Friday 24 February 2017

Looking for inspiration

One can become a little disillusioned and dispirited by circumstances and perspectives that afflict the disadvantaged and disrupted. I, along with many others, have been given cause for pause by world events over recent times – the struggle and turmoil for those who subsist in sub-Saharan Africa, the catastrophic conflict in the Middle East, a Brexit which is producing its own uncertainty across Europe and the United Kingdom, and perhaps as concerning as any, the triumphalism of the Trump regime in the United States. In the case of the latter, embargoing religious and ethnic groups from entry to the much vaunted ‘Land of Opportunity’ seems incongruous in a country which has as its foundational story, those who migrated from other lands to seek a new life and a new future. That dichotomy seems doubly magnified when one looks at that symbol which has become stigmatic of the American Dream – the Statue of Liberty. At the base of that landmark on Stratton Island, etched into the stone, are the sentiments of Emma Lazarus, a woman of German-Jewish origin, whose words from her poem The New Colossus, could well provide a compass for the contemporary political discourse:

“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free; the wretched refuse of your teeming shores. Send these homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the Golden Door”. 

Such sentiments have a similar applicability for Australian shores and offer hope during times where defensiveness and self-centredness seem to have shaped the political imperatives of wealthy nations when millions of the disenfranchised, the disposed and the marginalised live on the edge.

While the global scene can at times appear bleak, the richness of the educational program at the College can be a grounding reality to take heart from. Each day, the better part of 1,600 young men gather to participate in the learning that will enrich them with the knowledge and ultimately the opportunity that will provide them with gainful careers over the years and decades ahead. They are immersed in formation activities that speak to faith and values: those that will equip them to make prudent and informed life decisions as they navigate an ever changing and complex tapestry of life. And, they participate in service works to redress the gaps through immediate and broader social action. During the breaks they recreate, socialise, integrate and strengthen the network of community that provides enjoyment and friendship during the good times, and support when adversity ambushes. The disarming fundaments of school life are both alluring and uplifting when one considers the big stakes; namely, the formation of young men to become active agents of change in their world. And, with the speed of life on a daily basis it is often not easy to step back and see the big picture so as the early weeks of the year consolidate let us be mindful of large lens through which we do our work as educators and parents.

As the term gathers momentum, many different aspects of the educational program come into view. That the stakes for Year 12 students are increasing day by day is attested to by the first of the three Study Skills Seminars presented on Tuesday by Elevate Education. This program involves high achieving graduates who tutor the boys in study skills – what works and what doesn’t, what brings maximum efficacy to the demanding process of revision, research and creativity in scholarship. Over the last three years this program has received a 98% endorsement from the boys and this year, for the first time, received 100% approval rating. It is clear that such a program assists the boys to structure the use of time, employ gainful study techniques and increase performance profiles.

Despite entering secondary school just 4 weeks ago, the boys in Year 7 are firmly ensconced into the routines of daily life. That there is much to be mindful of was the substance of various presentations at the Year 7 Parent Evening in Ramsay Hall last Friday evening. Large numbers filled the auditorium as members of the College spoke to key elements of Year 7 framework including Ignatian formation and spirituality, academic expectations, pastoral arrangements as well as community support services through the Parents and Friends (P&F) and the Old Ignatians Union (OIU). In many ways, a gathering of this kind was a portent for the next six years as this group of young men and their families work progressively towards their graduation in 2021.

The Past Parents Association (PPA) gathered in their numbers for Mass and a luncheon in Memorial Hall earlier in the week. This particular gathering spanned generations, from those parents whose boys finished over very recent years to those who go back to the 1970s and 1980s. Under the leadership of Ms Anne Dalton, the PPA has grown significantly in recent years, as has the range of their activities that support the College in many areas. From fundraising to social justice, from liturgical celebrations to social events, the PPA take on various projects with considerable energy and effectiveness to add depth to the community. And, at the end of this year another cohort of parents will move their current status from present to past and so add to the ranks of the good work that is undertaken.

Visitors to the grounds over the last week will be aware that a campaign is underway to reduce the speed of vehicles around the campus, given the volume of motorised transport and the large volume of pedestrian traffic that traverses the site. Parents and staff are respectfully asked to observe the speed and parking zones at all times to ensure the safety of the boys and to be vigilant when the boys sometimes become distracted as a result of other activities contiguous to the main transport roads around the school.

Best wishes for the week ahead.

Dr Paul Hine