Very interesting discussion on online methods of providing a well-rounded education to gifted kids who pursue Sports and Arts careers.
Sramana Mitra: If you could introduce yourself as well as Dwight Schools Group to start with, that would be awesome.
Stephen Spahn: I’m the Chancellor of the Dwight Schools. I began my career in education at Dwight in 1967. I come from a family of educators and creative thinkers that reaches back more than 80 years.
Dwight Group is a network of schools which includes Dwight New York. The campus in New York was started in 1872. We now have campuses in London, Seoul, Shanghai, Dubai, and a campus on the cloud called Dwight Global Online School.
Dwight Global has students from grade 7 to 12. Our other schools go all the way from preschool to grade 12. As I look at the macro picture, what does the world of opportunity look like for them? I am most concerned about how a democracy will thrive and how capitalism needs to reinvent itself.
That’s why I was very interested in what you are doing because it’s directly aligned with our thinking and the kinds of things we’ve done so far.
Sramana Mitra: Tell me a little bit about what you are doing so we can level-set and then we can brainstorm.
Stephen Spahn: When my father did his doctorate, one thing he said was that the study of nature and of man’s relation to it is going to be an essential part of education. It’s something that I grew up with.
I also grew up in a house where my mother ran a great camp. She had generations of young women who looked up to her. The idea was how do you develop leaders. That requires you to overcome fear, self-doubt, and you need to have a whole system that can do that.
I learned at an early age that all experiences you have can be meaningful. I worked in a factory where I was working with a Hispanic workforce. We were paid by the piece on an assembly line. We were making hot water heaters. It was out at the airport. I then learned about what it was to do manual labor.
Of course, one of the first things I began to think about was there must be a better way to do this. People are going to lose their jobs. It was interesting to see it from the other person’s perspective because you’ve to always put yourself in someone else’s shoes and try to think about how you can solve that. What are the kinds of things that you can do?
Having been an athlete, I would work all day in the factory and then I would play basketball at night. There, I learned a lot of lessons. You learn humility when you learn to play with players who are better than you. You have to figure out a way to draw upon your strength. It became my mission to find the spark of genius within myself and then to be able to find it within all students and teachers.
That was the essence. How do you take your passions and interests and turn them into projects? How do you invent things? How do you create the mind of the thinker? In the end, we realized that it’s the thinking that you start with. That was by way of background.
What was most interesting was that my father followed the same path. When he saw that there was a process of lamination, he began to manufacture diplomas that would be sealed. He created a business while he was still in college doing that. I’ve always had some good mentors to really bounce ideas off of. That’s one thing I’m fortunate to have.