Friday 21 July 2017

Janus: A Timely Metaphor?

The Roman god Janus is regarded as a wisdom figure of transitions and dualities. He is often depicted as having two faces – one which looks to the past and the other to the future. It is a fitting metaphor as we consider this stage of the year: one that has seen End of Semester reports distributed that summarised progress over the first half of the year and what that means for the coming term. In order to maximise efficacy, particularly in the aftermath of the mid year break, discerning planning needs to be entered into in the early weeks of the term for renewed efforts that will see goals articulated and systematically achieved. It is not a matter of simply returning to another teaching and learning period: that would be to engage in an exercise of mediocrity. Those who are intimately familiar with Jesuit education pursue ambitious aspirations that aim to see full potentialities realised. As the school motto intones – Quantum Potes Tantum Aude: Whatever you can do, so much dare to do. May this be the springboard upon which the face of the future is set as we settle into the groove of new coursework and study routines over the weeks ahead.

Over the mid-year break there was a multitude of activities and events that kept many of the boys engaged in outward bound activities synonymous with the educational program.

A number of our seniors were involved in immersions to Cambodia, East Timor, the Philippines and Borroloola. Immersions encourage our young men to see the world through a different prism – that of the other. These are exercises in compassion – from the Greek word pascho: to experience with, to suffer with, to feel the human condition from a close association with those who have a decidedly different reality from the relative comfort of life on the north shore of Sydney. Whether it be in the remote villages of South East Asia or the harsh landscapes of the Northern Territory, the boys are engaged in building bridges of understanding through working closely with those whose lives are characterised by marginalisation and disadvantage. And, the boys are very much enriched by the experience as they undergo a process of conscientisation – that of developing a consciousness about disadvantage that transcends time and place, and of developing conscience which promotes the cause of social justice through service. It is in effect, a faith that does justice, one that is cognisant of and responsive to the broader impulse of gospel values through a call to global citizenship. To each and every participant in these memorable experiences, staff and students, I extend a statement of commendation and gratitude.

One of the perennial programs that comes into effect during the mid year break is the French Language Exchange Program. Each year, a contingent of students from a Jesuit school in Toulouse in southern France spend the European summer in Australia and then later in the year host the Riverview cultural exchange across the Christmas period. While the objective of the program is to increase language proficiency in English and French, respectively, this particular event has built strong relationships between two Jesuit schools in opposite hemispheres of the world. The French students will join classes for the first week of the term before heading back to begin the northern academic year in late August.

The Jesuit Debating Carnival was held in Adelaide and involved a number of Ignatian schools from across Australia. The Open Debating Team, as always, represented Riverview in exemplary fashion in oratory, as they did in their demeanour and manner. Congratulations are extended to Jesse Gray who was awarded the Loyola Spirit Award and Charlie Hoffman who was acknowledged as Best Speaker.

The high point of Week 1 was the assembly in the Ramsay Hall to focus on Refugee Week, which drew attention to the sad but persistent problems that refugees face throughout the world against the intransigence of government and policy directives, not excluding our own. Ms Carolina Gottardo, a Columbian national who formerly worked for the United Nations and currently serves as Director of Jesuit Refugee Service, gave a compelling insight into the plight of refugees across the worn-torn and dislocated regions of the world. Carolina’s assessment is that we are facing one of the most pressing human rights issues of our time, and, that we have a moral imperative to act. With 65 million refugees on a world wide scale, 11 million of which are children, indifference and silence is not an option. These are words to take to heart, the corollary of which translates to action for every member of a school community that takes the issue of social justice seriously.

Over the coming term there are many events that signal the intensity of what lies ahead. Classes carry their own momentum as a new semester begins, but special significance is attached to Trial HSC Examinations in Week 5 and End of Semester Examinations for Year 11 in the latter stages of the term. As the term progresses major works for Year 12 in Art and TAS will be presented for exhibition in the Memorial Hall, celebrating the quality of scholarship that has been undertaken in these demanding fields. Complementing this is the subject selection schedule which began late last term and continues with tight time frames going into the term. Beginning this Saturday, the winter co-curricular program resumes with full impact: training regimes begin in earnest this week. In addition, the nomination process for student leadership begins in the early weeks of the term and will be complete by the end of Week 4. This will see the election of a new School Captain and Vice Captains, House Captains and Vice Captains, Beadles and Proctors, all of whom will take their place in the unfolding history of the College in their graduation year. Much beckons over the coming weeks, all of which will culminate in Valete and Graduation just nine weeks from now.

As we move into the term, like the Roman god Janus, let us be mindful of contextualising the past and the future, but let us make the present the pressing priority.

Dr Paul Hine