Bob Selverstone Asks: “What Do You Stand For?”

Generations of Staples students from the mid-1970s through early ’90s remember Bob Selverstone’s Values Clarification course.

It earned them 1/4 credit — but what they took away was far more important. In small groups — then together in a large one — students talked, thought and wrote about what they believed. And why.

Faculty and parents joined the classes. Clergy came too. The Values class — and its follow-up, Human Sexuality — were some of the most meaningful, even life-changing, parts of Staples students’ educations.

Dr. Robert Selverstone

Dr. Robert Selverstone

“Personal growth is so important,” Selverstone — who has spent 35 years as a psychologist in private practice in Westport, and was named an Outstanding Educator by Planned Parenthood — says. He is proud that, while teaching part-time at Staples, his courses may have been the only ones of their kind in an American public high school.

If the Values Clarification course sounds like something you wished you’d taken, you’re in luck. This March, Selverstone will offer them through Continuing Education.

“What Do You Stand For? … And What Won’t You Stand For?” is the name of his offering.

“The roads you take — and those you forgo — reflect your value,” Selverstone says. “Which path do you choose? Sometimes the decision isn’t so easy.”

He describes an exercise he uses with groups ranging from 8th graders to summer camp staffs. The scenario involves an engaged couple, a raging river, and sex. Plus concepts like friendship, honesty and purity.

Though everyone in a class may look homogeneous, when they discuss the scenario they realize their beliefs may be very different. Then the talk turns to ideas like: Who has the “proper” values? And how do we live those values?

“Self-awareness is the most important part of nearly everything we do,” Selverstone says. He is a master at helping even the least self-aware people start to think about what matters to them.

As a Staples student 30 years ago, Westport’s new director of continuing education Ellen Israel took Selverstone’s Values Clarification course. Recently, she invited him to teach it again.

Continuing ed website

“I love doing this stuff,” the energetic, ever-smiling Selverstone says. “I love the immediate feedback. And I love that the potential for positive impact is so huge.”

Adults of any age — “20 to 80,” he says — are welcome.

“It’s not therapy,” he notes. “But it is therapeutic. Everyone should spend some time thinking about ideas they may never have consciously thought of.”

As for Selverstone, he’s thought often of the groundbreaking classes he taught in high school.

“Staples has always been a delightful place,” he says. “Now I’ve got a wonderful chance to go back there — and give back.”

(“What Do You Stand For? … And What Won’t You Stand For?”) will be taught on 4 consecutive Thursdays, from March 10-31, 7-9 p.m. For more information, click on or call 203-341-1209.)


13 responses to “Bob Selverstone Asks: “What Do You Stand For?”

  1. Eric William Buchroeder SHS '70

    If this is a recent picture…..Dr. S. looks pretty much the same as when he was my guidance counselor at Staples. Continued good health Dr. Selverstone!

    • Bob Selverstone

      Eric, Believe it or not I DO remember you — after all these 40+ years. Warmest regards, Bob S.

  2. I loved being a parent in the values clarification class. The kids were relaxed, open and uninhibited in the conversations. I took a lot with me, took a good look at where I was, and headed back to graduate school.
    Thanks kids and Bob.

    • Bob Selverstone

      Nancy, You are so kind. And your presence in the class was so wonderfully helpful to all the students. You were/are a REAL person. And many thanks for all the good that you have done for Westport.

  3. There are no words to adequately describe the impact Bob Selverstone had on my life. In September (’68) of my junior year my Dad died at 46 after a 4 month struggle with a brain tumor. Dr. Selverstone called me into his office “just to talk”. He was checking in on my mental state (pretty depressed at the time). I told him how I dreaded two more years in high school and watching so many of my friends (I was dating a senior and many of my friends were seniors) heading off to college. He asked me if I’d ever heard of “Early Admission”. I hadn’t, of course. He suggested that I give it a shot and when I demurred saying I”d be too embarrassed for word to get out that I’d tried and failed at something so audacious, he said no one needs to know (except your Mom, of course). Anyhow, long story short….I was accepted at Yale and skipped senior year, joining the Yale College Class of 1973. That changed my life in so many fundamental and wonderful ways. And it would never have happened without Bob Selverstone’s encouragement.
    Dr. S. I am so pleased to see that you’re still encouraging folks to think and grow emotionally. Thank you for the encouragement you gave me in 1968!
    Marc Bailin

    • Bob Selverstone

      Marc, My technological ignorance prevents me from know just what I had previously written to you actually made it to you. But I CHERISH the fact that I might have had some positive impact upon your life – I CHERISH it!
      At our son’s and daughter’s Bar and Bat Mitzvah (in the Congregation for Humanistic Judaism) we recited Longfellow’s Psalm of Live, which, among other things, says — well, as I re-read it, I love ALL the things that it says — and I encourage you to get a copy of it. But I cannot help but repeat: ”
      “Lives of great men all remind us
      We can make our lives sublime
      And departing leave behind us
      Footprints on the sands of time

      Footprints, that perhaps another,
      Sailing o’er life’s solemn main,
      A forlorn and shipwrecked brother,
      Seeing, shall take heart again.”

      You were never a forlorn or shipwrecked brother, but I am delighted to have provided some light for your exciting life.


  4. I took two classes with Dr. Robert at Staples, including Values, and they remain among the most memorable experiences I had there! And while the idea of having Values never really took root with me unfortunately (hoho), I could never say enough about what a fine and positively impacting teacher this guy is … My only regret is that he’s not full-time AT Staples still so my daughter and other kids could benefit from his work & righteous brain!

    • Bob Selverstone

      Jarret, you are so kind with your words — and so clear and informative in your reporting to the Westport community. In whatever way I might have helped, I am honored. Warmly,Bob

  5. Dan,
    Thanks so much for telling me about this course. Just signed up.
    (Note: not even adding any swarmy comments about who else should sign up because I think this will be a really excellent experience.)

  6. Bob was my guidance counselor at Staples and gave me wonderful advice too re the college admissions process when I wasn’t even thinking that much about it. He was tremendously helpful.

    • Bob Selverstone

      Fred, I remember you fondly — and your father who was your wonderful sponsor! We all need parents who are so 100% in our camp. And I LOVE seeing your photos on Dan’s blog! Bob

  7. Ah the 70’s and the various offshoots of the Human Potential Movement! No, Values Clarification was not a branch of EST, but certainly was influenced by the same zeitgeist. Time to re-watch “Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice” and re-read Tom Wolfe’s “The Me-Decade” — the latter available for free at NY Magazines where it was first published…and as brilliant and funny as ever!