I doubt Desert Island Discs is top-choice listening for many (at least younger) readers, but Sunday’s programme may be worth a pause. The guest was the Principal of the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), statistically the most difficult university in the country to get in to, and by common consent one of the world’s great institutions. Their strapline is pretty bold (‘for the betterment of society’) and their leader is an Egyptian/American female economist, Dame Minouche Shafik. And in the course of the programme (between Fleetwood Mac and Beethoven, at 22m 54s in the broadcast, to be precise) she said this:
…some of us are lucky enough to be born in certain families, and (others) have grown up without going to school, not earning enough money to keep their family … for all of us there is a certain element of life which is good fortune, and we have a duty to share the benefits.
The long tradition of the Whitgift Foundation echoes those thoughts exactly of course. That is not to say that attitude, aspiration and hard work do not operate alongside good fortune, or that the character to seize opportunity is not crucial. Or that it is in any sense the fault of those who have good fortune that they do. But the moral imperative is strong and simple.
Hence for us our Primary Schools Project (to take just one example). This very week, Greenvale will be with us all week, as the Minster School were last week and Elmwood are next week. All week, mind you, not just for an hour here or there: doing computing, languages, sport, a range of stuff. The leader of this initiative, Ms Letchford, does a superb job. Hence too the involvement we’re signing up for in a joint journalism project called The Student View. And many other things.
The motivation for these partnerships, as with the state aid Dame Minouche was discussing, is partly because it’s good for all of us, and partly that moral imperative to share good fortune. Otherwise, it’s too easy to stay in the ‘Whitgift bubble’, which our Founder would presumably not have wished.
And as the snow falls, though only as yet feebly, good luck to those many Whitgift sportsmen who contest national semi finals and finals this coming week. May they spread their talent widely and with character!