Stephen Carter’s Reflections

At the National Association of Independent Schools Conference this week, Stephen Carter spoke about the importance of reflection, and he began by pointing out that, although Pearl Harbor occurred in 1941, the definitive report on it wasn’t published until 1962. Some things take time.

Carter cited Bertrand Russell’s, “In Praise of Idleness,” an essay in which Russell voiced his fear that children were becoming far too busy. It’s worth noting that this piece was written 80 years ago. What would Russell think of today’s Play Station 35 culture?

Without the habit of reflection, we are left only with our reactions, and Carter believes that reflection is the quiet key to leadership. What’s interesting is that, if during a debate, a political leader were to respond to a question by saying, “I need to think about that,” his response would cost him votes. People would see this as being weak or evasive.

Carter concluded by asking, “Why did the firemen in ‘Farenheit 451’ burn books? They did so because people wanted no more complexity. They wanted simple answers, and books can make things complicated. They can make you change your mind.”


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