Neither of my two sisters had the educational opportunities that I was given. They have become educated through their reading and vocations. To be fair that was a matter of timing as much as gender: I was the fourth born, nine years after the younger of my sisters. A university education was something my parents valued for their youngest child.
That education enabled me to become a teacher. After nine years of working in Sydney it enabled my wife, Susan, and me, and our two daughters, to live and work in Zimbabwe. By the time our third girl had come along it enabled me to become a deputy principal in Queensland. That education taught me to value education.
My education came through the church, and reading and talking with friends as much as through university. Aside from learning about the text of the Bible I learned history and hermeneutics, theology and philosophy at church.
So is it any surprise that my 23 year old daughter and her husband are now going to live in Darwin, miles away from home? We, or should I say, her society, gave her an education and she became a lawyer. After a stint in corporate law she is now heading off to work as a legal educator and advisor for aboriginal communities in the Northern Territory. Her husband will work as an electrical engineer up there. I feel the shock of the distance quite sharply.
When I told my father that our little family was going to live in Zimbabwe, he said ‘No you’re not!’, but we did. What hope did we have of her not identifying her own pathway? She developed a deep faith in her home, wherever that home was, across the globe. She loves learning, and she is adventurous. Her husband is likewise. Her education has given her much freedom and high hopes. Good on her. I will miss them both, but good on her!
A little education is a wonderfully dangerous thing!
Are there any lessons for educators from the 2012 London Olympics?
Our media has built up the expectation that certain swimmers and athletes will win gold and bring ‘glory’ to our nation. Perhaps they are only reflecting our desires. Perhaps the old saying ‘We get the politicians we deserve’ should be reworded to say ‘We get the media we deserve’.
We hear interviews with young sports people immediately after an event. After many years of dedicated training, an astonishing performance in their field of endeavour to even reach the Olympics, we hear them define the moment via an expression of disappointment at not achieving the gold medal. Personally, I don’t really want to hear them being asked how they feel immediately after they exit the pool, track or field. Let them have time to compose themselves. Let them talk to their coach, their family and friends first.
I do think that there are issues that this raises for us in schools. Our goals include enabling each child who enters our gates to flourish and to leave feeling that they can make a contribution to the society. We hope they will recognise that sporting endeavour is not really about personal or national glory, but a type of gift to other people. They do their best, and in the act, encourage us to do ours. They show what the human mind and body can achieve. They collectively create a type of drama that brings interest, and perhaps joy. They make us feel part of something bigger.
And if they don’t win, that’s OK. Somebody else did. Another family has something to celebrate. Another community has a ‘moment in the sun’. We celebrate our own successes and we are happy that others have successes to celebrate too.
It confirms for me the idea that magnanimity is such an important thing to aspire towards in our schools. It is defined by wikipedia as being ‘of great mind and heart.’ If we have it we can freely say ‘Silver! Silver! Silver!’ or ‘You inspired us with your efforts!’ with great gusto. Thanks Olympians for your contribution to who we are.