Few ideas exist in isolation. They are all interwoven and are all linked, based on respect and equality.
As a society, we should be focused on the concept of connection (linking), rather than ranking.
As many of you will know, I have recently returned from a week in New York, a very chilly New York I might add, but an exhilarating week nonetheless. The Conference I attended with 1,000 other people representing 23 different countries, was the inaugural Global Forum on Girls Education. The Conference focussed on girls’ education, and was full of hope and possibility.
In some ways, the world for me has never felt smaller, and as the Principal of a school in Melbourne, I now feel connected to 1,000 educators across the world, passionate like St Catherine’s teachers about girls and education; it was a very powerful experience.
The Opening Address was delivered by American journalist, and social and political activist, Ms Gloria Steinem. Ms Steinem became nationally recognised as a leader and spokeswoman for the feminist movement in the late 1960s and early 70s. She was a symbol for many women of ‘struggle, yet optimism’. Ms Steinem provided an eloquent and articulate Address with the attendees at the Conference giving a rapturous applause and a lengthy standing ovation at the close of her presentation. In her Address, Steinem challenged us that “as human beings, we are linked, not ranked”. As a society, we are frequently known to rejoice the best, the wealthiest, the fastest.
Steinem suggested “it seems all too easy to forget that white people are not superior to black, that wealthy people are not superior to poor.” As a society, we should be focused on the concept of connection (linking), rather than ranking.
In so many ways these words resonated with me. Our current education system, and even at St Catherine’s, we seem to work hard at ranking our students – the highest ATAR, the fastest swimmer, the A Team, the First crew, the best score. And certainly, the media in Australia, intent on ranking schools by a number based on a few hours of testing.
Ms Steinem’s comments encouraged an importance that we educate girls to understand the way in which concepts, people and our societies are connected. Few ideas exist in isolation. They are all interwoven and are all linked, based on respect and equality. I encouraged our Senior students in Assembly this week to ‘connect’ with each other, beyond the use of social media and technically driven devices. And to connect through listening, laughing and caring for each other.
What was also abundantly clear was the connection of the past Captains and Vice Captains as they returned to School this week. These women are linked by the common thread of captaincy, a ‘link’ that extended well beyond the gates of Heyington Place when they graduated.
I also enjoyed hosting a St Catherine’s gathering whilst in New York, connecting women of different ages and stages of their lives through their ‘link’ of being a St Catherine’s girl. I was in awe of their capacity to carve incredible careers in New York across financial, legal, medical, advertising and the Arts sectors. Each described a longing for St Catherine’s (and home) when they received my light blue gifts at the event and they appreciated the opportunity to link to other SCOGA members living abroad. I wish these Old Girls well, and will enjoy following their career progress, and look forward to linking New York bound St Catherine’s graduates to these women in the coming years.