“Revenge and retaliation…”

“Revenge and retaliation always perpetuate the cycle of anger, fear, and violence.

Coretta Scott King

It has been a busy week in school. It should be, we are in the middle of a busy term and there is much to do and to enjoy. There have been trips, visits, fixtures, events, and excellent charity events.

In our Senior School assembly, I talked about the concept of phronesis or practical wisdom, an idea put forward by Aristotle many years ago. It is a useful concept as it acts as a cross between a pressure valve and a balance. Phronesis allows us to balance courage and caution, self and others, excellence, and empathy. It is a virtue that is meant to develop with age and experience. All our young people will find themselves in situations when they must make difficult decisions about what they are and what they are not going to do. Sometimes they will make good choices and on other occasions they will make less wise decisions. When things go right or wrong, we encourage our young people to reflect and learn from both success and error.

As if the task of growing up was not difficult enough, our young people face a barrage of bad examples to follow and from which to learn. This week we have witnessed scenes of brutality and violence that have been truly shocking. Conflict, it seems, is far from going out of fashion. It is well known that young people will model the behaviour that they see around them. Access to a 24-hour news cycle means that we are faced with images of violence and cruelty in a way that has not been possible before. It is important that our young people understand that this exists, but I would be wary about over exposure to graphic images. Certain social media channels offer an almost unlimited range of violent images and fake news, and it is difficult to escape this grip. Whilst our access to the internet is often a force for good, we should also be wary of becoming so used to seeing these images that we become desensitised or immune to their shock.

Conversation about points of conflict in a calm unbiased way with individuals are far better than relying on the internet to inform. As adults we should encourage these conversations. Our pupils should be aware of what is going on in the world, but we must ensure that they do not normalise what is inhumane and barbaric. They need phronesis if they are to make sense of all that surrounds them. If your child has been upset by the news coverage, then please do let us know. Our thoughts as a community are with all who are victims of conflict.

Our school community is a genuine melting pot of cultures, views, and experiences. It provides a wonderful opportunity for young people to develop and grow despite examples that may be seen elsewhere. Our focus on service and charitable activities is I hope an antidote to what is seen on their screens. We must have confidence in them and provide them with the conditions that they deserve to grow into the wise leaders that the world so desperately needs.

Nicholas Hammond