It’s been an unusual weekend. Spent most of it closeted away with a bunch of very talented people, at an event organised by the Trinity Forum, headlined When No One Sees: The Importance of Character in an Age of Image. It worked a bit like an unconference: a small group of attendees, a core agenda run workshop style, lightly moderated and completely dependent on a participative audience. The format was garnished by some excellent guest speakers at mealtimes, and the surroundings were superb. More of that later.
I was very taken by something said by one of the visiting speakers. Headmaster of one of the larger private schools, he described his job as “being responsible for 1250 teenage boys every Saturday night”.
We were looking at the role of education and educationalists in the formation of character; it was a fascinating debate, bloglike in its tangential nature. At some point in the discussion, he was describing aspects of the pupils’ engagement with theatre and drama, and he made the observation:
We don’t use prompters
I think this is key. A simple decision — doing away with prompting — had a worthwhile impact on the takent and character of the students. They changed the way they prepared; they changed the way they responded when facing a problem; they changed the way they stepped in to help when others faced problems.
We need to keep examining what we do: every time we promote an inspection/repair culture, we tend to implement safety nets; the safety nets encourage slipshod behaviour, and soon we find that all we are promoting is mediocrity.
If achieving mediocrity wasn’t bad enough, we tend to make it worse. Far too often, the mediocrity attracts another foul behaviour, an audit culture where the measurement process becomes more important than that which is being measured.Â How else can mediocrity rise?