Our school must nurture an environment which encourages boys to lend their minds and efforts to things which are difficult.
THE NEW ACADEMIC year commenced against the magnificent backdrop of a campus blessed by sun, rain and a dedicated team of grounds and maintenance staff. Three hundred and thirty-two boys took in the vista for the first time as Scotch boys; journeys had been made from Fordholm Road, Hawthorn and O’King Road, Hong Kong. In total, 1,878 boys became the primary focus of attention for the Scotch College of 2011.
Excitement is always high at the start of a school year, as stories of new experiences are given life by that which is familiar. The new pastoral arrangements in Years 9 to 12 added to the spice as teachers and boys, refreshed from time with their families and buoyed by strong VCE results and summer camps, came together in the rich mix that is education.
Away from our green and pleasant corner, another side of nature had seen forces unleashed with devastating effect, here in our own country and across the world, most notably in Sri Lanka and Brazil. And climatic forces weren’t the only powers at work over the summer months as Egypt shook then shifted to the winds of change blowing through the Middle East; economic clouds continued to darken over Dublin; storms of leaked information set us pondering how free, free-speech should be; and, having weathered the contractions, southern Sudan gave birth to the world’s newest nation. At the time of typing, Libya continues to teeter at the brink of an unfathomable abyss while Christchurch and Sendai reel and grieve in the aftermath of shock.
It is important for those in education to remind students that the process of finding order in such chaos doesn’t come from some world instruction manual. That responsibility for forming responses to tragedies and seeking concord amid highly charged environments of diametrically opposed views rests with individuals, groups and governments. That they share responsibility for the success of such processes and should resist any temptation to alienate themselves from things which might seem distant and difficult.
We need young people to be curious as to why a particular view carries the day; to develop an interest in the sort of machinations and negotiations which will determine the future for the people of Egypt and southern Sudan, the economy of Ireland, the standing of WikiLeaks and the responses to flooding in Australia and earthquakes in New Zealand and Japan.
Some years ago, I was introduced by a friend and Professor of Negotiation, Geoff Heald, to Cialdini’s six sources of influence: reciprocity, social proof, consistency and commitment, scarcity, authority and liking, but it is perhaps ideas centred on Aristotle’s classical source of wisdom on the subject of influence and compliance which stir young minds most effectively.
For Aristotle there were five key sources of influence:
|Logos||the robustness of the underlying logic of the case.|
|Ethos||how a negotiator is viewed by their counterpart; or in more contemporary parlance, how he/she is personally ‘branded’.|
|Agora||how the venue of negotiation relates to the intended purpose.|
|Pathos||the collective team ethos; how the negotiating team is ‘branded’|
|Syzygy||the alignment of ‘cosmic forces’ beyond the scope of the debate which are coming together to support a case.|
In Aristotle’s view these were the five necessary, but not sufficient, factors to present a successful case. It is interesting, I think, to ponder the relationship between the five. For example, many superbly robust cases fail to take hold and carry the day. Perfectly logical positions do not, by right alone, necessarily succeed because other factors are at play when groups gather to thrash things out. And it would be naïve to believe the relationships between these five factors to be static.
In recent years the growth of immediate and continuous communication has, perhaps, raised the significance of ethos and pathos, particularly for governments seeking re-election and news agencies seeking sales. If so, it is moot to question whether any relative decline in the status of logos has delivered agreements and ‘solutions’ of shallower, more fragile and increasingly ephemeral nature.
Scotch boys need to be aware that there is still a need for robust planning and policy, however unglamorous it may be to the consumer, while understanding that the ‘best’ solutions have to be able to carry the day.
To engender this we look to make Scotch boys adaptable: adaptable to both complexity and variety.
This is why 580 boys were engaged by 60 members of staff in activities as far reaching as trekking in Nepal, music concerts in China and a Christian Movement Camp at Cowes. This is why we offer such a broad, diverse curriculum and place great emphasis on a co-curricular programme rich in what it offers boys in sport, music, drama, debating, public speaking and a wealth of service opportunities.
This is why, from this year, we will be sending a group of Year 10 boys to participate in the new TiltShift programme run by the Raffles Institute in Singapore. It involves 80 students from around the world pursuing, through discussion, debate, workshops and mentoring, local-based solutions to five key global issues: climate change and biodiversity, poverty, health and disease control, conflict resolution and human rights, and food and hunger.
We are charged with the wellbeing of our boys, and this includes delivering opportunity for them to express and adapt their opinions in engaged, open and challenging forums. Our new House-based pastoral care structure and tutorial programme will provide stimulus and occasion for debate and resolution. Our commitment to a more conversational style of learning will ensure a similar environment is maintained through to specific areas of study.
Such an environment was in evidence a few weeks into the year when a number of Year 12 students delivered their VCE persuasive speeches to those assembled over lunchtime in the Fraser-Smith Lecture Theatre. Topics ranged from homophobia in schools, to the need for indigenous schoolchildren to be educated in their own languages, via the case for a Republic of Australia and the issues implicit in erecting a mosque close to Ground Zero.
Our school must nurture an environment which encourages boys to lend their minds and efforts to things which are difficult. In a climate of ‘the moment’, we must encourage our boys to have a healthy suspicion of the facile, quick response. To appreciate that deep-rooted complex problems are rarely solved by knee-jerk reactions or news grabs; rather, as noted by H L Mencken, and oft quoted by our own Dr Boydell, that ‘for every complex problem, there is a solution that is simple, neat, and wrong’. GS
Mr I Tom Batty Principal
Scotch College: ABN 86 852 826 445 ACN 005 650 395 CRICOS 00624A (Commonwealth Register of Institutions and Courses for Overseas Students)