A member of our Hopkins community recently emailed me after receiving the Hopkins Vision 2031 Roadmap. He told me that, even though his children had already graduated from Hopkins schools, education continues to be very important to him. He then shared that after carefully evaluating the Vision 2031 Roadmap, he noticed a strong repetition of the following words: empathy, equity, diverse teams, inclusive, soft skills, love, culture and engagement. This Hopkins resident went on to question why there was — from his perspective — a noticeable absence of language and concepts that were more “academic.” He explained, “My problem with the list is most poignantly expressed by the words that were absent: science, mathematics, language, English, history, academic, learn and master.” It did not make sense to him that in Hopkins we’re trying to invent an education model that does not include strong academics in specific subject matter.

While I genuinely appreciated his email and detailed thoughts, the truth is that we’re not. We’re not trying to create a new education model void of academic competence. His query spurred me to wonder where we had been unclear.

The truth is that in Hopkins classrooms — beginning in preschool and extending all the way through grade 12 and beyond — our educators are tapping into and building our students’ intellectual capacities. Undeniably, we are doing this in the context of literacy, math, science, social sciences, health, world language, career-aligned courses, music and art. We are a collection of schools and we teach all disciplines and subject matters. That will never change.

What needs to change, and thus what we’re trying to communicate in our vision, is the type of student we want to deliver to the world. We have heard from educational institutions and companies alike — from Harvard to Cargill — that they want young people who are not only competent and smart, but are also empathetic, confident, globally minded, culturally aware, and know how to collaborate on diverse teams to solve the world’s problems. That is why you see specific concept trends on our Vision 2031 Roadmap.

Maybe what we haven’t communicated clearly is what won’t change — that we will teach students how to be competent in multiple subject areas. This work is foundational. However, in Hopkins, it’s not just that we want students to read, write and do math well, we also want to teach these subject matters holistically so that students develop critical thinking and literacy in the context of math, and learn math in the context of science or social sciences. Yes, the world needs mathematicians and English professors, but the world also needs hydraulics engineers and social scientists who understand artificial intelligence.

In Hopkins, we teach subject matters very well. We’re also going to cultivate the whole child so that competitive employers and colleges will clearly see the soft skills listed in our Vision 2031 Roadmap are far more evident in our students than those prepared by more traditional districts. This is our aspiration and our promise to our students — because every one of our students deserves a brilliant future.

Dr. Rhoda Mhiripiri-Reed is the superintendent of Hopkins Public Schools.

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