A wish for 2022

The trouble with schools is that they have been knocked in all directions during 2021. Let’s ensure 2022 brings back stability and effective learning.

Hi, apologies for the long gap since last writing, but I’ve had a lot on with my book.  If you’re a regular reader of these blogs, you will have some idea as to how much work my poor editor has had to do to knock the book into shape.  I used to wonder what publishers did apart from get a book printed up, but now I take my hat off to them.  They really do scrutinise every word a hundred times over.  So, thank you Crown House.   

And now a bit of a plug – The book: A Head Full Of Ethos, is out at the end of January.  It was written over my last two years as a Head, during holidays and weekends.  I’m happy with the outcome (And the initial reviews are good) and so for me at least it will be a positive start to 2022; a year which I think everyone will be praying is positive. 

I’m well aware that I didn’t vary my blog output much last year.  It was all Covid centric and no matter how many times I promised to return to purely educational matters, I couldn’t resist turning back to the topic as it was the one that was most affecting the education and health of young people.   I know I probably bored some of you to tears and for others,  I know I irked you because I didn’t always toe the party line, especially in my position as a Headteacher and working for a Local Authority.  

I’m not apologetic. I still believe the collateral damage caused by our responses to covid will been far greater over the long term, than had we protected the vulnerable and allowed society to continue.  There have been many ethical arguments these last two years that we still trying to unravel.  If you can bear it one more time, here’s my very simplistic take on all of it. 

I go back to the story of the ‘wild west’ wagon-train crossing the prairie.  The settlers come under attack by native Americans, who are intent on killing them all and so they run off and hide in a thicket.  They are all silently hiding when a baby held by its mother begins to cry.  Does the mother smother the baby to stop it crying thus killing the baby but saving all the settlers from discovery or, allow the baby to live, thus alerting the native Americans to their whereabouts? 

It would seem obviously immoral to kill the child.  Most of us wouldn’t do it, we would sacrifice ourselves for our baby.  But would that be for the greater good?  I began talking about Covid almost two years ago with a similar story taken from Star Trek.  I spoke then about the difference between having a liberal and utilitarian stance.  The utilitarian stance here would be to kill the baby for the greater good of everyone else.   The liberal stance would be to respect the right of that individual to live as much as the next one.  

The trouble we’ve faced (especially in the initial months) is that we have not been able to clearly demonstrate what the greater good is.  Mainly because we didn’t have a crystal ball.  However, as the data has emerged things have become clearer and we can now see the devastating effect our responses to the virus have had on the greater public health.  You only need to have look at the doubling of child protection figures at my last school (Eastern High) a school that already had amongst the highest CP figures in Wales.  And this aspect of health only covers one small area (tragic as the outcomes from it are). 

One of the problems I think we had was the initial stance of President Trump, which led to his supporters following suit.  This was a libertarian stance – not to be mixed with liberal.  Whereas the term ‘liberal’ considers the rights of the individual (e.g. by supporting non-discrimatory practices), a libertarian will put themselves first, even if their views or actions are unethical and could cause harm to others.  Due to Trump’s right of centre beliefs, the whole argument appears to have fallen into Left versus Right political haranguing match and as a consequence all openness to debate and consideration of opposing view points from either side, have been shut down.   Maybe I’m exaggerating here, but there is the scent of ‘auto-da-fe’ amidst all of this and it does not feel educationally very healthy. 

So, as we move into 2022, my hope is that we adopt a more liberal approach to education.  Part of this ought to be about opening up the minds of those we educate so that they in turn can educate themselves to fulfil what the 4 intended purposes of the Welsh Curriculum (Readers outside of Wales have a look at this – it’s well worth incorporating into your practices). 

To achieve this there are ‘virtues’ (if I can call them that) that I believe underpin these purposes; things we should try to instil in all learners:

  • We should encourage them to observe, listen and develop understanding and empathy with regards to the people or topic they are concerned with.  Hopefully, through practising this they will further develop a moral compass, helping them become more ethical and compassionate.
  • We should encourage them to carry out thorough research where there is ambiguity, critically analysing their findings.
  • They should develop the skills, to discuss or debate any matter concerning them, using the dispositions and skills mentioned above.   
  • And then and only then, act, equipped with due diligence, integrity and perspective on the world.

I’ve often joked that we need to introduce a new curriculum for young people: philosophy; statistics; and media studies (in addition to literacy and numeracy).  I say this slightly tongue & cheek, but there is an element of truth to it.  These subjects might better protect us moving forward in society.

Anyway, let’s move on!  It’s time to wish everyone a very Happy New Year and let 2022 truly be the road to recovery.

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