Appreciating different points of view

In this school we try to keep ‘people’ centre stage- not data, not bureaucracy, not blind ideology- but people. One of the challenges inherent as always is to make sure an institution like ours is there for all the people in it; that we look to appreciate and cater for individuality, for difference. It is all too easy for any of us in our lives to look down on or disparagingly at those with slightly different value sets to my own; all too tempting.  

A few years back I sat in my mother’s living room having a drink with some of her oldest friends. For some reason I announced to the person next to me who I would be voting for in the upcoming election. A shudder went through the room; left the good people broken off mid conversation and aghast that I had turned out to be from a different tribe. I became defensive and ended up saying rather more than was necessary, further opening up the small chasm that had all of a sudden grown between us. It is such a mistake to assume people with different values to yourself care nothing for other people let alone social justice – a dangerous habit that only serves to further polarise us as a nation. Epictetus said, “From the very beginning, make it your practice to say to every harsh impression, ‘you are an impression and not at all what you appear to be.’’ I keep telling the children we need to always keep an open mind; to treat other people and their views with the respect and appreciation they deserve but these are empty words unless I can model them. 

I have been heartened this week by some of the wise words from our Year 6’s in letters written by them to their younger selves. Here is one pupil’s passionate plea to her younger self regarding appreciating difference: ‘It’s me! You! But in six years time!…Here is some great advice about your future and your life at Minchinhampton……Remember you’re amazing. You are a confident person, maybe too confident sometimes but know you don’t need to change for anyone! Use your confidence to not care what other people think – you need to stand up for what you believe in.The school will teach you it’s important to save the environment but I would say, while of course  it’s important, there are so many other things we need to get right, like what is goes on between people in the world – what about racism, homophobia, sexism…we need to treat each other well. You will learn that everyone is different- you’re different, so you just have to get on with it! It doesn’t really matter what other people think. You have to do what you want and be who you want to be- that is so important. Positivity can get you anywhere! Treat other people with respect and get to know people, you might find something you agree on and stuff you share. It’s what’s inside a person that counts.’