Home' Independence : Independence Vol 34 No 1 May 2009 Contents Independence Volume 34 No. 1 29
drive, but how to drive safely. A student
should also be taught how to look after
a car, how to change a wheel and how to
give the car a basic service.
8. The ability to be good
mannered and to know
There is a whole raft of social behaviours
that, if not learnt, can result in our students
being disadvantaged. The simple act of
sending a ‘thank you’ message for a
present, shaking hands in an appropriate
manner, knowing what bit of cutlery to use,
addressing a letter correctly, understanding
what ‘formal’ means and knowing the art
of good conversation are just some of the
skills at risk of extinction in the lives of
rather too many.
9. The ability to accept
Many students live lives that are
voyeuristic. Quite simply, they like to
watch. Watching is safe. You bear no
responsibility, you accept no accountability.
‘Spectatoritis’ is rife. Many of today’s
teenagers are screenagers. They look,
comment and criticise from the comfort of
the couch. Students need to be taught how
to take ownership of their behaviours, how
to make appropriate decisions, and how to
interact with others responsibly.
10. The ability to be resilient
and to deal with grief
Students should not depend on a constant
diet of praise. ‘Warm fuzzies’ are good but
so too are words of correction if they are
shared with wisdom and understanding.
Disappointment happens, discouragement
happens, distress happens and thus some
inner resilience is required. It might be as
well to remind some that if the world didn’t
‘suck’, they would fall off, and that some
resilience is needed against ‘the slings and
arrows of outrageous fortune’. Rather more
emotional and physical courage is required
in some of our students.
There are inevitably things that need to
be added to the list described above. For
example, instruction in morality might need
to be added. Within the dark corners of a
school, a moral blindness can hinder the
recognition of that which is right. Within
this shadowy world, ethics writhe into
convenient distortions of the truth and
values melt and slump to a level that
Thomas Moore in his book Care of the
Soul suggests that a great malady in the
21st century is our neglect of the soul.
A student’s soul needs to be kept healthy by
a diet of noble action, moving and aesthetic
experiences, love, wisdom and the
opportunity to engage in reflection.
Constraints and opportunities
With crowded timetables being inflated
in content by reformists from every sphere
of life, the suggestion that a school should
include a course which helps students in
their quest for adulthood can be expected
to be received in schools with weary
exasperation. However, we are beginning
to have some success in designing a
program at The King’s School which begins
to address some of the topics described.
Although the obstacles of a heavily
prescriptive and over-crowded syllabus are
real, we hope to introduce into Year 10
a program that covers much of the material
above. We think it is possible to win two
periods in a six-period day to teach this
program through judicious compression
and combination of components of the
curriculum. The four 50-minute periods
before lunch will be devoted to teaching the
prescribed NSW Board of Studies syllabus.
The four 50-minute periods after lunch
could then be available to teach a program
that would feature:
• Activity-based courses such as servicing
a car, cooking a meal and first aid
• Excursions such as visiting a funeral
parlor, courthouse and bank
This article is an edited extract of an essay
by Dr Hawkes titled ‘The failure of sch ools
to edu cate ’, based on a paper delivered at
the Internation al Boys’ Schools Coalition
15th Annual Con fere nce, Toronto, Can ada,
22-25 June 2008. A version also appeared in
The Sydney Morning Herald on 8 Septembe r
2008 and receive d wide media coverage.
The full paper may be viewe d now in
Indepen dence ONLINE, ww w.ahisa.com. au.
• Parental involvement with joint parent-
son homework tasks, seminars and
• Guest speakers
• Reflective tasks with solitude and
thinking time built into the program
• Compulsory social service and a period
of community living.
The role of schools is infinitely more
exciting than to prepare a student for their
final leaving exam. The role of schools is
to prepare students for life. In this, many
contemporary schools are at risk of
abrogating their responsibility. This is due,
in part, to the hegemony of that final exam
and the role exam results play in measuring
the worth of a school. All too often those
things that are more difficult to quantify
and measure, like character and values, can
become neglected in schools. It should be
within the scope of a school to design a
program, in partnership with the home,
which instructs a child in learning those
things they will need as an adult.
1 Diogenes Laertius ‘Aristippus’.
2 Taylor, D. (2002) The Naked Leader. Oxford:
Capstone Publishing. Page 208.
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