essay

 

Geelong Grammar School’s
betrayal of Sir James Darling’s vision

 

In 2014, despite the explanation of the human condition that is presented in Jeremy Griffith’s books being the fulfilment of the core vision of Geelong Grammar School of cultivating the sensitivity needed to achieve that specific, all-important-if-there-is-to-be-a-future-for-the-human-race task, the school chose not to include an essay on Jeremy’s life’s work that was commissioned by its publishers for possible inclusion in its Corio anniversary book 100 Exceptional Stories, which ‘celebrates the lives of 100 exceptional past students’. The following provides the background to this betrayal of Sir James Darling’s vision for Geelong Grammar School.

 

21 April 2015 letter from Alfred James, OAM, summarising the approach made to him to write a piece about Jeremy Griffith for possible inclusion in 100 Exceptional Stories

 

James Press

WTM Director

 

Dear James,

 

The following is a summary of events regarding my submission of a story about Jeremy Griffith for Geelong Grammar School’s 2014 book 100 Exceptional Stories, which, as part of the 100-year anniversary of the Geelong Grammar School’s Corio Campus, ‘celebrates the lives of 100 exceptional past students’ from that period.

 

I am a past student of Geelong Grammar School, have gained three degrees in Latin and Greek from Sydney University, have been a teacher, editor and writer, and been awarded an OAM for my services to cricket and the community.

 

I occasionally play cricket with James Grant, who is an old Geelong Grammarian, and at a cricket match in June 2013 he said that his brother, who is also an old Geelong Grammarian, Sandy Grant, CEO of Hardie Grant Media, was publishing a book on 100 famous old Geelong Grammarians and asked me if I knew of anyone I thought should be included. I immediately thought of Jeremy Griffith because I felt his diverse enterprises imbibed the School’s ethos of making bold and progressive contributions to society. James agreed it was a good suggestion and, while he couldn’t guarantee it would be selected in the final 100, he asked me to write the submission, which I agreed to do. He said it needed to be around 750 words and suggested half might be about Jeremy’s writing on the human condition and the World Transformation Movement (WTM), and the other half about Jeremy’s furniture business and Tasmanian Tiger search.

 

On 12 July 2013 I contacted the WTM Publicity Officer and explained that I was in Jeremy’s year at GGS, and in the same school house. I said that I hadn’t been in contact with Jeremy for 20 years but I had been following his progress, having, for example, kept a copy of the 16 December 2010 full-page advertisement Jeremy and the WTM ran in The Australian after their successful defamation action against the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. I said Jeremy was very popular at school and I thought many would be interested to hear about his remarkable range of interests and achievements. I wanted to know if Jeremy would be happy to be included in a book titled 100 Exceptional Stories, which the publicity officer said she was already aware of because WTM Patron, Tim Macartney-Snape, had been nominated for inclusion.

 

On 16 July 2013 Jeremy rang me saying he would be honoured to be considered, and was very happy for me to write the piece.

 

On 18 August 2013 I emailed Jeremy my draft submission, and, after making a few factual changes that Jeremy suggested, I sent the submission (below) a few days later to Sandy Grant in Melbourne.

 

On 5 August 2013, which was just prior to sending my submission to Sandy Grant, I received an E-mail from Sarah Notton, an editor at Hardie Grant Media, saying that the final “list of 100 profiles” had been “agreed by the editorial board back in May” and that she could not accept my contribution. I immediately contacted Sandy himself who said Jeremy’s credentials were very high and that he would try to include him if any of the 100 selected names fell through.

 

I might add that I was told that very few biographies had been written at that point and that a team of writers was about to commence writing them. So, it appears to me that the 100 people had been chosen by the editorial board on the strength of their already recognised fame rather than on a detailed examination of their achievements.

 

I heard nothing more about my submission or the book until June 2014 when Jeremy emailed that Tim Macartney-Snape had learnt that Jeremy wasn’t included in the book.

 

Alfred James

 

Alfred James’ submission for 100 Exceptional Stories, a book celebrating the 100th anniversary of Geelong Grammar School’s Corio campus

 

For over 40 years Jeremy Griffith (CU 63) has spent most of his time developing a comprehensive explanation of “the human condition.” In short, he has sought to answer the question “Why, when the ideal is to be co-operative, loving and selfless, is mankind so competitive, aggressive and selfish?” He sees the problem as being a struggle between the gene-based instinctive part of us and the conscious self. Faced with this discord, Jeremy finds that most people fall back into a state of denial or resignation.

 

He has produced a considerable body of work, both printed and audio-visual, drawing his conclusions from a wide variety of disciplines including the physical sciences, biology, anthropology, philosophy, literature and psychiatry whilst taking into account the views of such figures as Plato, Christ, Darwin, Teilhard de Chardin and Laurens van der Post.

 

Like most visionaries and idealists in history, he has had to fight off attacks from those who see him as too confronting, as an upsetter of the apple-cart and as a “dangerous” influence on young minds. This has led to his vindication in court cases where he has been supported and applauded by a host of prominent scientists and philosophers.

 

Born in Albury in December 1945, Jeremy was the second of four sons of Norman and Jill Griffith. After Tudor House he was enrolled at Geelong Grammar where his father and brothers were also educated. His headmaster, Dr (later Sir James) Darling, had a mission to discover what was good in every boy and greatly encouraged free-thinking and individualism. This suited Jeremy who was of an enquiring mind, loved nature, and endlessly discussed thoughts and theories with other boys and teachers with a wide-eyed, direct and cheerful mien. He also possessed a strong practical side and was always devising contraptions, often for use on the family’s sheep station, “Totnes”, at Mumbil, near Wellington.

 

He was a fine sportsman. In 1961 he won the gruelling “Up Timbertop and Back” in a then record time of under 55 minutes. At Corio he was secretary of Rugby and gained School Colours playing at breakaway in the XV. He was also a fine swimmer and loved camping trips.

 

He left at the end of 1963 with an A pass in the Leaving Certificate and spent the following year on “Totnes” working and studying by correspondence for the Leaving Certificate gaining First-Class Honours in Biology. In 1965 he commenced a Science degree at UNE and played rugby for Northern NSW. Indeed he was invited to trial for the Wallabies and was offered a sporting scholarship to the USA.

 

About this time he became fascinated with the Thylacine (or “Tasmanian Tiger”) and resolved to make every effort to find and preserve it – if it wasn’t extinct. His quest lasted six years, two of which were spent encamped in wilderness areas of western Tasmania. He carefully logged all the reported “sightings” since the 1930s, raised sponsorship, examined scores of trails and set up field units with camera monitors.

 

Eventually he concluded that the thylacine was extinct and regretted that “it was my innocence that caught me out because I just couldn’t believe that so many people could be mistaken [in believing that they had seen it].” He published a comprehensive report and articles in leading journals on his findings and established a Thylacine Research Centre in order to educate the public.

 

In 1970 he transferred his candidature to Sydney University and completed his BSc in 1971, majoring in Zoology. Earlier that year his father had been killed in a tractor accident.

 

Jeremy now pursued another ambition – to construct and sell furniture made from native timbers. He established “Griffith Tablecraft” and with one of his brothers set up a substantial workshop on a property in the Tweed Valley. Soon there were over 40 employees constructing furniture noted for its elegant simplicity and absence of screws, bolts or glue.

 

By 1975 he had begun to set down his initial thoughts about “the human condition” and in 1983 established the “Foundation for Humanity’s Adulthood” (FHA), a not-for-profit enterprise dedicated to promoting analysis of the human condition. In 1988 he published his first book “Free: The End of the Human Condition”, followed in 1991 by “Beyond the Human Condition”. Of it Dr Ronald Strahan wrote, “I consider the book to be the work of a prophet.” Visitors to his then home in Surrey Hills in Sydney were confronted with dozens of sheets of butcher’s paper on the walls, plotting the full range of affinities and disconnects between humans and animals.

 

Four more books have followed, as well as “The Human Condition Documentary Proposal” (2004), which received over 100 endorsements from leading scientists and thinkers. In 2012 his book “Freedom” was greatly up-dated “with a complete demolition of all the denial-based, mechanistic/​reductionist biological theories of Social Darwinism, Sociobiology, Evolutionary Psychology, etc.” Of it Professor Harry Prosen, a former president of the Canadian Psychiatric Association, wrote: “Finding understanding of the human condition, our capacity for good and evil, has been the Holy Grail of the whole Darwinian revolution because it is the insight needed for the psychological rehabilitation of the human race. Since I am convinced this book presents that liberating understanding I think there has never been a more exciting moment in human history, or a more important book.”

 

Most of Jeremy’s books are illustrated with whimsical line-drawings of people and animals intermixed with Dantesque depictions of human alienation.

 

In 2009 the FHA became the World Transformation Movement, because, as Jeremy writes, “having survived the initial resistance to having the subject of the human condition opened up, our organisation now seeks to take the transformative effects of being able to understand the human condition to the world.”

 

Jeremy continues to write and to give lectures, often with Tim Macartney-Snape (M 73), to community and scientific groups. He has visited study projects in Africa specializing in various primates, and is particularly intrigued by the empathetic nature of bonobos (“pygmy chimpanzees”). He lives in Sydney with Annie Williams, his partner since 1980.

 

______________________

 

15 January 2015 letter from Tim Macartney-Snape, AM OAMa Patron on the WTMto the Geelong Grammar School Council outlining his concerns about the school’s apparent loss of direction

 

Dear School Council,

Renewal through change is essential to the prosperity of any entity and of course the long-term growth of that entity will be determined by how successful each change is. But change in itself is not automatically a good thing, and with regard to Geelong Grammar School, I’ve had a growing unease for some years now that my old school, the school whom one of my forebears helped found and which many of my extended family attended, has undergone changes that for no good reason have taken it off the path that made it unique.

Indicative of this is the recently published 100 Exceptional Stories, within which I feel deeply honoured to have been included. I note the Headmaster’s disclaimer that the book is not intended as a definitive compilation of the school’s one hundred best and brightest (certainly my inclusion indicates that), but as a group of exceptional people emblematic of our students and community making a positive difference in the world. The trouble is, on the Headmasters’ criteria, one could compile such a list from any of the great schools. I would humbly suggest that what is unique about students of Geelong Grammar School of the last century is they are testimonial to the strength of character born out of a school whose primary objective was to encourage the nurturing of talent and creativity in a sensitive environment rather than a competitive one. And so I was extremely disappointed that a piece written by Alfred James (OGG 1963) about my friend and colleague Jeremy Griffith (OGG 1963), one of GGS’s mostExceptional’ Old Boys in the truest sense, was not included in the final selection.

Such a publication is inevitably an historical record, and it must be said that sometime in the not too distant future the timidity that presumably led to Jeremy’s exclusion will be deeply regretted. Indeed Jeremy’s accomplishments can be seen to be the realisation of the vision of Sir James Darling, whose achievements in education are recognised the world over. In Sir James’ obituary he was described as ‘a prophet in the true biblical sense’, and at the core of his prophetic vision was the Platonic idea of cultivating the sensitive soul of students rather than focusing on their intellect. In one of Sir James’ most prophetic speeches, ‘On Looking Beneath the Surface of Things’ (given to the College of Radiologists of Australasia in 1954), Sir James identified the gulf between the scientific and religious domains, and the desperate need ‘for some single binding principle from which it might be said that all else sprang’, a search he described as ‘paramount’ in solving the human condition, and by so doing, ‘saving the world’. He went on to prophesise, in broad terms, that the biological answer to the human condition must relate to the emergence of reason in the presence of pre-established instincts. Now remarkably, in Jeremy we have an OGG who has delved, as Sir James directed, to ‘the bottom of the well’, and for the first time provided the based-in-first-principle, biological explanation of the human condition that Sir James anticipatednamely the critical distinction between nerves and genes that explains why the emergence of consciousness in the presence of a pre-established instinctive orientation had to result in a psychologically upset state. An explanation that finally allowed the amelioration of that upset state, the very means of ‘saving the world’ that lay at the core of Sir James’ vision! Indeed, Professor Harry Prosen, former president of the Canadian Psychiatric Association, used words that echoed Sir James’ in pronouncing Jeremy’s latest work ‘the greatest of all books…the book that saves the world’.

In the October 2014 edition of Light Blue, the Vice-Principal wrote that the school’s purpose is ‘to inspire our students and community to flourish and make a positive difference through our unique transformational educational adventures’; this, he explained, was by inculcating altruism so that ‘in the future this will result in a kinder and more peaceful world’. I certainly agree that these are worthy goals, but to be effectively purposeful for the greater good surely one has to seek causation and understand it, ‘to look beneath the surface of things’, in particular understand why humanity has been unable to bring about ‘a kinder and more peaceful world’. To not do as Sir James implored is to succumb to the ubiquitous superficiality of our times, and that ultimately can never bring about the change in our condition required to bring about that ‘kinder and more peaceful world’.

I’m therefore imploring the school council to look deeply into what did make the school uniquely great and, in so doing, to recognise the path laid down by Sir James of nurturing both the sensitivity and the resilience that is at the core of that greatness. No doubt, keeping to that path can be confronting and it is difficult not to succumb to the banal popularism of the day but the truly great are never easily shirked by mere difficulties. I hope the council can look to Sir James’ strong vision when it is particularly needed in these very dire times so that the school and its alumni can once again exhibit the true leadership that is so desperately needed in the world today.

Yours Sincerely

Tim Macartney-Snape

 

______________________

 

23 March 2015 letter of response to Tim Macartney-Snape from the Chairman of the Geelong Grammar School Council

 

Dear Tim,

Thank you for your letter to Council of 15 January 2015 regarding your concern that the School is going off the “path that made it unique” and request that Council consider this question. Your letter was tabled at Council’s meeting earlier this month and Council have asked me to respond.

It seems to me that you raise two issues in your letter. Firstly that you are disappointed the piece written about Jeremy Griffith was not included in the book 100 Exceptional Stories and secondly, and maybe the cause of your first concern, that the School is losing its unique characteristic of “nurturing both the sensitivity and the resilience that is at the core of greatness”.

The decisions as to which articles were to be included in the 100 Exceptional Stories book were made by an editorial committee comprised mainly of Old Geelong Grammarians and a member of school staff. I understand there were many difficult decisions on which articles (people) were left out. It is anticipated there will be another volume in the years to come and I expect that Jeremy Griffith will be seriously considered for inclusion in the next edition.

Your concern that the School has wavered from its core uniqueness is a more difficult point to address as any perspective is largely subjective. Let me, however, share some thoughts and observations with you that may put your mind at rest that the School (and indeed the Council) remains very focused on maintaining its uniqueness and true to its values.

Council and Senior Management had “to look deeply into what made the School uniquely great” when the School considered the introduction of Positive Psychology in 2006/7. We had to determine that going down the path of Positive Education was consistent with our values and would enhance our capacity to provide an education that was unique and beneficial for the children that come to us. One of the most common observations made by long-term members of staff as they learned about Positive Psychology was that it seemed a ‘scientific codification’ of what the School attempted to do instinctively. Or, in other words, it resonated deeply with what we are about.

Positive Psychology for primary and secondary education in now Positive Education as developed by Geelong Grammar School and since 2008 all staff members (teaching and non teaching) are trained in its ethos and application. PosEd (as we now refer to it) is all about building resilience, knowing oneself to be able to ‘feel good and do good’ and to serve something greater than oneself. This leads to individuals flourishing. It does so through the use of scientifically proven techniques, a common language to describe emotions and feelings so that we understand what we mean when we describe or experience them and comprehensive training of staff. It is an enormous commitment by the School to itself and increasingly to others as we are asked to train teachers overseas, interstate and in Victoria.

PosEd is in all we do at the School. It is a way of life: language; behavior; discipline; achievement; relationships are all governed by the principles of PosEd. Our objective is for our students to understand themselves and the world around them so they can be engaged and fulfilledflourishing – in making a positive contribution to their world. I have enclosed a copy of our ‘Purpose Document’ which encapsulates the School’s identity and mission.

I believe that GGS has strongly reaffirmed its commitment to “encourage the nurturing of talent and creativity in a sensitive environment” through the introduction of PosEd. We are now underlining that commitment with an emphasis on Creative Education as a key tenet of PosEd. This will involve developing our curriculum in a way that encourages all forms of creativity to be nurtured and developed. You may be interested to know that the School recently appointed Dr Tim Patston to the newly created role of Coordinator of Creativity and Innovation.

It is important to note that this is all being done as the curriculum set out by ACARA becomes increasingly prescribed, leaving less room for any school to be able to differentiate itself. I suspect Sir James Darling would have found today’s regulation and prescription of schools and curriculum very frustrating and possibly damaging! It is reasonable to assume that no other school (that offers year 12) does more to provide the sort of education to which you refer than GGS. We are able to do so because we are primarily a boarding school giving us more opportunity with students and because of our commitment to PosEd.

I do believe strongly that Geelong Grammar School has not “succumbed to the banal popularism of the day” nor shirked the issue of seeking to maintain its uniqueness. Indeed we have had to confront some critics who believe we are risking the academic advancement of our students in our pursuit of Positive Education. Fortunately people are voting with their feet and our enrolments have never been so strong. I encourage you, Tim, to come and visit the School and talk with members of staff to test for yourself whether your concerns are valid. I am sure the Principal would be happy to arrange some meetings if you wish to take up the invitation. After all, you may want to see and hear for yourself and not just take my word for it.

Kind regards

Yours sincerely

Jeremy Kirkwood

Chair of Council

 

______________________

 

14 May 2015 letter from Tim Macartney-Snape replying to the Chairman’s above letter

 

Dear Jeremy [Kirkwood],

Thank you for your 23 March letter.

My reply is necessarily long because the issue at heart is greater than merely GGS being another successful educational business. It is about whether or not the school’s leadership can recognise the essence of what once put it at the vanguard of educationgloballyand whether or not that essence, crucial to the survival of humanity, can be recaptured. So with the greatest respect, I must strongly disagree with your view that through its pursuit of ‘Positive Psychology’/​‘Positive Education’ Geelong Grammar School is maintaining Sir James Darling’s vision, a vision that was firmly based on the Platonic approach to education. Fundamentally the Platonic approach emphasises nurturing the soul of students before their intellect. For surely, rather than ‘transformational educational adventures’, the fundamental goal of being a good parent, and an educator, is to preserve a child’s innocent, sensitive soul for as long as possiblefor as Sir James wrote, ‘the future lies not with the predatory and the immune but with the sensitive who live dangerously…​the truly sensitive mind is both susceptible and penetrating: it is open to new ideas, and it seeks truth at the bottom of the well. It is the development of this sort of mind which should be the object of the educational process’ (The Education of a Civilized Man, 1962, pp.63-64). To quote Wordsworth ‘Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting / The Soul that rises with us, our life’s Star / Hath had elsewhere its setting / And cometh from afar / Not in entire forgetfulness / And not in utter nakedness / But trailing clouds of glory do we come / From God, who is our home / Heaven lies about us in our infancy! / Shades of the prison-house begin to close / Upon the growing Boy / …And by the vision splendid / Is on his way attended / At length the Man perceives it die away / And fade into the light of common day / …Forget the glories he hath known / And that imperial palace whence he came’ (Intimations of Immortality, 1807). So in these terms, as Sir James asserted, it is to not let ‘The Soul’ ‘die away’ in ‘the growing Boy’ ‘which should be the object of the educational process’.

As to the origins of Sir James’ vision, Jeremy Griffith, in an amazing essay written many years ago, pieced together the record most succinctly and insightfully:

“Penny Junor’s 1987 book about HRH The Prince of Wales, titled Charles, states that ‘Dr Darling had been a disciple of Kurt Hahn’ (p.54) who was the ‘founder’ of ‘Gordonstoun’, a school on the north-east coast of Scotland that the Prince also attended. Junor wrote that ‘Geelong…was not unlike Gordonstoun’ (p.54) and, about the conception of Gordonstoun, that ‘Dr Kurt Hahn…was a German whose unconventional ideas about education had been prompted by his country’s defeat in the First World War…As a young man he had suffered a long period of illness, and while convalescing had read Plato’s Republic. Inspired by the ideals he discovered there, he had conceived the idea of starting an entirely new sort of school, broadly based on the Platonic view…​[As a result of this view] Hahn was convinced that competition brought out the very worst in children’ (pp.35, 37).

Plato’s view about education was that it should be concerned with cultivating ‘philosopher guardians’ or ‘philosopher rulers’, those who Plato said were ‘the true philosophers…​those whose passion is to see the truth’ (The Republic, c.360BC; tr. H.D.P. Lee, 1955, p.238 of 405). Plato explained, ‘But suppose…that such natures were cut loose [sheltered], when they were still children, from the dead weight of worldliness, fastened on them by sensual indulgences like gluttony, which distorts their minds’ vision to lower things, and suppose that when so freed [during their upbringing] they were turned towards the truth [during their education], then the same faculty in them would have as keen a vision of truth as it has of the objects on which it is at present turned’ (ibid. p.284). Basically Plato’sand Hahn’s and Sir James’idea was to preserve and cultivate the ‘sensitive’ conscience, rather than emphasise consciousness, as most educators do with IQ tests, competitive emphasis on achieving high academic grades, passing university entrance exams, etc, etc.” (The full version of this essay of Jeremy’s can be read at www.humancondition.com/​darling-longer-essay.)

So the fundamental, and critical, focus of Sir James’ courageous ‘unconventional ideas about education’ was to preserve and cultivate students’ sensitive soulwhich is why he played down competition everywhere, especially in sport; de-emphasised intellectual excellence while emphasising the soul-sensitive instinctual arts; avoided having intellect-emphasising, soul-ignoring entrance exams; kept students as close to soulful nature as possible (in the first instance, by appreciating that the school was located at Corio rather than in a city like other schools, and in the second instance by pioneering a whole outward bound year for school students at Timbertop); de-emphasised aggressive, non-soulful military cadets; emphasised appreciation of the soulful innocence and soundness of Christ through his worship; avoided making the school co-educational so that soul-destroying sexual interaction and tension was minimised; replaced pretentious, egocentric, soul-offending uniforms with sports coats; retained the soft, soulful light blue for the school colours; appointed soul-sensitive, non-intellectual teachers and caretakers, like Boz Parsons; etc, etc, etc. I would argue that it is that exceptional and particular culture that turned a good school into one of, if not the greatest school in the world.

But in the current era, I fear this culture has been greatly diminished; basically abandoned. Encouraging students to, as you say, ‘feel good’ about themselves is one of the prime aims of ‘Positive Psychology’ and is essentially the intellectualisation of the populist, ‘think positive’, superficial new age movement. Crucially it is not directed at the fundamental need to preserve the soulful innocence and soundness of students. It is merely about trying to make them ‘feel good’ about their variously human-condition-afflicted selves. The emphasis and focus is on how to escape the human condition, not on how to protect students from the human condition. There is a world of difference between the two! I would suggest it is an approach that is devoid of the courage needed to recognise the importance of the soul and, from there, do everything possible to preserve it. Frankly, GGS is now merely a superficial version of Sir James’ GGS, and therefore, I would argue, no longer of great consequencejust another school but lucky to have a past glory to live off. If they were alive, I think the founders, including my great-great grandfather, would consider the school to have completely lost its way.

In Jeremy’s latest book, Freedom: The End of the Human Condition, to be published later this year and already available online at www.humancondition.com, he refers to the extreme danger of the ‘human potential’ movement in paragraph 1081, and frequently emphasises the importance of Sir James’ original vision for GGS (while an index will appear in the printed book, you can electronically search any term in the online version). He also chronicles for the record, the inability of the school to fully appreciate Sir James’ true legacy as made most evident in the omission of Jeremy from 100 Exceptional Stories. Incidentally, Jeremy’s biology teacher at Timbertop had this to say about him: ‘I think of all the students in my years at Timbertop that Jeremy would have been the one that I would have put as most outstanding, without a doubt…I can remember in the annual Up Timbertop and Back Race that he won and in a record time, but he actually also collected a specimen, a lizard he hadn’t seen before, on the way back down! He was a brilliant bushwalker and a brilliant natural historian.’ [see www.humancondition.com/​jeremy-art-work]

With regard to the school having to, as you say, ‘confront some critics’, the unwavering defiance and courage of Sir James was apparent when, with regard to prospective customers, he said, ‘Rest assured, the influence of the home is far stronger than that of any school, and the ways of the world not so easy to conquer. You may even think that you are the customer and ought to be allowed to determine the nature of the article. Well, of course, you can choose another school; but a school has customers beyond the parents whom it must considerthe boy himself, the nation, the world, and, in the end, God. To Him we owe our ultimate responsibility’ (The Education of a Civilized Man, p.100).

Concerning the key question of Sir James’ ‘object of education’ of cultivating ‘sensitivity’; as mentioned, he said it is because it ‘seeks truth at the bottom of the well’. And as to what that ‘truth at the bottom of the well’ actually is, he articulated that when he said there is ‘one embracing purpose…to answer even the all-important question: “What is man that thou art mindful of him, and the son of man that thou visitest him?”…There must be a complete answer…and, until we find it…​our existence [is] fragmented into a rubbish-heap’ (ibid, pp.74-75). That is the question; why is everyone’s behaviour so often less than ideal when Christ’s behaviour by contrast was sound and ideal? Sir James has here clearly stated that the ‘all-important question’ that he was cultivating the ‘sensitivity’ in students to provide the ‘answer’ to was the issue of our good-and-evil-afflicted human conditionwhich is precisely what Jeremy Griffith has achieved. Indeed, Jeremy has, as I pointed out in my initial letter, produced the ‘single binding [reconciling] principle’ that Sir James said was ‘paramount’ for ‘saving the world’. Evidence of this is that Professor Harry Prosen, a world leading psychiatrist, described Jeremy’s work as ‘the book that saves the world’, and as Professor Scott Churchill, former Chair of Psychology at the University of Dallas has backed up by saying ‘Nothing Dr. Prosen has said…is an exaggeration’. So Jeremy has fulfilled Sir James’ whole vision for education! How more important and appropriate could an OGG’s story possibly have been? As I implied in my last letter, that omission from 100 Exceptional Stories was further profound evidence that the school has abandoned the course set by Sir James. Indeed, it seems to be true that in this generation’s leadership of GGS we no longer have people who can stand up for or perhaps even recognise Sir James’ vision for education. Having been made aware of his core vision and its importance, I was and am compelled to protest (as Sir James directed, below) and put on the record how his vision has tragically been allowed to wither on the vine.

Michael Collins Persse, as Curator, was sent copies of all Jeremy’s books about the human condition when each of them was published, in the case of his latest, IS IT TO BE (now titled Freedom), on 4 June 2014. He was also made aware of Jeremy’s essay about Sir James’ vision for education in 2007 at the beginning of Jeremy and my, ultimately successful, 15-year-long, defamation trial (one of the biggest in Australia’s history)which was basically about us defying the persecution of Jeremy for daring to ‘seek…truth at the bottom of the well’ and thereby ‘saving the world’. The need for this absolutely uncompromising defiance when it came to delivering the liberating, but also confronting, truth about the human condition is something Sir James gave specific instructions for when he said that: ‘it is not for men to run away from the truth for fear of the consequences’ (The Education of a Civilized Man, p.131). And, ‘What, then, is the issue? It is this. Do we wish to preserve for ourselves and for our children this country as a place in which, in spite of the imperfections of the system, free men and women can live and seek Truth for themselves by the exercise of their own brains? Or are we prepared to sell this precarious birthright, for which so many generations of our forefathers have fought, to sell it because we are either too woolly-minded to see what has happened in other parts of the world, or too cowardly to risk our lives or our comfort in working to preserve it?…It means that each of us should regard our lives as pledged to the one paramount purpose of saving the world…The alternative is death, not only of the soul but of the body also, and the sands of time are running out’ (ibid, pp.139-140).

Sir James further ‘spoke of the kind of man needed to save Australia and humanity: “We need in this generation, as we have had them in the past, men of conscience, driven, even against their wills, certainly against their own interest, to take a stand for principles. Men not afraid of facing unpleasant facts, not afraid of being different in their views from other people…The need for decision is serious and urgent, and the sands are running out”’ (Weston Bate, Light Blue Down Under, 1990, p.219). And, ‘There are two attributes of leadership…to think independently and originally, and the instilling of the confidence and courage required from those who are going to take a line different from that of the majority. Archbishop Temple once asked me whether I had ever noticed that in the Old Testament the majority was always wrong. This is just as likely to be true today, if the majority lack leaders from within who are prepared to think for themselves and stand up for what they believe’ (The Education of a Civilized Man, p.98).

And returning to Sir James’ aforementioned theme of needing to ‘live dangerously’, namely being prepared to defy all the dishonest superficiality flooding the world, Sir James said ‘Last Sunday the Bishop spoke to you about St George and reminded you that life at all times was a challenge to live dangerously and to be strong’ (ibid, p.138).

And, ‘The quality which, above all other, needs to be cultivated [in education] is sensitivity [soul]…​[because, once again Sir James said] the future…lies not with the predatory and the immune but with the sensitive…[who are able to] “take up arms against a sea of troubles, and by opposing end them [ultimately by solving the human condition]”…There remains the sensitive, on one proviso: he must be sensitive and tough…Sensitivity is not enough. Without toughness it may be only a thin skin…​[only from] an inner core of strength are [you] enabled to fight back [against ill-treatment]…​Can such men be? Of course they can: and they are the leaders whom others will follow. In the world of books there are, for me, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, or Laurens van der Post [who, incidentally, is by far the most quoted author in Jeremy’s books](ibid, pp.28-36).

For there to be progress in science, especially on the all-important issue of the human condition which is in the domain of Psychology, the message is equally clear, with science historian Thomas Kuhn pointing out that ‘In science…​ideas do not change simply because new facts win out over outmoded ones…Since the facts can’t speak for themselves, it is their human advocates who win or lose the day’ (The Structure of Scientific Revolutions).

The school’s current trajectory in pursuing the intellectually compelling but soulfully arid doctrine of Positive Psychology, which I reiterate is simply the intellectualisation of the morally bankrupt New Age Movement, is taking the school down a path where a dead-end looms. It is an ignominious and tragic fate that a once special school has joined the populist ranks marching towards a horizon of superficiality and meaninglessness.

The big question is; does the school’s leadership have the strength and courage to wrest that trajectory back onto the course set by Sir James Darling?

 

Sincerely,

Tim Macartney-Snape