‘There are two educations. One should teach us how to make a living and the other how to live.’ (John Adams, second president of the USA)
The best schools and colleges have always had a holistic view of education, believing that what goes on inside and outside the classroom are of equal importance in the development of young people. I am sure that one of the reasons why British and Irish boarding schools continue to be so attractive to parents and children from overseas is because in many developing countries the emphasis is all on academic performance, to the neglect of everything else. One hears stories of children in some places who get up early to study, attend school all day, come and home and have hours of tutoring before falling into bed and getting up to do it all again. Many parents want more for their children and that is what St. Columba’s and other such schools have always stood for.
I like the above quote by John Adams, who distinguishes between these different types of education. Academic achievement is of crucial importance in providing the tools for success. Public exam results open the doors to good university courses and university degrees equip young people either directly for a career, in the case of science or technology subjects, or indirectly, through the Arts, by enabling them to think clearly and understand and appreciate the world around them. Those exams are the markers that we have acquired the tools to earn a living and, however good our personal skills may be, without those markers it is harder to open doors to success later in life.
However, one can be successful in one’s career while failing in one’s life. As a wag once said, ‘on your deathbed no one ever says, “I wish I had spent more time at the office.”’ It is the experiences and relationships in life that give it value and also give value to the lives of other people. That is the other education, which St. Columba’s nurtures abundantly. Here we learn to live in community with other people, dealing with conflict, learning to respect others and learning to respect the differences in other people; we learn to play in teams, being part of something bigger than ourselves, knowing that in a team every member counts and that the strong need to look after the weak; we learn to appreciate art, music and other creative skills, which enrich life and give it beauty; we explore our faith, learning to serve those around us as an expression of that faith, as well as giving ourselves a foundation and a direction for our lives. Without that faith we can be like a rudderless ship, tossed about by every breath of wind and unable to steer itself.
Companies these days are keen to employ young people with a broad range of skills. It has long been an adage that those with third class degrees often end up employing those with firsts. Well I wouldn’t advocate settling for a third but it is true that those who get the best degrees have sometimes sacrificed the development of other skills in their pursuit of the prize and are less able to work in teams or lead others.
I am sure that in 2018 St. Columba’s will be providing two educations. As Aristotle said: ‘The educated differ from the uneducated as much as the living from the dead.’ What a great blessing education is.