Earlier this week, I was invited to a meeting at Independent Schools Queensland (ISQ) to hear from our Federal Education Minister, the Hon Dan Tehan MP. ISQ is the association that represents most independent schools in Queensland on matters pertaining to Government decisions and legislation, and which provides general advice to schools on these matters.
From the outset, I must admit to having been very impressed with the Minister. He spoke with authority on a broad range of educational issues, without needing to consult with his advisors; something that I have never before seen with an Education Minister. As a very new Minister to the portfolio, only commencing in August 2018, he has had a difficult journey to heal the wounds created by the Government in relation to funding. He has, in my opinion, been a proactive Minister and has made a significant effort to get to know his sector.
The Minister openly raised his concerns for education and cited the following issues, and has asked, how do we:
These are all very good questions and sadly some of these issues actually detract from education, which is in fact our core business. The more schools need to deal with these issues, the less time and, dare I say, the less money that can be used for teaching and learning. Further, there are no easy answers to these questions because they stem from a need to bring people together in thought and deed. Changing people’s attitudes and then their behaviour is not a simple task, and in an era of instant gratification and the expectation that an individual’s needs must surpass the needs of all (in the opinion of many people) these are indeed difficult questions.
The Minister spoke about the changing nature of society and the breakdown of a number of former ways in which social cohesion took place. He stated that the school community was rapidly becoming the fabric that brought people together and, as such, saw the future having allied health services more closely associated with schools. He stated that schools are ever-increasingly the “heart and soul of our communities”.
The Minister also spoke of the needs for schools to address contemporary learning skills, as our young people are predicted to have more than a dozen career changes in their working life. He spoke of his wish to see the curriculum de-cluttered and to give teachers time to truly enable deep engagement. These were all music to my ears, but in a sector in which there are divided responsibilities between State and Federal, education too often becomes a political football.
Our society faces numerous challenges as we go forward, from the lack of attention our leaders appear to be giving climate change through to the way in which people behave on a day-to-day basis. It appears that violence, road rage, threatening behaviour, poor language etc, all seem to be on the rise. Where has decency gone? Good manners – even just the basics? Courtesy? Politeness? Why does society now seem to be more about individual rights than responsibilities? Why do so few take responsibility for their actions, conduct and behaviour? Why has the law gone so soft, with many punishments not befitting the crime? Are we so used to poor behaviour that it has become the norm? Has this changed the scales we now use to make judgements?
I think we need to ask ourselves, is this the sort of world we want our children to grow up in or can we give them so much more?
I will leave you with a few quotes that may inspire you to change the world around you. I hope they resonate with you in some way.
As you grow older you will discover that you have two hands. One for helping yourself, the other for helping others.
At the end of the day, it’s not about what you have or even what you’ve accomplished. It’s about what you’ve done with those accomplishments. It’s about who you’ve lifted up, who you’ve made better. It’s about what you’ve given back.
Peace begins with a smile.
Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.
Compassion is the radicalism of our time.
The Dalai Lama
In a gentle way, you can shake the world.
We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.
Martin Luther King Jr.
Let us remember: One book, one pen, one child, and one teacher, can change the world.
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.