Friday, 8th June 2018
I have always been fanatical about the benefits of education. Imagine my horror therefore, when I heard a piece on the radio this morning which claimed that there was a direct relationship between education and short-sightedness. Apparently the longer one has spent in education, the more likely one is to be myopic. Education therefore is dangerous. But interestingly, what became apparent as the speaker went on, was that it wasn’t so much time spent staring at books or reading itself which caused the problem but the lack of time spent outside. Apparently so long as one spends time outside, the more likely one is to have good eyesight and, of course, many people who study hard do not spend very much time in the great outdoors. I hope that this finding will encourage everyone to ensure that study is complemented by an active life outside the classroom. At CCCS, of course, we have our Woodland School over on the Meadow which we use to educate our pupils about the natural world. Unsurprisingly it was the great English poet Wordsworth who wrote in a poem called,
It did occur to me that I should have some of these words displayed in the Woodland School but then I thought that the irony of having them written out there would be too striking given their message! Equally, I think I might get in trouble with Mr Watson and Mrs Stephen if I promoted this view too strongly though I think it wise to remember that a visit to our Woodland School almost certainly is a profound educational experience and one that our children are immensely lucky to have. I am certain that few CCCS pupils will need to go to the optician.
My favourite line in the poem is the last where Wordsworth puts forward the view of a “heart that watches and receives.” I think this has to be at the core of real education. For if we allow ourselves to watch and receive we are far more likely to learn. I notice that very often a pupil who has batteries of questions has so many because he never listens to the answer to any of those he asks whereas the person who observes and listens patiently learns so much more. But secondly there is a real generosity about the words; it is the heart that watches and receives and again the best education is done with the heart, because the pupil has a love for learning and it is this which we are trying to promote at Christ Church and I would love all our boys to feel that education was a matter of the heart. And then of course the word “Receive” is so perfect; education is a gift to which we must open our hearts and one for which we must always be grateful.
Closely related to this, I asked one of the boys the other day what the saying “the pen is mightier than the sword” meant. He said that he reckoned that you could use a pen to stab someone just as effectively as a sword! It reminded me of the moment in one of the Batman films where the Joker flings a poisoned quill pen into one of his enemy’s throats, thereby assassinating him. He immediately, giggling crazily, repeats the line in question: “The pen is mightier than the sword!” Though I wouldn’t promote this powerful use of the pen, I am completely convinced that education, either in a woodland school or in a classroom, is the most liberating and powerful tool that we have available to us, and at CCCS I will continue to ensure that education is central to the lives of all our pupils and a matter of the heart.
Today our Form 8s finished their CE; they will have taken more than 11 exams in the past four days and will hear the results this time next week. I hope, very much, that when you read this letter next week that all our boys will have secured their places to their senior schools where we hope their hearts will continue to be open to the treasures of learning. I wish them all the very best.