Building Community—One Asymmetrical Block at a Time

Posted August 31, 2010


How could a description as oxymoronic as “community of individuals” be accurate?

It is at Concord Academy, as veteran teacher Chris Rowe explained in his Convocation address Tuesday morning.

“Most schools would probably consider themselves a community of individuals, and in one sense they are correct, having foraged a clearly defined community over a period of decades, perhaps even centuries, through the gradual accretion of rules, rituals, and traditions before the oh-so-carefully selected individuals are asked to fill a meticulously chiseled slot in this or that institution’s well-varnished pegboard.

“We do things differently at CA,” he went on, describing a somewhat mysterious process by which the varied, creative, and at times unusual students that CA embraces meet each year on the first day of school then slowly coalesce into that ineffable CA “community.”

“This annual process of construction, or, more accurately, reconstruction, is, I believe, the ‘great work’ that will shape our lives over the next nine months,” Rowe said. “ . . . the collective identity of the CA community depends on all of us being willing to sacrifice time, energy, and yes, even some of our cherished individuality, toward this larger enterprise.”

Rowe, who has worked at CA for more than two decades, teaching visual arts and history, explained that even the unsuspecting are seen as individuals at CA. “As for all you dull, conformist types who may be wondering if you made the right choice in attending CA, not to worry,” he said. “At this school, being uninteresting is considered a brazen act of defiance, which, by definition, makes you . . . an individual.”

At the 2010–11 Convocation, remarks by Head of School Rick Hardy, Board of Trustees President John Moriarty, and Student Head of School Dani Girdwood ’11 preceded Rowe’s address. Concord Academy welcomed returning students, along with eighty-nine new students and twelve new faculty and staff.

CA has kicked off the school year with a Convocation since 2002, inspired by the powerful community gathering following the 9-11 tragedy the year before. This year’s Convocation followed a long weekend of Orientation activities for new students, including picnics, barbecues, a square dance, movies, and numerous getting-to-know-CA meetings.

Click here for more about speaker and CA faculty member Chris Rowe.

Click here to view photos from the events.

How could a description as oxymoronic as “community of individuals” be accurate?

It is at Concord Academy, as veteran teacher Chris Rowe explained in his Convocation address Tuesday morning.

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