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To look out through other eyes. 

The Arts challenge us with different points of view, compel us to empathise with others, and give us the opportunity to reflect on the human condition. 

I support the view that engaging with art in some shape or form is essential to the human experience. I was bowled over last week by the hard-hitting and powerful Year 12 production of The Curse of the Starving Class. The following night, I was toe-tapping and head-bobbing along with many others at Jazz@TheGov, an evening brimming over with style, class and sophisticated swing. Next week, we can all stroll reflectively through the School’s own SALA exhibition, a fitting celebration of the twenty-third year of the St Peter’s College Artist-in-Residence program. 

Whilst the Arts are fighting for survival in certain sectors of the education industry, at St Peter’s College, they are alive and kicking. In paying attention to our responsibility of nurturing the next generation of citizens and leaders, we remain committed to our constitutional imperative to deliver a well-rounded, broad and liberal education, and we will continue to robustly defend and recognise the Arts’ transformative impact on our students. Those in attendance would have seen exactly this in the performances of Ben Hewson, Aidan Hua and others last week, as I did. Research maintains that educational experiences in the Arts have the capacity to produce significant positive outcomes on academic and social development. And, as more and more leading universities around the world begin to value and seek ‘distinctives’ in their candidates beyond test scores, we are likely to further experience a reinforcement of all things co-curricular (and creative) in the fundamental mission of education.  

In keeping with the creative theme, I was equally thrilled this week to witness the animated exchange of ideas and imagination in a group of students in Years 7, 8 and 9, who tackled the national challenge to Write a Book in a Day. What is so inspiring about this project – and about fiction in general – is that it not only provides an outlet for our boys’ self-expression, but it also, importantly, builds their empathy – a necessary quality in any community and a key attribute of 21st century leadership.  

As author Neil Gaiman passionately argues, ‘Prose fiction is something you build up from 26 letters and a handful of punctuation marks, and you, and you alone, using your imagination, create a world and look out through other eyes. You get to feel things, visit places and worlds you would never otherwise know. You’re being someone else, and when you return to your own world, you’re going to be slightly changed’. Whether reading a book or watching a TV series, through fiction your son is looking at things happening to other people, considering other perspectives, and, hopefully, as a result of this, his future relationships will be informed and strengthened by a mindset to ‘seek first to understand and then be understood.  

My Year 9 English class found themselves in a ‘learning pit’ in recent weeks. Whilst they rose to the challenge of analytical writing and critical reading earlier this year, they have not been more stumped than by their current work inviting them to think and write creatively. Given the open-ended nature of artistic work in its many forms, it would be easy to assume that such tasks are overtly accessible, but apparently not. Be reassured that, in school, we will continue to test and grow the creativity of our students – through art, music, drama, design, writing and more. And, on your part, if you sense that, in your parenting, you have steered your son away from a meaningful engagement with fiction, art and creativity more broadly, maybe it’s time to steer him back. 

Marcus Blackburn
Deputy Headmaster / Head of Senior School