Is it possible to honestly tell every child that he or she is a leader? Sure. Is that true? I don’t think so. I don’t think everyone is a leader. A serious flaw in the education system, the American one at least, is that many teachers reward too many students for completing tasks that should be expected of them. They do this in an effort to be inclusive. Telling every student, even the ones that slack off, or actively go out of their way to not participate, or simply prefer to have smaller roles, that they are a leader gives them a false perception of what it means to lead.
In general, I think that the above is true. However, Riverside School is unique. Because teachers start out with such young kids and keep them for so long, they are able to mold them, far more than any only-primary or only-high school can. In addition, students are given opportunities to practice leadership in a real-world context. Thus, from the perspective of an outsider like me, the key difference between the Riverside School and a school that calls every child a leader without support is the fact that Riverside’s philosophy is that every child has the potential to be a leader and that they only need the proper tools. I completely agree with the sentiment. Every child, no matter how underprivileged or shy, has the potential to become a leader at five years old. At five, the whole world is before them. Riverside selects a lucky few based on what diversity they can bring to the campus, and gives them the tools necessary to flex their developing leadership muscles.
Of course, when we visited Riverside, we heard a sales pitch. Our tour guides were two incredibly well-spoken children who loved the school, and our presentation was led by older student representatives. I’m sure that Riverside has its flaws. But when it comes to the subject of leadership, I find it especially impressive that Riverside does not stop at the title of “leader.” After all, leadership is about what you do, not your social status. Riverside needs to keep that in mind as it grows older and attempts to expand its programs.