A school motto for mediocrity

School mottos can say a lot about a school. Or particularly little.

Take one school’s disappointing effort below…
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GO FORWARD.

Well, thanks for clearing that up. Your well-respected school will send children into the world – or Ashfield Boys High, as the case may be – with one clear direction and, the motto suggests, little else.

As a chance to define the values of a school, a motto gives a school’s stakeholders a platform to express their goals, to market their vision to the community and to stand up for what they believe in.

Moreover, there is a heightened need these days for schools to spell out their intentions and worldview thanks to the ongoing values debate occurring in New South Wales.

The debate draws on the division between ‘secular’ or state schools and ‘religious’ or church schools.

What are your values? Where do they come from, what are they worth to you and how do you live them out?

In this debate, words get bandied about with little explanation like INCLUSION, EQUALITY, FAIRNESS…

(Someone I know who teaches scripture at a Sydney public school was glad to learn that despite the inclusion of ethics classes in that primary school, the size of the scripture classes had in fact grown substantially in 2011. So despite all parents now having a clear choice – albeit a confusing one as ethics is by no means an alternative to spiritual belief in your life or mine – more had chosen to send their children to Scripture than the previous year.)

Could this all be advertising’s fault? Perhaps we are not far from seeing a single, vague word being used to express an entire institution’s reason for existence. I grew up attending Winmalee High whose pitiful motto was

STRIVE TO ACHIEVE

Strive to Achieve – I used to enjoy removing some letters from people’s jumpers so it would read Strive to chive.

Maybe in future it could be reduced, officially, to simply STRIVE.

To me, meaningless mottos evoke the superficial side of corporate life where meaningless words have been sprayed across corporate centres since the mid-nineties. I have worked in business parks where billboards, reception desks and cubicle dividers scream terms like ——- INSPIRE —— DRIVE ——- SYNERGY ——– terms that are all useless on their own and read like you found the notes someone jotted down at a motivational seminar.

I am certain Summer Hill Public School would have more to say if I was a parent speaking to the principal, but I am not, I am a borderline Gen-Y passer-by weighing up my local schools based on my first impressions.

I guess I should be happy it didn’t say MOVING FORWARD.

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3 responses to “A school motto for mediocrity

  1. Bec

    Interesting reading Luke: you have certainly made an effort to ‘go forward’ 😉

    My primary school motto was good, I think: ‘Everyone a Helper’. To me, it didn’t sound like management speak or something for a bumper sticker but something simple, achievable and unselfish. Now they’ve changed it to ‘Success for All’ which I think is bland and sterile. Oh well…

    I do like ‘Strive to Chive’ though.

  2. Jan Johnston

    I thought the motto read, GO FORWARD, STOP. Then what?

  3. Jan Johnston

    …also… my old high school had the motto, Verite sans Peur (Truth without Fear). However, we had a notoriously authoritarian & punitive headmaster who inspired fear in the whole school. Once made a boy stamp repeatedly on his water pistol in front of the whole assembly of 1000 students while he screamed “Smash it! Smash it!”. Another time, he burst into my year 7 class, no apology to the maths teacher, randomly accused a weedy boy in the front row of prising the wood putty out of a nail hole in his desk and then hauled him away to be caned. Yeah…It was tough in my day.

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