflict-averse. Our students show that non-conformity, creative out-of-the-box thinking, and high integrity can all go hand-in-hand with high grades and fast-track options.
The values Mr. Brooks admires should indeed be sought by our employers, and he rightly predicts that such an employer’s creed might guide our culture more strongly toward such traits. His assumptions about how to test prospective hires for these values, however, belittle the very qualities he encourages us all to attain. At the Academy, we “hire” new students all the time, keeping all of these admirable factors in mind.
James S. Berkman
Head of School