Student Life programs challenge students to rethink society’s conventional messages
By Dustin Mones
“It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.”
~J. Krishnamurti, philosopher
This quote rings true today as well-meaning adults react to an unprecedented number of challenges concerning the wellness of teenagers. Adolescents face many challenges, but undoubtedly one of the biggest is the affront of technology, and specifically of social media. Our society is ill-equipped to keep up with the pace of technological growth and the effects it is having on a generation of young people.
The flow of culture is pushing teens to believe a lie that their value can be contained on a 6 by 4 inch screen. Social media feeds distort reality so that the valleys and peaks that characterize all human existence do not exist. The identity of an individual’s journey becomes something that is characterized only by the “instagram worthy” occasions in life. It creates a world where a “like” or a “unfriend” has the power to change or truly impact a child. Today perhaps more than ever teenagers need a solid foundation upon which to stand.
At The Stony Brook School, we believe we must face these challenges from a broader viewpoint. It is not enough to merely combat technology in one’s environment. Rather character must be instilled in the individual. Character education is at the core of our student life program. While social media platforms encourage teens to focus on self-promotion, The Stony Brook School is emboldening our students to see beyond. In Matthew 23:11, Jesus states that “the greatest among you will be your servant.” Stony Brook students are learning to question the conventional messages in our culture, and are seeking to live a life that is focused on loving others.
One way we display love is through community service. Brookers have completed well over 1,000 hours of community service in past three months. Working in elderly homes, food outreaches, environmental groups, and local charity organizations, Stony Brook students know what it means to serve.
As a school, we also recognize the need to discuss character from the perspective of our own community. If we want a community characterized by love that fosters strong relationships and mutual understanding, then how do we have the dialogues that will move us in that direction? This question has resulted in a student and faculty led forum called Realtalk, which takes place in our dormitories across campus on Monday evenings. This year’s theme has been about creating and maintaining a “posture of understanding” in the way we approach others in our community. In such a diverse community, living at Stony Brook is a learning experience. Throughout the Fall, students and faculty have co-labored to develop a safe place to be intentional and honest in our Realtalk discussions. In the past year, our Realtalk conversations have tackled other important and popular topics like stress management, relationships, identity, time management, tech usage, and faith.
Finally, as educators we are realizing that character in the form of self-discipline is becoming an even more important skill in a world of easy access and constant stimulation. We see our children moving away from real experiences. Socials skills, trusted and close friends, and wise mentors, are often being traded for a media platforms or addictive games that rob sleep, stifle productiveness, and drive students further away from what is truly meaningful and good. Students need to be educated about the effects of excessive technology use as much as they need to understand any content presented in the classroom.. At Stony Brook we are not only providing our students with information from researchers who understand the effects of technology, but we are also setting into place practices that will give our students the best chance to make positive decisions with their personal habits. For example, the Residential Life program at SBS has formed a relationship with YONDR, a company that creates lockable smartphone pouches which can only be opened with a centralized unlocking mechanism. This ultimately makes the phone inoperable while the device is in the pouch. During evening study hours in our dormitories, students are asked to store their phones in these pouches for the duration of study hours. This not only creates an environment conducive to learning, but it also gives students a glimpse of how truly productive they can be away from modern distractions. We believe that creating positive habits and disciplines is an important part of building the strong character we want our students to leave SBS with.
The student life program is focused on creating men and women of strong character who are ready to take on the challenges of the future. We are committed to striving beyond basic knowledge to true understanding and ultimately wisdom. Our students learn not only how to succeed in their endeavors, but also how they may share the love of God while doing so.