Lancer Letter – Scholarship

Submitted by Richard Scaletta, GM School District

Last week was the annual induction ceremony to admit students into the National Honor Society. This week, I’m publishing the remarks I made on the subject of scholarship.

Good evening. The National Honor Society was founded in 1921. The first chapter was in our very own state in the City of Pittsburgh. The NHS was created out of concern for the growing movement to emphasize athletic and academic activities to the exclusion of character, leadership and service. The purpose of the NHS is to create enthusiasm for scholarship, to stimulate a desire to render service, to promote leadership and to develop character in the students of secondary schools.

Usually, my remarks on this evening, address the qualities of character, service or leadership since the scholarship component is cut and dried – attainment of a 3.3 grade point average. But, scholarship is not as simple as a Grade Point Average, especially in this electronic age. We tend to think of scholarship in terms of taking in knowledge – the more our brain seems to hold, the more “scholarly” we are.

Scholarship is not about how much we know – it is about our desire to learn and our pursuit of knowledge. It is about curiosity, and what we will do to satisfy it. It is about not accepting information at face value, but digging deeper for the truth.

Before the “information age,” before google and the vast availability of information (and misinformation) on the internet, schools were often the sole purveyors of factual knowledge. Teachers presented information, students memorized it and spit it back on a test. The amount of information in the world was exponentially less than it is today.

Working with information to solve problems and to create new thought, is infinitely more important that taking in information. Having a high GPA does NOT make you a scholar. As a matter of fact, I fear that the pursuit of a high GPA often thwarts scholarship. When we work only for a grade, learning suffers and scholarship is not served.

Cheating is rampant among today’s students as the ready access of handheld devices with cameras has created a whole new world of opportunities to cheat ourselves out of the opportunity to truly learn. In a world where having knowledge is a given, those who can take information, apply it, evaluate it, and synthesize it into new applications will be the people who prosper. Creative, new thought which comes out of what we know is what matters. Short cuts to learning are short circuits to priming our brain for what it needs to do.

William Hazlitt said, “Learning is its own exceeding great reward.” I’m afraid that my generation has sold out on the idea of learning for the sake of learning. In a valiant effort to impress the importance of education on our youth, we have equated education with money and quality of living. The litany goes like this:

You need to work hard in school to get good grades. You need good grades so you can go to college; you need a college degree to get a good job; you need a good job so you can have money to buy a nice house, a couple cars, and be able to afford overpriced leisure activities like golf. In this justification of a college degree and learning, we’ve taken one of the most complex of human functions, one that we have yet to fully understand, and made it valuable only in the context of what earthly possessions it can give us.

I would encourage the students here tonight, and all of us, to pursue true scholarship. To learn for the joy that learning can bring. To study, not with the sole intent of passing a test, but with the purpose of solving complex problems. To take information from multiple sources, make connections across disciplines, and create and innovate.

National Honor Society is just a beginning – a recognition that you have made good first steps toward the qualities promoted by the National Honor Society. I encourage you to pursue true scholarship – our nation needs young people with sharp minds who will question, learn, innovate, create and solve some of the most difficult problems mankind has faced.

Congratulations to our inductees and to you, their parents.

The Lancer Letter is a weekly editorial by Richard Scaletta, Superintendent of Schools, General McLane School District. Opinions expressed are Mr. Scaletta’s views on the issues and subjects of discussion, and not necessarily those of or our sponsors.

You must be logged in to post a comment Login