BC students (PC years 35 and 36) at RaceRocks, taken by Mark Kelsey. Spring 2010.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Kay's Amazing Remarks

My good friend Kay is an extremely bright and sharp one. This is what she presented, beautifully, at the end of one village meeting. I found it very insightful and very close to what I believe, personally, this place is about.
Rock on Kay!


Often a hang-up of the Village Meetings I've witnessed have been that we are spending too much time addressing small issues like the size of the cafeteria's spoons, flossing our teeth, and the time at which we go to bed. Some people think we should be using this forum as a mini-UN to change the world from the comfort of the Max Bell, or at the very least, discuss the pressing issues that go on in the world beyond our enclave in the woods. Historically, this has always been a fine balance between the importance of global and domestic issues during village time, according to our resident Pearson historian, Mr. Andrew Spray. Personally, I, like many in the community, have come to value both levels of discussion. This is an excerpt of a piece I wrote on living in a five person room this year and the things I've learned from communal living:

Largely, any troubles in my room have arisen from deceptively small domestic matters: the overhead light being left on, the heater being too high or too low or the mug with the mouldy tea bag that nobody seems to remember owning. Rarely will we talk about what finally ended El Salvador's 23-year civil war, whether Morocco has a legitmate claim to the Sahara desert or if Canada should be sending more troops into Afghanistan. Though these are the very issues that an educational institution like Pearson should seek to explore and prevent through its education of young leaders, it cannot force this level of conversation upon its students. Part of the duty falls on the students to push themselves and each other to the next level of understanding of the world that will be demanded from them in just a few years time. It is then a balancing act between the two types of conversations within the little time we have together.

Because if Pearson scholars are to have any meaningful impact on the world through the course of their lives, they will have to distinguish themselves as individuals who have tremendous knowledge and insight about both the world they inhabit and their own selves. Both they can learn through those conversations but it largely a choice in the students' hands. Pearson's challenge, for its scholars and its own survival, is then truly based on an United World College value: personal challenge, personal challenge, personal challenge. We must rise to this opportunity presented to us for growth.

Growth comes in many forms and there is no doubt that we have done well so far, juggling all that Pearson demands physically, socially, academically and emotionally. Unfortunately, what Pearson demands morally is too often pushed to the back burner. We have a social responsibility to others—be they our national committees, home communities, sponsors or families—and to ourselves to pursue excellence in hopes of bettering our world. This moral commitment is one of the unwritten stipulations of our scholarships: to find our life's grand passion, pursue it doggedly and become forces for ruthless good in the world. This is what our mission statement should read.

You know if we can solve these 'deceptively small domestic problems', we stand a chance at solving the bigger ones. My friend from Egypt—or sorry, make that my friend, Martinos—once said that perhaps we need to tackle the small problems first, before they stockpile and turn into larger heaps of unresolvable issues; that is, after all, what global wars are waged on. It is what the El Salvadorian civil war, Western Sahara desert dispute and Afghanistan conflicts are. Nations do not just decide one day to go to war with each other. The conflicts first start on a smaller scale, between city-states, religious groups, neighbours, peer groups and perhaps even roommates. So if we can solve our problems about the overhead light, the heater and the mouldy tea bag, we can lay the foundation for going forth and solving some of the more serious matters in the world. The relative importance of our conflicts to the rest of the world is slight but we must start small; we have no other choice if we are to start learning the real lessons of life. If we realise we can live together, it is the first of many stones we can take off the heap of problems. As Mr. Pearson himself said in his Nobel Peace Prize Lecture, “how can there be peace without people understanding each other, and how can this be if they don't know each other?” This is our chance to look behind the flags to the faces. By getting to know our first-, second- and co-years, teachers and roommates, we stand a chance at standing together.

And I suppose the lack of small spoons, sleep and civilization are a fair price to pay for such an opportunity.

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