Friday 2 November 2018

Perceptions of Adolescents

I am tiring of media reports which constantly seek to malign young people viz ‘Teenage Boys Share Racist and Sexist Memes to Score Lad Points’. It seems, regrettably, that young people have received their untoward share of criticism for far too long. Hesiod, the father of didactic poetry and one of the wisdom figures in the Ancient World, commented all those years ago: “I see no hope for the future if (society) is dependent on the frivolous youth of today, for certainly … youth are reckless beyond words (700 BC)”. The better part of 300 years later, Socrates – one of the towering intellects in the history of philosophy was even more obtuse: “The children now love luxury: they show disrespect for elders … (they) are tyrants… they contradict their parents… they tyrannise their teachers” (399 BC). It seems as if the bad press associated with young people did not dissipate with the passing of the years: “The young people of today think of nothing but themselves. They have no reverence for parents or old age… They talk alone as if they know everything and what passes for wisdom in us is foolishness in them. As for girls, …they are unmodest (sic) and unwomanly in speech, behaviour and dress” (Peter the Hermit 1083). Given the popular perception of adolescents today, it would appear that not a great deal has changed as media outlets continue their predilection for portraying young people as disrespectful, inconsiderate, ungracious if not entirely irresponsible.

I contest this, and I do so strongly. In my personal view, young people are much more informed, more worldly and more sophisticated than in generations past. They are unfortunately pitted to stand upon an adult perception of inadequacy; yet they hold enormous insight, conviction and integrity, and not unsurprisingly, are possessive of their own informed and very considered views of the world. If ever I have had reason to ask a Riverview boy for help over the years, I have never been denied nor disappointed. Every week I receive a number of emails from parents, Old Boys and the wider community commending our boys on a range of behaviours that have been demonstrated in the public domain. I attend an innumerable volume of functions with our young men, listen to their reflections of immersion experiences in different parts of the world, chat informally in the yard at school and during sport, and I never cease to be impressed with the quality of youth today. Do they make mistakes? Yes. Are they subject to impulsive behaviour? Of course. That is part of the heady territory of growing up and maturing. But, I have enormous faith in young people, and I believe society and the media’s ‘malignment agenda’ is not only unhelpful and at times destructive, but undermines the integrity of the relationships that we are fortunate to have in our families and our schools. So let us embrace these young people and celebrate them, and in the best of the Ignatian tradition, give thanks for the blessing they are for today and the hope that they represent in the metaphor of tomorrow.

It is always instructive to visit the Regis campus and to chat with our younger boys, who possess their own acute insights into their community and their world. While young of age, these boys have a disarming perspicacity, a refreshing honesty and an unbridled curiosity that is quite infectious. The latter is not to be diminished for it is in the exuberance of an inquiring mind that the full impact of youthful endeavour is both felt and appreciated. It was interesting during the week to see that the boys at Regis have appropriated their own version of the school motto for 2019: ‘not for ourselves alone’. At such a young age, these young men are embracing an ethic that asks them to go beyond the immediacy of the self and to work for the greater good, in their school and in the communities to which they belong. And I have no doubt that in years to come, these nascent adolescents will grow into fine young men who, through their formation and commitment to social justice and civic duty, will make an appreciable difference to their world. It is a joy to observe this in the making.


Throughout the week the calendar ran its own remorseless course. Among other things:

  • The Senior Swimming Carnival, held in the Olympic Pool at Homebush on Monday, was an event of full engagement. From the elite swimmers who had their attention in the pool and on the clock, to the boys who made up the numbers and represented their House, there was much by way of spirit and social interaction. (That mobile devices have been removed from such events is a decided bonus!!).
  • The Year 10 Play was a resounding success, despite some hiccups in the rehearsal and production schedule along the way. Well done young men.
  • Year 6 boys spent Wednesday on excursion with the Sculpture by the Sea venture. There was much tactile activity amid the sand, the surf and the artistic works.
  • The HSC Examinations continued unabated and we now enter the very final stages of these significant assessments over the coming week.
  • Final preparations are being put into place for the Year 9 Challenge, which will see the boys undertake a four-week program of personal development and community interface cultivating independence, life skills and the ability to work for common goals in teams.
  • And, not without importance, some of our senior SEIP boys helped out at Mirrabrook to bring joy to the little ones on the occasion of Halloween. Spooky stuff!!As always, there is much on the go and much to be thankful for, particularly the young men who bring such life and energy to the school in all of their endeavours.

    Best wishes for the week ahead.


Dr Paul Hine