Dear Parents and Guardians,,
“The world of men is dreaming, it has gone mad in its sleep, and a snake is strangling it, but it can’t wake up.” DH Lawrence
When we look around us, the picture of a world asleep is all too real. Whether it be our response to global warming, to sustainability, to inequality, to prejudice…it seems we are caught in inertia and perhaps asleep.
South Africa seems often to be one of the places upon the earth where so many of these troubling conditions find space to flourish; a figurative bed of snakes that is strangling us.
Working with young people is, however, invigorating – they are full of the zest of life and see opportunity when we, the adults, may only see challenge. They inspire me. Their world has not yet been tainted with too much disappointment, their demeanour imagines possibility and goodness. This is a precious gift.
As one grows older, our experience of the world becomes more nuanced and as we understand greater complexities, we slowly lose the idealist view that glibly believes in easy solutions. This binary world with simplistic answers gives way to a more complex and compounded world of intricate challenge and sometimes necessary compromised positions.
Presently, as our world seems to be facing multiple headwinds, I fear that populist rhetoric seeks to present simplistic answers to the many nuanced challenges that require solutions. The danger with this is that many of our young people seem to latch onto these simplistic answers without reckoning with them and challenging their efficacy and legitimacy.
An education of value seeks to develop the skills of enquiry, the development of a clear argument forged through robust debate. Allowing for difference of opinion is an absolute tenet of a mature society; this leads to the establishment of tolerance.
Sadly, it would seem to me that our world has regressed in its understanding and application of tolerance as a virtue. The ‘cancel culture’ that abounds today rebukes those who may hold a different view to that of a group, often without taking the time to consider a different opinion on a matter – especially a matter that is deemed to be currently ‘woke’.
To be certain, the world has held ridiculous and erroneous opinions for decades and these should be challenged and corrected as we mature in our development as human beings: I do not wish to deny nor downplay this challenge.
However, the manner in which the world seems to deal with difference has seemed, unfortunately, to have deteriorated such that a teacher’s task has become all the more difficult as one seeks to engender a spirit of questioning and critique. We need to protect and encourage the practising of debate and teach our young people the art and value of tolerance precisely because, as adults, we know that the world is a complex place with many modes of being. The idea of a binary, simplistic world is false.
As a school, my hope is that we will all continue to challenge each other on all aspects of living that propel us towards a life which is governed by tolerance and acceptance, especially at a time when it would seem, “the world has gone mad”. As parents, may I ask you to assist your young man to seek always to understand before he passes judgement.
Together we are stronger. Together we are better. Together we are richer.