The Thistle - An E-Newsletter of Scotch College, Perth, Western Australia

I trust everyone got to take advantage of the Boarder's long weekend. Congratulations to all of the Year 12s who crossed the finishing line, signaling their entry into our 'End to Enders' club. The milestone was also achieved by one of our staff members, Ms Kate Webster-Blythe, Head of Brisbane House. Well done to everyone and thanks to the staff and parents who joined the boys in Albany to show their support over the many years it took to reach the finish.

On Friday 8 March, communities around the globe will celebrate International Women's Day; about which I will publish a more expanded blog later this week. This year's theme, 'an equal world is an enabled world', is aimed at creating a more balanced world where everyone has a part to play, all the time, everywhere. International Women's Day is celebrated in many countries around the world. It is a day when women are recognised for their achievements without regard to divisions, whether national, ethnic, linguistic, cultural, economic or political. On this very important day, let us remember all the women who have inspired each of us, whether professionally or personally.

As an Independent Boys' school, Scotch has a duty to ensure our young boys and men appreciate the role women play in their lives and the wider society. As the 2020 slogan rightly highlights 'An equal world is an enabled world'. At Scotch College, we believe a balanced world is a better world, hence a balanced school staff. Women teachers (total females: 94, percentage: 53%) and non-teachers (total females: 92, percentage: 49%) play a significant role in the growth and development of our boys. Of course, the most significant role played by women in the life of our boys is by their mums and in many cases their grandmas. We thank them for the marvellous contribution they make to their sons, families and the wider community.

Appreciation about the varying roles others play in our lives and simply an appreciation for how people feel in different roles and situations, is very much the product of a person's ability to develop and show empathy towards others.  As Dr Michelle Borba (2016, 225), in her book UnSelfie, has this to say about the construct of empathy:

 'Empathy is the root of humanity and the foundation that helps our children become good, caring people. But the Empathy Advantage also gives them a huge edge at happiness and success. Empathy has never been more crucial, but the ability to understand others' feelings and needs can be nurtured. It's up to adults not to let our kids down.'

As a young boy growing up in a very traditional family environment, my own father often used a saying, 'but for the grace of God go I'. This now underpins my own philosophical stance in life. Be thankful for what you have, appreciate the diversity of the human race, and where you can, look to better the lives of others.

As a community it is our shared responsibility to educate our young boys. The concept of the imparting of our cultural mores and expectations through in-person communication is encapsulated in the title of Susan Pinker's 2014 book, 'The Village Effect: How Face-to-Face Contact Can Make Us Healthier, Happier and Smarter'.

It is challenging for parents and schools to get it right all of the time. Borba (2016, 221) provides us with a series of valuable questions worth our consideration regarding developing empathetic children:

  • What skills will our children need to succeed in the global economy when jobs of tomorrow don't exist today?
  • What should parents be doing to prepare kids for a world of rapid change?
  • How do we help children develop healthy relationships with peers, especially when face-to-face contact is breaking down and the internet is meaner?
  • What ways can we broaden our children's views about those of different backgrounds and celebrate diversity?
  • How can we cultivate empathy in a culture whose only metrics of success are achievement and performance?
  • How do we help children understand racism and injustice happening in the world?
  • What types of meaningful projects can we offer our kids?
  • How do we create empathy in those teachable parent-child moments?

The concept of a village education is important.  If we do not reinforce the qualities we desire, then how can our boys understand what really matters in life?  Role modelling is critical. Unfortunately, via mainstream and social media, society often worships celebrities as heroes; people who in fact may have done very little. This is why at Scotch we have service programmes, why we facilitate exchange opportunities, and why we articulate via our weekly chapels and assemblies, the qualities of the type of graduates we want our boys to become.

This week, as we celebrate International Woman's Day, let us reflect on the many empathetic females in our lives who we see as our everyday heroes; our mums, grandmas, sisters, girlfriends, aunties or anyone else who in our eyes are heroes because of the everyday things they do for us so that we can live a full and rewarding life.

Have a great fortnight.