Floods are probably nature’s way of telling us that despite how much we think we control the environment we really are puny. Whilst our current local flood gives us pause for thought, there are many places in the world that have to deal with far greater natural challenges. From the window of my study I have watched the water levels rising over the past few weeks and I suspect that I will be watching the levels rise still further over the coming hours. Apparently the river flow will peak some time tomorrow. Should we face higher levels next week we may well have to look at modifying our routines; we’ll let you know.
The river is a learning opportunity and it has been great to see students paying closer attention to it. It is a part of our surroundings that we quite often take for granted. Now, because it is a little different it is interesting. We are, it seems, pre-progammed to be bewitched by things that are out of the ordinary or new. Novelty captivates and keeps us engaged. In education it is common for new ideas to engulf us; the latest new trend, the latest great theory can dominate (and this is sometimes a good thing). But just as the water in front of the school will subside, many educational ideas loose their sheen and fall away. So what really remains once the flood subsides? What are the ideas that will stand the test of time and carve out a permanent channel? Our school values give a clear indication of what it is we seek to develop in our young people.
One area of life that has been in something of a flood in recent years is, of course the massive growth of social media. I read George Soros’ comments at the Davos Summit with interest this week. It is easy to be swept along by his rather pessimistic analysis of the world he sees however I was struck by his comment:
“Mankind’s (sic) ability to harness the forces of nature, both for constructive and destructive purposes, continues to grow while our ability to govern ourselves properly fluctuates, and it is now at a low ebb.”
Later in the essay he speculates that Facebook will have run out of people to convert in three years. We will all be on that platform and as such will all be subject to one particular flow of information. I hope that at the BSP we are in a position to develop thinkers who can wonder at the power of a movement’s flow but know when they should stand on the bank and be prudent rather than throwing themselves in. New political imperatives and slogans will appear; we require a generation who can exercise the necessary judgement to think critically about the consequences of what is being suggested.
If we can learn anything from looking at our river it might be this. There will be times when the river threatens and there will be longer times when it is placid. The key is to understand the dangers that lurk beneath the surface or the consequences of being engulfed.
I hope that you have the chance to see the Seine in spate this weekend, it is indeed a spectacle. If you do, please go carefully.