“We were extremely impressed with his clarity of mind and considerable energy as well as his passionate commitment to education and young people.”
The description stuck in my mind. It made me want to meet him.
I’m interested in the way people describe each other. A colleague emailed me recently, and in his note he described the former Chief Inspector of prisons, Lord Ramsbotham;
“He is a wonderful man – driven, dynamic and decent. Great combination”
A few weeks ago, I picked up Conn and Hal Iggulden’s Dangerous Book For Boys. Although it had been on my bookshelf for years, I hadn’t really read it before. The words on the first page are by Sir Frederick Treves, Sergeant in Ordinary to HM the King, Surgeon in Ordinary to HRH Prince of Wales. He wrote them in 1903, on the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Boy’s Own Paper.
‘Don’t worry about genius and don’t worry about not being clever. Trust rather to hard work, perseverance, and determination. The best motto for a long march is “Don’t grumble. Plug on.”
“You hold your future in your own hands. Never waver in this belief. Don’t swagger. The boy who swaggers – like the man who swaggers – has little else that he can do. He is a cheap-Jack crying his own paltry wares. It is the empty tin that rattles most. Be honest. Be loyal. Be kind. Remember that the hardest thing to acquire is the faculty of being unselfish. As a quality it is one of the finest attributes of manliness.”
“Love the sea, the ringing beach and the open downs. Keep clean, body and mind.”
As Richard Reeves reminded me in this article about ‘character’, the first headmaster of Buckinghamshire’s Stowe school, JF Roxburgh , once described his aim as producing men who would be “useful at a dance and invaluable in a ship wreck”.
From the same piece, Richard remembers;
” Lord Baden-Powell described the Scout Movement he founded as “character factory”, with the explicit aim of turning out young men of the right sort. The goal, in his words, was to instil “some of the spirit of self-negation, self-discipline, sense of humour, responsibility, helpfulness to others, loyalty and patriotism which go to make ‘character’.”
Perhaps all of this seems terribly old-fashioned – a bit serious or worthy. I certainly get the rather depressing impression that you aren’t supposed to talk about these things anymore.
It is twenty years since I started at secondary school. As a new headmaster begins his work, he will pass on various pearls of wisdom to the pupils. GCSEs and A-Levels must be studied for. University and careers must be considered.
Amongst all of the everyday priorities, I hope that he will also share Mark Twain’s advice;
“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”