From the 1990s
Recently I came across a poem by the Sufi mystic Rumi and it read,
“I sought a soul in the sea
and found a coral there
beneath the foam for me
an ocean was all laid bare.”
The Governor-General must have had something like this in mind in his speech at the Wyalla opening. He moved away from the all too narrow perspective of human intelligence and TERs. He stated the latter was only part of the reality of what a student’s life at school is about and the significance he accomplishes in the world after school. History has shown that some people with high IQs flounder while those with a modest IQ do surprisingly well in the world. People who excel are those whose emotional intelligence includes self-awareness, zeal, self-motivation, empathy and social consciousness. They are also what character and self-discipline are about. They are values that lead to altruism and compassion.
To understand our children we need to understand something of ourselves. Institutions endeavour not to allow us to work with our hearts. Yet we yearn so much to let our hearts do the talking. It is in this way that we make our major discovery in life. How can we find true liberation? In the context of our College how can an educational system be liberating for our children?
Let’s start with the institution that purports to educate. We know deep down that an institution by its nature is proof enough that original sin exists!! We also know that in a battle between an individual and an institution the latter always can claim victory because it has might and power on its side.
The recently retired Headmaster of Trinity Grammar, Rod West, said “The heart of education is the education of the heart. Self-discovery sets the pupil free.” He then went on to say that the greatest of values is in the sanctity of the individual and the preciousness of each boy in our schools.
Can we honestly say that the quest of our school is the above? The debate about a good school is often argued along quantifiable lines. We know the best schools are named on their TER results. Those highly favoured can feel cosy. Yet I believe it is only in a school where the staff experience a true nurturing that the children under their care can find true liberation.
We want results. We pay for results. But at what cost? West believes that schools must provide a place in the sun for every student. The school community in tandem with the family provides the stability that so many young people need. We all know that it will either be in the happy or the harassed faces of teachers and students that we will find the proof as to whether a school has a soul or not. Leaving rhetoric aside does our school provide the climate to bring out what is best? Does it give the opportunity for our young ones to seek truth, to work from the heart and to live authentic lives? Does it give them the opportunity “to seek the soul in the sea and find the ocean all laid bare”?
What is or should be most precious in the life of a student? Friendship and a sense of being of human value are vital. We all yearn for these. Yet systems and institutions on the whole are destructive to these values. How many of our young have become alienated from a system that makes no sense, a system that envelops those that have nowhere to turn? It is like being thrown by a monster wave. We have no recourse but to succumb to the battering. We can so easily talk about virtue, trust, generosity and being men for others. What do these words really mean? We can in time become experts in the Ignatian Paradigm, but for what end?
How are our youth able to discover the quality of life needed to find their cherished humanity? Let’s look at our role and our offering. True and lasting education is about transmitting the real and the genuine and this can only come from a personality filled with love and capable of working from the heart. What is virtuous, what is worthy and what is right cannot be theorized or made into a mathematical formula. It is when our young are taught to apply these values to the life they aspire to that meaning can be found. Educators, be they parents or teachers, who make a journey into their own hearts may well be the first port of call of our young for self-discovery.
In time they will be grateful that we have been their patient companions in lifting the coral for them to see beneath the foam and with the ocean bare to find the infinite land of day. We first make our discovery. We need to find what is precious in our lives so that we will be able to listen to our children and learn from them. We need to understand that we are the ones contaminated by systems that look only to survival at any cost. In T. S. Eliot’s words we can so easily become “the hollow men, the stuffed men leaning together headpiece filled with straw….shape without form, shade without colour.” In failing to liberate ourselves we fail our children.
Socrates, a precursor of Jesus, once said “an unexamined life is not worth living”. Where then do we seek out, nurture and cherish the examined life? I see and feel it in the poetry of being human and being able to convey this to those young ones sharing this planet with us. When we take that journey with our children and explore their terrain we discover the liberating power of an education that transcends institutions and systems. Our education will not be based on corruptive power rather It will come in our quest for the treasure beyond power, money and prestige.