Total Education Blog

Rites of Passage in the ‘Have Everything’ Era

Sunday, May 10, 2015

The Year 12 presentation to the combined parent meeting last Friday night was on the topic Risk Taking. The students worked in pairs and provided humorous but thoughtful insights into why they might take risks and the upsides and downsides to the behaviour.

I often feel that the talks themselves create the setting for the real action in the presentations, and that is the question time which happens after the presentations are over.

One question from a parent really stimulated a lot of discussion. It went something like: Do you think that risk taking somehow replaces what used to occur in rites of passage from childhood to adulthood that happened in indigenous cultures throughout the world, as suggested by a leading US psychologist?

There was some consensus on that idea with two of the students commenting that they feel everything they need is provided for them. But it made me reflect on the rites of passage that exist in The School of Total Education. The first to mind was pointed out to me by one of the parents in the supper afterwards: That the traditional Year 12 presentation to parents was itself one such rite of passage.

I also believe that another set of rites of passage we have created in the school can be found in our camps program. I was reminded of this through discussions I had been having during the week with a parent regarding the their concerns about the impact of a camp on the students’ academic work.

A lot of thought and planning goes into the choosing of the camps for each grade, ensuring there is a graduating increase in challenge appropriate to the students’ ages.

This need not always be a physical challenge. More social and less challenging camps are part of the program. They provide a step up in other ways, some saying to the students – now you are maturing we can give you this type of experience because we believe you are up to it.

The camps program is seen to culminate in the 9 day Outward Bound experience in Year 11/12 which is a clear rite of passage. It is challenging physically mentally and emotionally. It also has what might be called a spiritual aspect to it. It provides an opportunity for deep reflection and a catalyst for enhanced personal growth.

But just as important is the end of year camp for the Year 12s after all their studies are complete. They organise it themselves, with a little oversight, and it is a week of relaxation. It is more of a reward saying ‘Well done, you deserve this.’ Another rite of passage.

So, in closing, it is appropriate to say thanks to our Year 12 students for their enlightening and engaging presentations.

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