Principal’s Weekly Report – 22 February 2013

Welcome to Week four of Term One 2013. It has been another warm week here at Salesian College Chadstone, with some of us beginning to wonder if summer will abate any time soon. In spite of the trying conditions, the boys have continued their positive start to the school year. They are applying themselves well to all aspects of their schooling. After a sad start to the year there appears to be a real sense of joy returning to the community which I hope we are able to maintain for the remainder of the year.

Dux Assembly

On Thursday the College gathered for our annual Dux assembly to celebrate the achievements of the boys from the Class of 2012 as well as high achievers in other year levels from last year. This is a significant gathering and always a highlight of the year. Once again it was a wonderful gathering and it was great to have the boys of the Class of 2012 back in the community to recognise their achievements. Congratulations Mr Neil Carter and all staff involved in bringing the gathering together.

What is education?

My address at the assembly posed the rhetorical question, “What is Education?” I asked the boys to reflect on their understanding of education and whether they thought that education is merely the attainment of subject content knowledge, a test result, or a study score? I asked them if they will only rely on an ATAR score to sum up their six years here at Salesian College Chadstone. Or does it mean much more than these things? The reason I posed this question is that I believe there is a growing trend in today’s society to see education as merely a service or a commodity that one can purchase, obtain and then move on from, just as one does when paying for a tradesperson to do a job around the house. I went on further to say that to see education from this narrow perspective limits significantly what one will gain from their education and that such a position is quite foreign to the education system established by St John Bosco, the founder of Salesian education.

I used a quote from Nelson Mandela to emphasise my point where he states that “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world”. If this is the case surely it must be more than these things.

I argued that it is important that we all have an understanding of what gaining an education means to us, as it will be this understanding that will provide the road map directing us on this journey, it will provide a source of motivation and most importantly it will guide us to what opportunities we should take up and which ones we should ignore.

I then reflected on the education enjoyed by the boys being recognised at the assembly, especially the members of the class of 2012. If they were to only recall their six years here by the score given to them by VCAA then I would believe they had missed something very special and I would be quite sure they would leave feeling a little disappointed or somewhat empty. I also argued strongly that in such a case we would have failed them miserably as a College. A thought by Anatole France who once said “An education isn’t how much you have committed to memory, or even how much you know. It’s being able to differentiate between what you know and what you don’t” further strengthened my argument.

I reminded the boys that obtaining a high ATAR score is an outstanding achievement, one sure to be a highlight of their time at the College, if they achieved one, but I went on to say that I would hope it is one of many highpoints, and could be seen as a culmination of a thousand lessons and experiences that went before it on the way to making them fine young men.

I took a statement from John Bosco to explain how we see education as a College. We believe a good education at Salesian College Chadstone would see each boy leave us as a good Christian and an honest citizen. I unpacked this sweeping statement to give a full understanding as we need to read between the lines to pick up all the unstated but fully implied meanings.

To develop good citizens an education needs to provide the opportunity to gain the academic skills and knowledge that will allow us to function fully in our society. It would need to give us time to be physical so we establish an understanding of the physical requirements to get the most out of our bodies. It would allow us to mature culturally so as to make sense of our setting and have an insight to others in the world. A well-developed creative element must form part of such an education allowing us to generate joy for ourselves and others. Social development is also a crucial element if we are to function in our social setting. One of the more important facets is a spiritual dimension which helps us to make sense of those things not easily explained away by human knowledge.

I then highlighted what the high achieving students dared to do in their time at the College to ensure their Salesian College Education allowed them academic success and a sense of fulfilment?

The obvious characteristics of all the fine young men we acknowledged was their dedication and hard work; less obvious was the way they set their own paths without undue influence of their peers. All of them seized many of the opportunities placed before them over the six years. They played sport, applied themselves to their studies. Took on leadership roles, participated in the cultural aspects of the College and they had fun, never at the expense of others. They had respect for themselves and for others in their community especially their teachers. They were open to forming positive and lasting relationships with all in the community and did not restrict themselves to a closed circle of friends.

I congratulated them not only for their academic results but for all they had given to the college community and I hoped they leave us with a sense of gratitude for all that they have been given and wished them every success in the future.

I concluded by asking all of the boys, what were they willing to do or what they were willing to forgo to ensure their education was holistic and rewarding? What changes were they willing to make so that their education was more fulfilling and to make this school and the world a better place? I reminded them that a Christian education is an enourmous challenge and so I encouraged them all to seek God’s assistance in revealing the special vision or mission He had for them. I assured them that if they ask, God will be there to guide their hearts and minds, and He would provide whatever graces, patience, and stamina needed to see their dreams through.

Finally I invited them to contemplate a full and holistic education, and encouraged them to have big expectations, of themselves and the College, to look to the future with much anticipation, hope and joy. I prayed that their education is everything they wished for and much, much more and that living out this education would make this world a better place.

I left them with three quotes.

“Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all.”  Aristotle

“Without confidence and love, there can be no true education.” Don Bosco

‘Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself.” John Dewey

God Bless.

Robert Brennan