From Head Of School: What is Green?

In Campus Community, Education, Head Of School, Sustainability, This Is Green School

What is a Green Education?

This month, in my English class, I asked the students what is the purpose of a Green School education; what do they expect, what do their parents expect – why am I here? What struck me was how hard they found the answer to articulate.

I wonder if it is that difficult for others?

What is a ‘green’ education? As colourful as it is, there needs to be a purpose – a mission. For three months I have been trying to condense into a single document our curriculum – the train tracks on which all other carriages run. Initially, I thought this would be easy – just pull out all the details from a myriad of documents from multiple places from years of really exciting and creative growth. But it is not that clear and it is not that easy.

I had a person use a quote I have been repeating, mistakenly attributed to Winston Churchill:

“I didn’t have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead”
-Mark Twain

Just like a good sauce, the skill is in how the ingredients are mixed and how you reduce – which takes time to mother out the tastes.

So let me digress…

I asked another simple question of my English class this week: who is the most powerful person on the planet?

Without surprise, the responses were Obama, Putin and Ban Ki-Moon.

I commented that these were not the most powerful – and led them to consider the most powerful person was the one who wanted for nothing. They looked confused. I highlighted that if people did not want things we would not be held to ransom by clever sales pitches, marketing and consumerism.

My father brought me up with the values he had instilled in him as part of a generation raised in the rationing of WW2. At the table he would always comment: waste not; want not. When we turned our noses up at a bit of mould on bread, he would blow up and say, it’s just penicillin! Bruised bananas – unsavoury to us – he would devour in front of all as a testament to resourcefulness. We always had a cupboard of tin-food because the ‘great depression will be coming again’.

Things have really changed.

In a world of consumerism and marketing, in an age of connectivity with greater disconnect, our globe is controlled by ‘wants’. Desire, which leads to greed, has shackled us all to cities, televisions, malls and labels. We want products!

In my lifetime, the shop-owner Hans who used to fix our electronics when they broke has lost out to landfills: we throw out the old and buy a new unit – it’s cheaper. The energy, resources, labour and skills sustained in ‘fixing’ have been buried in mountains of waste and the ease of buying from clean air-conditioned pre-fabricated barns, without ever seeing the pollution, degradation and social capitalization in factories over the sea in foreign lands.

Mr Stevens – who had the corner shop over the road – left a long time ago, replaced by the shopping square and easy parking. We used to buy nails on scales and then have them placed in paper bags – in my lifetime they became plasticated groups of twenty, and choice was restricted to buy more.

We used to walk to get fruit from the grocers (who always had Italian names) and we were always told of what was in season – now the grocer is an aisle and we scan our own purchases without ever having to negotiate and chat about the quality of tomatoes.

Green School is a place that wants to develop in our children the shields needed for a happy future. It is not about excess it is all about access – being able to get what you need so you are in control. Being able to understand how to do things – so we can grow our own food, build our own things and be grateful for simplicity. Being able to communicate and express ideas as well as listen and appreciate diversity – so we can network and find solutions. Being able to live without taking from future generations the joys we experienced as kids.

Green School is all about connecting with the timeless traditions of the past – and in writing this newsletter, I am consciously aware that the timeless traditions are not from an epoch ago! Traditions can be spaced across just one generation!! We need to let things slow down and settle – to give kids the greatest gift: a childhood.

I sat on the beach of Brawa last Friday nursing my broken foot. I watched with interest as my son went for a surf with his mates. Before my eyes was me – as a kid – taking to the water with the freedom and love of being young. I felt so proud to be able to offer this opportunity. This was timeless. I sat back, felt my Movember whiskers and realized – I am now my father.

My bucket list of learning needs:

To learn how to think
To learn how to care
To learn how to read
To learn how to calculate
To learn how to cook
To learn how to make
To learn how to exercise
To learn how to manage a relationship
To learn how to be happy
To yearn to learn

Pak John
Head of School

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