21 October 2015

Letter from the Head – 21 October 2015

Dear Parents

Private schools are making their way into the press once again and mostly on account of social media. It seems that these events will be commonplace until there is some cataclysmic event that will force all of us to be more circumspect and to treat social media as a useful but potentially dangerous object that requires careful management. Social networking is much like a lethal power tool that can do so much good and yet inflict so much damage if not operated correctly.

The problem when these issues are thrown into the spotlight is that social media is too conveniently blamed and the thinking behind the disturbing posts pales into insignificance and thus the really disturbing issues are overlooked. Poor thinking is in fact at the heart of the problem, yet it is social media that is conveniently labelled as the demon. If thinking were better, deeper and more conscious of the other, or of humanity in general, then there would be fewer problems on the ubiquitous social media platform. We all know that privacy is now an illusion. That which we post is immediately public and we have to be responsible for our thinking, however and wherever we express ourselves.

There seems to be a feeling that the right to freedom of speech allows anyone to say anything at any given time. This is not so. Freedom of speech cannot be tantamount to hate speech, nor can it incite violence, nor can it be defamatory. Just as privacy is an illusion, so too is a simplistic understanding of the notion of freedom of speech.

Advocate Emma Sadleir said in a radio interview recently that we will always be associated with the posts we make and whether they become famous or infamous, there is no way to distance ourselves from them once they have entered virtual reality. She postulates that since social media sites are free, they owe the users nothing and they do not have to work at protecting private information to retain custom. Simply put, one can’t play in the traffic on the digital superhighway; one has to know the rules and one has to think carefully.

The problem, however, remains. There is a worrying type of bigotry that is espoused too easily. The old adage that boys will be boys or girls will be girls is too simplistic a response to problematic, careless and often entrenched thought patterns that have remained unchallenged. Our task as parents and educators is to think better ourselves and to challenge the thinking of teenagers just as much as they challenge us.

There is an excellent article about the Internet from an American source about Internet safety. Please share it with your children as it gives clear guidelines on how to protect oneself from hackers, identity theft and so on. It is not all doom and gloom, it is just that we need to be skilled to stay ahead of the game. The link to the article is: http://www.usnews.com/education/blogs/high-school-notes/2015/10/12/how-to-teach-teens-about-cybersecurity

On a positive note, it is that time of year again when the Matric portfolios and practical work are moderated. It would be wonderful for people to see the amount of work that goes into presenting our students’ work superbly. I am very proud of the standard submitted in most subjects and I am the fortunate recipient of comments from moderators. Excellent work for the continuous assessment aspect of the examinations ensures that our students are well placed to face the exams competently.

Here is but one example of the type of comment we have received:
It has, once again, been an immense privilege to moderate this centre. Your students are very lucky to have such dedicated professionals safeguarding their work. Thank you for a meticulous teacher file and complete and well-organised learner files. The work being done at this school is of an impressive standard and speaks to a high degree of departmental collaboration, dedication and integrity. Your students have been well prepared for their final examinations and I wish them the best of luck.

Enjoy the arrival of summer and the many things that still need to be accomplished this term. It is an exciting one.

Yours sincerely
Meg Fargher