On Sunday Townley Grammar School hosted an event organised by the Bexley Indian Community. I was privileged to attend along with The Rt Honourable David Evenett MP and it appears in the Bexley Times.
This was a particularly special event for Townley and I wish to share it with you. The evening was a celebration of the Hindu Goddess Saraswati, goddess of learning. As an RS teacher I have always had an interest in other religions and believe we can always learn from other beliefs if we are prepared to be open minded. As such I have attended temples, Gurdwaras, synagogues and churches and always feel honoured to be able to observe or participate in activities that mean so much to some people.
The event included a presentation from a very talented 6 year old, traditional Indian dancing and a yoga display. All of which was outstanding but I wish to focus on Saraswati herself. This goddess symbolises knowledge, wisdom, science, the arts, music and creativity. She is sometimes referred to as the mother of eloquent speech and also represents the ability to distinguish right from wrong. This to me seems to express the ideal school curriculum and in particular the Townley curriculum. The Veena or lute that she plays symbolises these elements acting in harmony because as we know no one subject or ability is more important than the other.
The media and politicians might lead us to believe that education is an international competition to be higher up whichever league table is in vogue, or as an economic goal to benefit the economy. This derives from the Industrial Revolution when people began to be seen as units of productivity. The ultimate expression of this can be found in Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World”. Increasingly education has been judged in terms of social mobility, the movement of people from one “class” or social strata to another. At times this is confused with wealth but neither are particularly helpful and there is no convincing argument that this is the purpose of education.
I prefer the idea of intellectual mobility; the movement of thought and ideas and the development of thinking. This is the motivation for those who truly love education and learning. It is this that drives the greatest teachers and students. These individuals view education as a journey rather than a destination. As such the analogy of a river is useful. Saraswati is also a river in India. A river does not travel in a straight line. It weaves around obstacles and changes pace as it progresses but it always progresses.
It is the idea of journey that inspires the Townley motto, taken from Alfred Lord Tennyson’s Ulysses. It is the story of the Odyssey where Odysseus travels home from the Trojan wars over a period of several years, encountering many difficulties along the way:
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.
It is this will to learn, an intellectual curiosity that drives the greatest learning.
The Bexley Indian community have very kindly donated a statue of the goddess Saraswati as a symbol of our link with the community and of our shared belief in the transforming power of education. It will be on display in the main reception and I hope visitors can see in it the Townley vision for an education which encompasses a wide variety of subjects and activities and aims for greater harmony of the intellectual disciplines, the scientific and creative, the emotional and academic.