A piece of wood as straight as a plumb line may be bent into a circle as true as any drawn with a compass and, even after the wood has dried, it will not straighten out again. The bending process has made it that way. -Xunzi
In Xunzi’s essay, “Encouraging Learning,” Xunzi shows the reader that things can be changed and altered to make them better. In order to change a thing from its original form, it has to be guided and molded through teaching. This quote from Xunzi is extremely applicable to life at Deerfield because it makes us better understand the roles that the rules, teachers and peers can play at Deerfield in terms of shaping who we are as people, as well as teaching us how to be creative and use each of our unique talents to our advantage.
At Deerfield, we are constantly surrounded by rules and guidelines of how we should act and behave in the community. Sensible rules that hold true to Deerfield’s values are a core part of the rules in this community, and they are the rules that we should listen to specifically. Some of the rules are stated directly to us via the rulebook. There are also the unwritten rules of how we should act around friends and what we should and shouldn’t say. Whether you know it or not, these rules are shaping how you act. Your habits and characteristics that you learn here will continue throughout your life, unless they are replaced by new ones that have been taught to you. Think back to one of the earliest rules that you were taught: brush your teeth. You brushed your teeth as a kid because it was what you were supposed to do. It was probably your parents who told you to brush your teeth at night, and after many years of learning to brush your teeth, it became a routine you follow everyday. Brushing your teeth became a habit because of the pressure placed upon you. It could have been because of your parents, the fact that clean teeth are socially accepted, or possibly because of you trying to care for your health.
Although we sometimes think certain rules here at Deerfield are pointless, it is important to remember that they are each, in some way or another, helping us to be able to pursue our goals by giving us the tools we need to accomplish our goals. For example, your table head having rules about what you can and can’t do at the sit-down table is teaching you to become a well-mannered human being. Every time we decide to do the right thing because of a rule or positive pressure from someone in the community, we are slowly becoming the more thoughtful and better people that we want to be. So next time you are wondering why we have rules that can be restricting for us as students, think about what Xunzi is conveying to us via this passage.
–Hughes Benjamin ’17