As those of you with Lower School children have probably noticed, we play music in the morning drop-off line most mornings. This has been a lot of fun for our kids; also, it has been an opportunity for some of our faculty members to showcase their tastes in music.
We recently went through the decades as Mrs. Newcombe prepared a 1970s playlist (a lot of disco, of course), and Mrs. Ladson shared some selections from the 1980s (plenty of upbeat songs to choose among). I assigned myself to prepare a playlist from the 1990s... This was a challenge.
I came of age in the 1990s. I graduated from high school in 1991, which means that my four years in college and the bulk of my young adult identity development occurred in that era. Some say that music can define an era, and if that is so, then bands like Nirvana*, Foo Fighters, Green Day, Smashing Pumpkins, and Red Hot Chilli Peppers form a large part of the musical signature of this decade.
Back to my assignment of creating a playlist: the challenge, of course, is that one has to scour their catalogues to find any music appropriate for tender ears, either by tone (nothing says “Welcome to Brookwood Lower School!” like a blast of the mix of punk rock and heavy metal music that would become grunge music) or content.
It then struck me that I might not be the only parent at Brookwood with 90s music in my personal playlists. While the parents of our youngest children were likely, themselves, young children in the 1990s, the bulk of Brookwood’s parents had direct contact to the 1990s either in adolescence, young adulthood, or middle adulthood. As such, the individuals who grew up in a time of iconoclastic rebellion are now parents themselves. So, what is it about Brookwood, or independent schools, in general, that attracts parents who grew up in this era?
More than grunge music, the 1990s were characterized by innovation. Over the course of this decade, the internet, personal computer, cell phones, GPS technology, sophisticated game systems, MP3 players, drone technology, and Photoshop were either invented or came to a new level of maturity. Businesses such as Apple, Microsoft, Google, Amazon, and Starbucks started in the 1990s. We saw these innovations come to life, and they have left an indelible mark in all of our lives.
The adults of this era are typically within the “Gen X” generation** and have some of the following core characteristics: they seek balance, value diversity, are described as entrepreneurial, are fun, are highly educated, lack organizational loyalty, are pragmatic, think globally, are technologically literate, and can be skeptical or cynical.
So.. why Brookwood?
Adults of my era tend to be skeptical of institutions. As such, their choice to send their children to an independent school comes from thought and examination, rather than out of blind trust. We do seek a strong educational foundation for our children as we know that this plays a key role in success in later life. We seek a balance; we see that whole child development (physical, social, spiritual, as well as academic) are essential ingredients in childhood. We value that independent schools are run by educators and are immune from most governmental intrusions. We seek innovative thinking, characterized in STEAM education, and critical thinking, characterized in a small classroom environment. Finally, we seek community, which we have seen erode in our culture over the course of our lives.
As a further note, despite the rough edges of 90s hallmark music, grunge is a reflection of core characteristics embodied in this era. Grunge, like many of the 90s technology start ups, developed off the radar in places where the conditions were right for success. Garages and other simple venues gave the innovators the space and support to create. Similarly, independent schools bost small classroom environment designed to create the conditions for children to succeed, create, and innovate.
So, my fellow children of the 90s...as you sip your lattes and sing along to your nostalgic 90s playlists (“JEREMY...SPOKE IN….CLASSSS… TOOODAAAY!!”) , realizing that we are now the authority that we once resisted, know that your children are in a good place — where the music of gentler eras will greet them in the drop-off line.
* funny story… in one of the stranger decisions of my young adult life, I decided not to attend a Nirvana concert that was held on my college’s campus because I thought that they were too commercial.
** “Gen Xers” were born between 1965 and 1981. They are followed by the millennials; we can talk about why this cohort chooses independent schools in a future blog post!