Wednesday, September 25, 2013

21st century education for young women in an ancient Tudor manor house

And yes, we were off again this afternoon with WFU banners and bookmarks in hand, moving through the Underground to find the appropriate train station to "call" at Kent--most precisely to land at Cobham Hall, a magnificent Tudor manor house set in 150 acres of historic parkland.  Again the historic proportion of these ancient homes and schools have continued to amaze me as I see these places of deep wisdom and challenge stretch forward to meet twenty-first century realities.  This school, Cobham Hall, located between Gravesend and Rochester in Kent, is situated in a manor house, ancestral home of the Earls of Darnley, and is described in the brochures as "one of the largest, finest, and most important houses in Kent."

How does this all-girls school meet the 21st century sitting in an ancient landscape belonging to the 16th century?  It was easy to see.  Founded in 1960, this school was a vision of an international brand of education long before Tom Friedman reminded us that the world was really flat. The International Baccalaureate program is a natural fit for this school and for these students.  Aiesha from Nigeria gave me a campus tour, and as we walked through the classrooms, the gardens, and the residence halls, (some of the rooms had been built precisely for a visit by Elizabeth I) she spoke of her love for Mandarin Chinese and shared her goal of completing a gap year in China learning the culture and language.  Her parents, still living in Nigeria, considered learning about China very important for her future.  So they sent her to a girls school in Kent, England, where she studies and dines in a huge and very beautiful Tudor mansion, where Pocahantas was supposedly buried, so that she can be prepared to live and work in China!  Go figure!

It is a flat world, Mr. Friedman!  And Wake Forest University is on the way to making friendships around this flattened world so that it will not be a lonely, flat world but one filled with people who engage the mind, the heart, and each another along the way.   Twenty-five students, faculty, and administrators from Cobham Hall and surrounding schools heard the WFU story tonight.  And the world once again just became even flatter!

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