27 November 2017

An Open Mind and a Steady Voice

"Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known." Carl Sagan

To be aware of the awe that exists around us, we should always try to keep an open mind towards others and the world. Being open-minded involves adopting a somewhat optimistic view of life; as Carol Dweck has said, we should grow to "love challenges, be intrigued by mistakes, enjoy effort and keep on learning".

This open-mindedness is easy when the world conforms to our map of how things should be, but it gets hard when we are confronted with contradictory and apparently irreconcilable views. Being open-minded means having courage (something I have written about before). We need courage to ask questions for which we do not have the answer. We need courage to listen to opinions that clash with our own. And we need clear-headedness to analyse and counter these opinions.

The sign of the truly curious - and courageous - person is someone who is willing to seek to understand why someone has an opinion even though they may disagree with that opinion. To dismantle extremist views, we must first seek to understand why such views are held. If we can reach this understanding, we can seek, patiently, to unpick the lines of thought which have led there.

In an era of 'fake news' and a massive oversupply of information, working out what is legitimate and what is accurate, recognising what is useful and what requires further examination, and selecting and editing information, are the keys to making sense of the world.

Asking questions, and speaking out for the things in which we believe, requires us to find our voice. This finding of voice is something which we see on a regular basis within schools, as young people strive to understand themselves and their world and they seek to express that understanding. We see it in class, we hear it in debates, we hear it at assembly presentations. The Vocal Showcase, which took place in the Dickinson Centre on Tuesday 30 May, was another wonderful reminder of what finding your voice can sound like. It was also a priceless demonstration of what courage in action looks like. All those who performed took a risk by taking to the stage. The soloists were outstanding and it was heart-warming to hear their voices. Some of them started off perhaps slightly timidly, but you could hear them growing in confidence as their song unfolded. And there was joy in being able to share such sounds. It was also a joy to hear the vocal ensembles; voices singing together, in harmony.

In Week 9, we have the heats of the Senior School Inter-House Singing. These will take place during Chapel on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. There is always great joy in seeing and hearing these performances, as the boys work together to produce something which is shared with others in their House and with the audience.

Mr James Hindle
Director of Student and Staff Wellbeing