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Did You Read Your School’s Mission Statement?

Did You Read Your School’s Mission Statement?

By James H. Choi
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Dear Sabio Parents,

Often parents complain a school didn’t prepare their children for college-entrance exams.  The complaints are legitimate: the lack of preparation is the main cause students perform poorly on the ACT and SAT, even though they received — unjustifiably — high report-card scores on high school subjects.

Ironically, some of these parents left countries like Korea to escape the competitive nature of the mother land’s school system, only to find themselves complaining about the uncompetitive U.S. education system.  We should be careful what we wish for, indeed.

What these parents should have done first off was to read the mission statement of their children’s school.  (If you haven’t done this already, I urge you to do so immediately.)  Mission statements of all organizations, including that of of high schools, are full of highly abstract hyperboles.  I’ve written my department’s missions statements (and the vision statements) in my corporate days, and it was an exercise in word arrangement that must include “world-class,” “customer satisfaction,” “high-quality,” and “maximize shareholder value.” Without these words, the mission statement seems empty.  The corporate mission statements are meaningless with them included as well, because it is like “eternal happiness”: an ideal that the organization would strive for, not a specification of the final product.  In other words, if it is in the mission statement, it may happened.  If it is not in it, then it won’t happen.
http://dl.dropbox.com/u/6378458/Column/Info/English/SpecialEvents.gifPlease take a look at your student’s school’s mission statement. It may not even mention “high scores,” or “standardized tests.” It may not even mention “college.”  Why? Because it is not their mission.  That’s right.  These schools do not care if your child goes to college or not, much less if they go to MIT/Harvard.  Most high schools mission statements are geared toward “producing upstanding citizens ready to perform all civic duties.”  A well-rounded upstanding-citizen doesn’t need to attend college.  In addition, the production of well-rounded citizens is not a zero-sum-game; why not offer an environment where students can stop and smell the roses?  That’s why the life of some American high school students seem less hurried, enjoying their lives more fully.  Admit it, that’s why you move to the United States.

So now that you realized less competition leads to less competitive results, ask yourself, “Is this enough?”

Yes, becoming a civic minded citizen is indeed a necessary condition for all human beings, but that alone may not cut it for what you expect from your child.  Do you also want to raise a high performer who becomes admitted to MIT/Harvard?  Then don’t expect schools do the work that is not even in their mission or vision statement.  Your child’s education has to be supplemented by teachers who share your goal.

Sabio Academy still doesn’t have a mission or vision statement because I (one of the founders) never overcame the “mission/vision statement writing” trauma of my corporate days.  Sabio Academy would rather be judged by its track record.  Yes, our students are admitted to MIT/Harvard every year.  Of course, track record is no guarantee of future performance, but it sure beats not having one, or having only a cliche-filled “mission/vision statement.”


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