We didn’t start the fire…
Dr. Bill Summerhill, Head of School
One of Billy Joel’s most hypnotic songs from the 1900s is a rapid-fire recitation of many of the important people, places and events from the song writer’s baby boomer life. Each verse is sung in a rap-like cadence until a chorus joins Joel in the refrain: “We didn’t start the fire, it was always burning since the world's been turning, we didn't start the fire…”
Ascension Academy is many things to those of us who work here. But one thing we aren’t: fire starters or fire fighters. As Billy Joel rightly observed, the animating fire that burns or smolders within each of us, including our children, is something we can’t claim to have started.
What we can claim to have a hand in at Ascension is the care and tending of, the fueling and management of those unique fires of spirit and aptitude that our students bring to us when they become Cardinals. And each day our teachers work on the front lines of something resembling a controlled burn of ideas, creativity and spirit. Two other philosophers much older than Joel put what we do this way:
The mind is not a vessel to be filled, but a fire to be kindled. – Plutarch
Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.-- William Butler Yeats
Not every school handles fire like we do, and many parents lament the dousing of their child’s spark of interest in learning during their middle and high school years. At Ascension we approach our craft as those seeking to kindle, and in some cases re-kindle the flame of learning in those students who find their way into our classrooms. Our teachers live for those magical moments when eyes light up, voices animate, and imaginations go into overdrive as we carefully and lovingly tend and promote the fires of learning we have helped to nurture.
We didn’t start the fire of human development—that began long before we were born in those awakening moments when humans first asked “why” that compelled them to find out “how.” But of one thing I am certain and take great satisfaction sharing with you: at our school the fire that has always been burning-- the fire of knowledge that warms the heart and enlightens the mind is burning bright and hot at our school.