Stopping is not normally thought of as a virtue, and the correlation between life in a leading independent school and government is not one I’m particularly comfortable with, but one similarity does seem important. The media storms surrounding every public policy these days (of any government) seem to me to make it impossible to lead with clarity and direction. And the danger is that in a similar way, people in busy schools can find it hard to reflect on what they’re doing.
This was brought home to me last week when Sir Anthony Seldon revisited Whitgift. Many of you will have been at one of his talks, and the interview Piers and Will did with him will be in the Whitgiftian, and superbly stimulating the talks were. During the afternoon talk - on Britain’s 54 Prime Ministers - he deliberately stopped for a moment's silence. Slightly to the boys’ bemusement at first, but for a reason which is obvious and powerful: occasionally you need to stop, and absorb. And reflect.
That’s been true since time immemorial of course, but we so often forget to do it. Switching activities - from intellectual to sporting, for example, or from indoor to outdoor - is helpful and important. But stopping to think is more than that. We should do it more often.
And maybe this is one of the hopes for the future. Anthony’s evening talk was on AI and the future of work. Mechanising repetitive tasks, even apparently intellectual ones, might give us as a society space to think, to exercise mind as well as body and to reflect on why we do what we do.
Surprisingly to me, the military see this. At Friday’s (very successful) CCF Inspection, I was privileged to meet an OW Colonel who has recently been in Afghanistan. He has been given time, and encouraged, to reflect on the experience, and is fascinated about that country Britain has had such a chequered history with.
So take a moment to reflect, as we approach this most important of times. As the Founder’s House team say in their weekly newsletter, this is the time when we draw together the training of the months past and put in a focussed performance!