Friends School of Baltimore Private School Blog

Robot-Proofing, a New Approach to a Modern Education

Posted by Matt Micciche, Head of School, Friends School of Baltimore on May 16, 2019 1:30:19 PM

Last week, I attended a conference sponsored by the Mastery Transcript Consortium, a network of public and private schools dedicated to reimagining the way student achievement is assessed and represented.  Friends joined MTC one year ago so that we could help shape the groundbreaking conversations taking place in this country around the traditional high school transcript, developed more than one hundred years ago, and its limitations in the modern world.

At this conference, held at Northeastern University, we each received a copy of the book Robot-Proof by Joseph Aoun, Northeastern’s President. In it, Aoun articulates the need for an “updated model of higher education,” for the age of artificial intelligence, one that “refits (students’) mental engines, calibrating them with a creative mindset and the mental elasticity to invent, discover, or otherwise produce something society deems valuable.”  “Instead of training laborers,” he writes, “a robot-proof education trains creators.”

The premise of Aoun’s argument is, as his title suggests, the threat AI poses to work that we once thought could only be performed by actual humans. He cites as evidence of this coming change an “oft-quoted 2013 study from Oxford University (which) found that nearly half of U.S. jobs are at risk of automation in the next twenty years.” Developments since 2013, including large-scale usage of AI to automate work in such fields as law, finance, and other lucrative sectors of the economy, suggest that such a forecast is not far-fetched.  What, he asks, needs to change about our model of higher (and by extension secondary) education in order to prepare our children to thrive in this rapidly shifting environment?

According to Aoun, the cure for what ails higher ed is an approach that he labels “humanics,” which develops mastery of relevant content as well as the “uniquely human cognitive capacities” that defy automation.  The content to which he refers includes many traditional fields, but to these he adds “data literacy, technological literacy, and human literacy.” The human cognitive capacities (roughly akin to the habits of mind in our Teaching and Learning Paradigm) that he believes to be essential include systems thinking, entrepreneurship, cultural agility, and critical thinking.  Perhaps not surprisingly, from the President of Northeastern, a university that has long promoted hands-on learning through its co-op program, he believes that in order for these qualities to become deeply ingrained, students “need to experience them in the intensity and chaos of real work environments such as co-ops and internships.”

For me, reading Robot-Proof is profoundly affirming of the direction we’ve charted for teaching and learning at Friends School.  We, too, believe that the mastery of content is only one component of a world-class education and that it must be complemented by the cultivation of a critical set of habits of mind and interpersonal skills.  We, too, are eager to have our students take the knowledge they’ve created out into the world and put it to work in settings where they can see its value and appreciate its impact. And we, too, acknowledge that as the world around us becomes more automated, the value of uniquely human qualities is heightened, not diminished.

# # #


Are Robots Competing for Your Job? -- The New Yorker (Feb. 25, 2019)

The Workforce of the Future: The Skills Challenge Becomes More Apparent -- Forbes (Jan. 22, 2019)


Read More

Topics: Teaching empathy, 4th Industrial Revolution, student assessment, student assessments, growth mindset, Mastery Transcript Consortium, creativity, artificial intelligence, critical thinking

Empowering students beyond the classroom

Posted by Matt Micciche, Head of School, Friends School of Baltimore on Apr 26, 2019 3:03:00 PM

I read recently an article by New York Times columnist David Brooks entitled “Five Lies Our Culture Tells Us.”  Brooks has, for several years, been tracing problematic issues in our politics and public life to their deeper roots in America’s culture. His overall diagnosis is that, “We’ve taken the lies of hyper-individualism and we’ve made them the unspoken assumptions that govern how we live.”

In this piece, Brooks fiercely rejects “the lie that happiness is an individual accomplishment.”  The truth, he says, is that “people looking back on their lives from their deathbeds tell us that happiness is found amid thick and loving relationships. It is found by defeating self-sufficiency for a state of mutual dependence. It is found in the giving and receiving of care.”  He takes similar issue with our culture’s glorification of the “individual journey” (think Huck Finn and his many successors in American literature). This mythology, he writes,

… encourages people to believe freedom is the absence of restraint. … In reality, the people who live best tie themselves down. … They respond to some problem or get called out of themselves by a deep love … By planting themselves in one neighborhood, one organization or one mission, they earn trust. They have the freedom to make a lasting difference.

Such deep and abiding commitment to others is at the heart of the connected education we lay out in our strategic direction, Friends Connects. With its emphasis on relationship-building within and beyond Baltimore and its experiential approach to our School’s foundational Quaker testimonies, or SPICES (Simplicity, Peace, Integrity, Community, Equality, Stewardship), this vision calls upon the Friends community to fully live its values and embrace its interdependence with the human and natural ecosystems that surround us.

Brooks claims that the path of individualism ultimately leads towards isolation and moral confusion.  “(V)alues,” he writes, “are created and passed down by strong, self-confident communities and institutions. People absorb their values by submitting to communities and institutions and taking part in the conversations that take place within them. It’s a group process.”  At Friends, we couldn’t agree more. By continuing to make the SPICES the cornerstone of the Friends community and by boldly seeking out challenging conversations, we are empowering future generations to build a more honest and compassionate society.

# # #

5 Things to Know About Implementing Social-Emotional Learning - Education Week (April 25, 2019)

Education Policy for Alienated America -  Forbes (April 25, 2019)


Read More

Topics: Teaching empathy, Quaker schools, Quaker education, values education, stewardship, community service, service learning, community engagement

From discomfort to connection, empathy grows

Posted by Matt Micciche, Head of School, Friends School of Baltimore on Jan 21, 2019 4:51:45 PM

I enjoyed reading an opinion article in last week’s Baltimore Sun titled, “We could learn a lot from the Ravens.” The gist of the piece is that, despite their recent playoff loss to the LA Chargers, the team demonstrated Baltimore at its best, “gritty, perseverant, resilient, tough and never to be counted out.” It also highlighted the commendable commitment to Baltimore that the team has shown, drawing particular attention to the Ravens’ “watch parties” that they co-hosted with Thread, a local nonprofit that seeks to narrow the divides within our community.  At these events, “(m)ore than 500 people from different ZIP codes … age, race and class, came together to root on our team and find common ground while talking about issues that face Baltimore each and every day,” including the stark disparities in safety, education, and even life expectancy from one neighborhood to the next in our city.  The authors of the article recognize the fundamental truth that we need “deeper connections … (to) transcend our differences, perceived and real,” and that, “we must broaden our networks and our willingness to learn from one another in order to grow stronger.”

This desire for broader and deeper relationships to help bridge the chasms of economics, geography, and race that separate us is central to the vision of Friends Connects, our School’s strategic direction.  We know that the only way our students will be of real service to their communities is by experiencing these communities through the people, places, and history that comprise them. When we help them venture beyond their protective bubbles and provide them with authentic opportunities to connect with their fellow citizens, our students develop empathy, a critical mindset for the work that our city, our country and our world will require of them.

A key goal of Friends Connects is for us to live up to our name, Friends School of Baltimore, by being more truly and fully of Baltimore.  Doing so involves engaging with the totality of Baltimore; its assets, its challenges, its rich history, and its daunting legacy of inequality. It calls for us to go beyond our comfort zones in many ways; to look carefully and critically at familiar neighborhoods like Roland Park, and to come to know very different neighborhoods like Jonestown, where we have an exciting partnership with the McKim Center, a community organization that happens to be located in the very Meeting House where our School was founded in 1784.  It will also involve wading into conversations about controversial and contentious issues like the uneven distribution of resources, the racial tensions within our city, and the true meaning of equity. Connection, the ultimate goal of this venture, can only be realized when we are willing to look inward while engaging outward, and to question our assumptions while remaining true to our principles. In the end, we will be stronger as individuals, as a School community, and as a city for having chosen to follow this path.

# # #

Why Empathy Is the Most Important Skill You'll Ever Need to Succeed - Inc. Magazine (Oct. 4, 2017)

Empathy is the Youth Power Skill of the 21st Century - Huffington Post (Dec. 5, 2017)

Is empathy the most critical skill of this century? - The Medium (July 4, 2018)


Read More

Topics: Teaching empathy, empathy in elementary education, teaching empathy in middle school, empathy in the classroom

Teaching empathy in the elementary classroom

Posted by Victoria LeBron, 5th grade teacher on Feb 13, 2018 1:04:29 PM

A few weeks ago, I asked my 5th graders to complete this prompt: Something I think you should know about me right now is____________. It was mid-January and seemed like a good time for a check-in. I was inspired to engage the class in this exercise after sensing an ongoing anxious energy among the students (tense body language, tears, distracted giggling). Maybe this would refocus us all, or at least help my homeroom to feel closer to one another. The students took a few minutes to journal on the prompt and then we met for morning meeting, like most days.

Read More

Topics: Teaching empathy, empathy in elementary education

Considering an Independent School? 

Download Friends School's "15 Important Questions to Ask when visiting an independent school." 

  • Learn the right questions to ask when evaluating school options. 
  • Gain confidence in making the important decision of where to send your child to school. 

15 Questions to Ask

Subscribe to Email Updates

Other blog posts

Experience Friends 

Experience our culture and campus like never before. 

Inquire at Friends