Diversity • Equity • Respect • Friendship

When selecting our 2020 College theme I was tempted to choose the more encompassing title of Developing Global Citizens, but succumbed to Diversity Equity Respect in order to provide a more explicit focus on key elements of the values and skills required to not only become better global citizens, but better St Leonard’s College citizens, also. Our capacity to enact provocations through discussions, role play and reflection was severely restricted in 2020, which is why we have continued with these three elements in 2021. The addition of Friendship to this year’s College theme reflects a late realisation that we can all theoretically value diversity and equity and be respectful without directly engaging with one another, which is contrary to our aspirations as a collegial community. 

As Hugh Mackay articulates in his book The Art of Belonging: “We are, by nature, social creatures who congregate; it’s in our cultural DNA. We are not good at surviving in isolation. We rely on communities to support and sustain us, and if those communities are to survive and prosper, we must engage with them and nurture them. That’s the beautiful symmetry of human society: we need communities and they need us.”

The past decade has seen a remarkable change to the diversity of families who form the College community. As Bayside has been enriched by the relocation of people from a multiplicity of national backgrounds, so has our College community. We have further broadened our cultural diversity and created greater equity through the development of fully funded Indigenous and Global Citizen Scholarships, which have only been made possible through the generosity of members of our community. These opportunities have greatly enhanced the life of opportunities of the recipients and thoroughly enriched the lives of all members of our community.

In an article last year, I shared Martha Nussbaum’s three capacities for developing humanity which are essential components for developing global citizens in today’s world: 

1. A critical examination of oneself and one’s traditions

2. The ability to see oneself as bound to all other human beings by ties of recognition and concern

3. Concern and ability to think what it might be like to be in the shoes of a different person 

Cultivating Humanity, Martha Nussbaum

Whilst I endorse each of these capacities, they fail to acknowledge the importance of offering the hand of friendship to those with whom we commune. In declaring that: “Friendship is a strong and habitual inclination in two persons to promote the good and happiness of one another,” the English writer Eustace Budgell makes evident the actions required if we are to build friendships and thereby increase our capacity to embrace diversity, strive for equity and demonstrate a deeper respect for all people. 

I am sure we all find it deeply disappointing when contemplating the issues reported daily in the global media of community division, personal hurt and the deprivation of people’s fundamental rights. Waiting for our world leaders, especially politicians, to role model and legislate for a fairer and more equitable world will not, as history has demonstrated, deliver the outcomes we desire at the pace we should expect, for as Einstein declared:

“We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.”

Another of the immortals, Mother Teresa, provided an insight into the most effective way to address inequity and bring respect to diverse peoples in her call to action: 

“Don’t wait for leaders; do it alone, person to person.”

Our role as parents and educators is to encourage our children – person to person – to engage in modelling the behaviours that will promote healthy, positive, respectful and inclusive communities. We know that they are not without a natural understanding, appreciation or capacity, as demonstrated by our youngest students in ELC who are most adept at making friends, a skill that is captured by the American humourist, Josh Billings in making the observation that: “A puppy plays with every pup he meets, but an old dog has few associates.” It is a personal joy to observe our youngest children (pups) display their remarkable ability to form friendships, one which explains why ELC remains my favourite destination for ‘escape’! 

If we are to nurture in our young people a greater capacity to build on the act of friendship, the ancient Greek love known as Philia, and appreciate more the love known as Xenia and that of Agape, then we must help them to develop an understanding of the attitudes, values and competencies that are most influential in developing a global citizen mindset. 

A helpful insight of these elements was shared by the Global Education and Skills Forum (2017) whose research revealed the values that were most important in developing a global citizen:

 Value and respect for differences (84%)

 The belief that all people are equal, and no one is more superior or inferior than anyone else (80%) 

 Empathy towards others (76%)

 Curiosity and the desire to learn more about the world (75%) 

  The belief that people can make a difference (75%)

 Commitment to social justice and equity (73%)

 Concern for the environment and commitment to sustainable development (73%)

In the middle-ranking priorities were:

 The ability to communicate clearly with others, regardless of language (65%), which led the researchers to indicate: “The global citizen is seen as one with a particular mindset rather than a defined skillset and the ability to speak the same language as others is seen as much less important than the willingness to see the other person’s point of view. In fact, difference, not commonality is what is celebrated and marked out as important, with the only requirement of others being a similar openness and respect for difference.”

The values at the lower end of the scale deemed as less important were: 

 A sense of identity and self-esteem (50%)

 Belonging to many communities (47%)

St Leonard’s College is most fortunate to have been invited by the OECD to be actively involved in the Future of Education 2030 project to assist in developing their wellbeing framework; the only Australian school to be invited. This project is focused on developing the knowledge, skills, attitudes, values and competencies that will enhance wellbeing in young people as they navigate an increasingly volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous (VUCA) world. Our engagement over the past four years with leading educators, government officials and students of more than thirty nations has been invaluable in enhancing our ability to realise our College Vision: ‘An education for life.’

The values developed in the OECD Global Competency Framework include: valuing human dignity and cultural diversity as guiding principles for attitudes such as openness towards people from other cultures, respect for cultural otherness, global-mindedness and responsibility. We have been excited by the quality of global thinking that underpins the emerging OECD Global Citizenship Education model, which seeks to:
“… foster an attitude that is supported by an understanding of multiple levels of identity including; knowledge of global issues and universal values such as justice, equality, dignity and respect, as well as aptitudes for networking and interacting with people of different backgrounds, origins, cultures and perspectives, and behavioural capacities to act collaboratively and responsibly to find global solutions for global challenges, and to strive for the collective good.” 

The global impact of the COVID-19 pandemic is unlikely to ever be fully comprehended, especially given the current impact on human interconnectivity. What we do know is that the health, education and life expectancy of many millions of global citizens have been adversely and irreversibly impacted upon. The COVID-19 aftermath and the resources of support required to aid recovery will require a more active civic participation of young people globally for many years to come. Balancing the potential impact of the multitude of issues faced by many poorly resourced countries and regions of the world, in conjunction with increasing diversity in our local context, requires us, as parents and educators, to actively nurture in them the competencies necessary to meet the challenges confronting our fellow global citizens.

For a second year we are unable to provide the experiences afforded prior to 2020 to our year 9 students to travel to countries such as Laos, Thailand, Cambodia, China and Vietnam where they would immerse themselves in different cultures. The Big Experience opened their minds and hearts to the richness of diversity and developed in them a deeper respect and understanding that there is a multiplicity of perspectives, lenses and filters through which they might view the world. 

This has been made more difficult during the pandemic, but we must continue in our endeavour to nurture in our young people the concept that they are not only citizens of their country, but citizens of the world, which means taking responsibility as global citizens by embracing diversity, pursuing equity, demonstrating respect through the love known as friendship. There is benefit in them considering the wisdom of Pablo Casals: 

“The love of one’s country is a splendid thing. But why should love stop at the border?”

Stuart Davis
St Leonard’s College Principal