Cathy and I adopted Lolly when we were a bit older than some of you. I am of an age where I remember wooden desks with flip-up lids and a hole in the corner for an ink-well…although not even I’m that old that we still used fountain pens!
My teachers used green chalk boards, I had actual text books and I played cricket and rode my bike without a helmet. My primary and secondary school both had 30 kids per class. They had wooden floors and high windows and certainly no aircon or screens or fancy halls or what are now referred to as theatres. And I went to two of the poshest schools in Joburg – Pridwin Prep and St Johns College Houghton.
Now of course I run the risk of sounding old and nostalgic. I may be old but I’m not nostalgic. I mostly hated school – especially high school. The reason for that is not that we lacked anything material, but because of what schooling lacked on other levels; warmth; love; compassion, care, balance. It was all about academic results, sporting achievement; cultural and extra-curricular excellence; “developing the young person for the future”.
I have come to understand in my adult life that what the world lacks is not necessarily smarter, sportier, more culturally gifted adults (although these are all fine characteristics). What the world lacks is emotionally intelligent, caring, balanced, conscious, present, unmaterialistic, compassionate, non-racist, non-sexist, non-abusive, well-adjusted, well-read adults who can live all-embracing lives in an increasingly fractured, violent and individualistic world.
But the funny thing is that when we look at schools for our kids, we don’t look for these things that will keep them (and humanity at large) alive and functional in the year 2030 plus (just for the purposes of location in history this is the AI, biotech era in which the caring/human careers – or those that can look after machines – will be the ones most highly sought after).
We look for astro-turf fields, sparking pools or what we now refer to as “aquatic centres”, dance studios with sprung floors and mirrors, smart boards, iPads and airconditioned classrooms with ergonomically designed chairs. Only the best for our little munchkins. But is it?
Because we don’t ask about their approach to the education of resilience or emotional intelligence – key attributes in this 21st Century workplace – or how the child of colour is educated to deal with a world that is structurally racist. We don’t ask about their approach to the empowerment of the girlchild or their employment policy and whether it demonstrates the racial and gender demographic of our nation (and this is particularly worrying because so many of us are people of colour or have children of colour – or are women!). Or how they deal with the introverted or very extroverted child, or the anxious/depressed child or the child of a single parent or the adopted child.
But who cares about all this if there is a “deli” where they can order their over-priced tramezzini off a personalised credit card.
Like you, we were unnerved by the closing of our high school. And when a couple of teachers left and only a few people pitched at the recent open days, we too went and looked at other schools in the area. It was disturbing to say the least. Why would I want my 8-year-old kid to go to a school that looks like a corporate head office; that has all the trimmings but lacks even a modicum of soul or history? Are we really to be enticed by chandeliers and the smell of drying paint?
Yes, Trinity is a lot more traditional, simple and less “corporate” in feel. It also doesn’t have all the bells and whistles. But then why do we all feel a sense of it being a very special little school? Perhaps precisely because it is smaller, friendlier, more family-oriented, and caring. Trinity is by no means caught in the past and is also not slavishly obsessed with modernity at the expense of a more balanced, down-to-earth, less-materialistic, less overtly-privileged environment. It offers smaller classes, exceptional teachers and a solid base of spiritual and emotional care for our children.
Why would we choose to move our children from this incredible environment? Upheave them to fulfil our desire for “all that sparkles”?
Just as an aside, Trinity is also the very best value private school in our area; the cheapest and the most exclusive in terms of numbers and personalised care and attention of our kids: Lolly’s teacher from last year came to her birthday party!
But the point of this letter is not to encourage you to stay if you don’t want to. It is your right to leave. But this I do ask; if you are going to leave, leave quietly, happily and peacefully. Don’t feel you have to spend the rest of the year justifying your decision by running Trinity down. Don’t feel you need to go on about the great facilities at other schools.
The rest of us really want this school to succeed and here’s the thing – there are plenty of us who will choose Trinity for all the reasons others are leaving; we want our kids to grow up in a less materialistic, simpler, “less shiny” environment with some older-school values. By the way, I spend a great deal of my working time in rural and peri-urban government schools. Before moving schools, go and visit some of those for a perspective on how privileged we are to have Trinity literally on our doorstep.
Our aim is for Lolly to be at Trinity until she matriculates. Maybe we will maybe we won’t – but Cathy and I are determined to do all we can to help this special little school not only survive but grow and thrive.
We hope you join us – but we fully understand if you don’t.
Justin Foxton – aka “Lolly’s Dad”.