The Cashmere Sweater

  • 2022
  • High School
Brennan Dignan, High School College And Career Counsellor

I am currently reading the book, Wanting, by Luke Burgis. This book is a layman’s introduction to Rene Girard’s Mimetic Desire Theory. I am reading it because I want to understand the power behind why we humans desire what we desire. I hope you can appreciate the relevance it has for me in my work in college counseling, where mimetic desire runs rampant, where the collective “we” can’t help but want, not only those things that others want, but also those things that are the hardest to come by (the scarcity principle). The more inaccessible something becomes, the stronger our desire grows. 

Consider this, in a post on the HK college counselor Facebook group, there was a celebration about how many students the University of Chicago admitted from HK this year, which was six. One more than last year! It is an open secret that the highly selective institutions more or less have a quota for HK. That number is somewhere between four to six. Closed-loop mimetic desire starts with everyone who surrounds these students with their own desires, which is the adults in their culture who usually desire highly selective institutions. And the high school they attend has been shaped to desire those university outcomes. From parent, to child, to high school. As a result, the parameters by which one is allowed to be successful is extremely narrow and highly mimetic so that the high school can’t help but to inadvertently produce thinkers that are desiring the same thing, and by necessity, thinking alike. There is no room for other modalities. Does a neurodiverse student have a seat at the table? No. Does an artist have a seat at the table? No. Does a hands on, experiential learner have a seat at the table? No. There is one learning profile that is nurtured and all of the learners are competing for the exact same mimetic outcomes: the same degrees, the same professions, at the same institutions. It’s an EITHER OR proposition. This is not necessarily a bad thing as long as your child thrives in this environment. But what if your child doesn’t? 

At THS, you are going to see true diversity in thinking as it is expressed through the diversity of offers that our incredible students have received from institutions of higher education this year. The list imbues me with a sense of purpose and joy in seeing what honoring an individual looks like. We have neurodiverse students with multiple offers from both UK and US schools. We have students heading to art schools. We have students heading to community colleges. We have students taking a gap year. We have students heading to schools on the US News and World Report top university rankings (disclaimer: rankings make my job much more difficult than it needs to be). That is true diversity. That is inclusivity in the truest sense of the term.  Let’s celebrate it. That is the reflection of an institution that is a, YES AND, not an, EITHER OR. Both approaches can, do, and will exist now and in perpetuity, but let’s honor who we are and not let the “thin desire” of name brand institutions undermine our efforts. Instead, let’s recommit ourselves each year to the “thick desire” of putting the student’s needs first and foremost in our efforts, continuing to thicken our deepest institutional desires as we do so.

So, what does this have to do with a cashmere sweater? According to Luke Burgis, the author of, Wanting, if you take 100 people out to a field of goats, 99 of them will see a field of goats and nothing more.  Only one will see a cashmere sweater. So my question to you is this: what environment empowers an individual to break out of their closed-loop mimetic thinking to see a sweater where others only see goats? It is my belief that this is what the 21st century is asking of its labor force. I don’t know about you, but I want to be a sweater man.

With that in mind, I invite you to celebrate the courage with which each of our seniors made their final post-graduation decision. Below you will find a list of THS seniors, the institution of higher education they have chosen to attend, their intended field of study where pertinent, and whether or not they plan on taking a gap year. Please join me in a round of virtual applause for all of the brave souls in the THS class of 2022.

Lewis Bourquin, Canterbury Christ Church to study music composition
Alex Campbell, California Polytechnic University San Luis Obispo for Landscape Architecture 
Akasha Campbell, McDaniel College, Communications or Communication and Cinema
Edgar Chan, University of San Francisco
Michelle Fong, Temple University (Japan Campus), Art
Jason Fraulo, Temple, Criminal Justice
Matthew Galpin, University for the Creative Arts, Foundation Year
Mimi Greenberg, Parsons School of Design, Strategic Design and Management
Daniel Jones, University of York
Amber Liang, University of Toronto, Faculty of Arts & Science with intent to pursue Political Science
Anton Siu, Working in the US
Benjamin Sweetman, Awaiting SAT scores and will apply to universities in Australia once applications are open
Alisha Tuckfield, Eckerd College, Animal Studies
Anthony Wong, University of Sheffield, Foundation Year
Merlin Wygas, In the audition process for UK acting programs

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