Harbord: A Breeding Ground for Geniuses

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Written By: India Anamanthadou

It floods the air—seeping through the corridors, the classrooms and even the cafeteria. It unites us and divides us, makes us brag and sometimes makes us cry. Yes, that’s right, I am talking about Harbord’s academic drive. Since 1892, Harbord students have possessed an unusual passion for education, earning our school a reputation as a place for Toronto’s brightest. And bright we are. It’s commonly said that a “Harbord fail” is anything below an 80% and it’s evident many of us take this to heart—just take a look at the number of students on the “honour” roll.

However, 80s and 90s were not always so available in Harbord’s earlier years; Harbord was notorious for its high marking standards. While snooping around the museum, I came across a report card from the 1920s. Not only was I surprised to notice that Harbord used to offer courses such as Zoology, Mineralogy and Book Keeping, but I was shocked to realize that the highest mark (in many subjects) was usually a 70% or—in the case of Latin—a 60%. It wasn’t because the students were incompetent, rather that the teachers were “thorough”. In fact, most Harbord students found their year-end standardized exams to be a breeze, typically scoring 10-15% higher than their average in the corresponding class.

And of course, a quick look at our list of notable alumni will confirm that our school is a breeding ground for geniuses. Among the many, Harbord has raised chief surgeons, psychiatrists, (Harvard) lecturers, eminent lawyers, economists, composers, prolific writers and even millionaire entrepreneurs. One alumnus worth mentioning is the great Dr. Charles Best, co-discoverer of insulin—probably one of the most revolutionary discoveries of the 20th century—and a 1917 Harbord graduate.

But what is it about Harbord that makes us different than Parkdale or Jarvis? One possible reason is Harbord’s longstanding tradition of awarding academic excellence. Achieving over a 90% average will automatically guarantee Harbordites a monetary award; for many of us, the allure of an award as well as a cheque is great enough to make us batten down the hatches and head for the books. Whatever the reason, one thing is certain: Harbord is a very special place.

So the next time you find yourself shaking your head in dismay over Harbord’s less-than-stellar sports record, just remind yourself that, although we may not have the greatest athletes, we sure would have a mighty fine team of mathletes.

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