Pursuing Excellence on a Foundation of Inclusion

Mr Andrew Hawkins – Deputy Headmaster and Head of Senior School

I am somewhat perplexed, like many of you will be too, when I see on the news and read in the press the recent issues involving the ARU and the fallout from comments made by Israel Folau on social media regarding homosexuality and his religious beliefs. This is a very complex manner and this article isn’t about taking sides or making a stance. It is just another example of the complexities involved for you as parents in parenthood, and for us as educators in education.

Naturally, everyone has an opinion on what Israel wrote on social media (twice) and there has been an outpouring of support for him standing firm on his beliefs. The flip side of the argument is that his employers, who pay him over $1 Million per annum, requested he not speak his mind on such a topic that marginalises members of Australia – the same country he represents. A fair request from his bosses. Sometimes in life, you simply have to do as you are told.

If you have been hiding under a rock for the last few weeks and have no idea what the incident involves I will put it as succinctly as I can. The ARU know that if they sack Israel and terminate his contract over homophobic remarks made on Twitter there will be a massive player rift between the players that support their ‘colleague’ and those players that do not. They may also have to pay out his contract. If the ARU do not terminate Israel’s contract they will more than likely lose their major sponsors that would almost ruin the Wallabies brand financially overnight.

What has this got to do with parenting and educating? It highlights another example of a high-profile male role model saying and doing what he likes that tests the very foundation of inclusion in society. Inclusion is something we pride ourselves on at TSS as a non-selective, single-sex school for boys. I found the following statement in the inside cover of a publication from the Harvard University Presidential Task Force on Inclusion and Belonging. I have included a link in this article below.

“For nearly 400 years, Harvard has steadily — though often painfully slowly — opened its doors, as it has welcomed groups previously excluded from its faculty, staff, and student body. But, as recent events both here and elsewhere have reminded us, much work remains to be done if we are to fulfill our ideals and if we are to succeed in educating leaders and scholars who can effectively contribute to a complex and too often fractured world. It is essential that we bring together a diverse community. To realize the community’s full promise, and to foster the personal and intellectual transformation at the heart of our mission, we must also work affirmatively and collectively to advance a culture of belonging. This requires an openness to change, as well as a willingness to learn from and embrace difference in the spirit that defines a vibrant and respectful academic community”.

PRESIDENT DREW GILPIN FAUST’s Charge to the Presidential Task Force on Inclusion and Belonging – May 2016

I wish I was as articulate as the President of the Task Force as he sums up the progress of Harvard in their pursuit of excellence on a foundation of inclusion. We could say the same for our 118 year-old school based on the foundations of the Anglican Faith. Our progress – though often painfully slow as Faust so eloquently puts it – has meant our school has opened its doors to many faith denominations, same-sex attracted students, indigenous students, boys from all corners of Australia and across the world, and boys that fit across the full spectrum of academic ability. We have many successful women in our school in important leadership positions and we employ staff of all ages. All of which add value to our diverse and inclusive community.

Israel Falou is a role model to so many young Australian boys and girls and what he says, whether we agree with it or not, holds value amongst his many supporters, especially the young ones. When role models like Trump and Folau make primitive remarks it often means we take a step backwards as a community of we do not remind our own children and students how far society has come in relation to inclusivity. Maybe if Israel had come to TSS, he too, may have become a more inclusive man with an openness to change, as well as a willingness to learn from and embrace difference in the spirit that defines TSS, and Harvard’s, vibrant and respectful academic community.


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