View From the Hill
“….As if a Hand Has Come Out and Taken Yours”“The best moments in reading are when you come across something – a thought, a feeling, a way of looking at things – which you had thought special and particular to you. Now here it is, set down by someone else, a person you have never met, someone even who is long dead. And it is as if a hand has come out and taken yours.”
Alan Bennett, The History Boys
I had a very real sense of a hand reaching out from the ancient past last week and taking mine as I watched two different but equally moving plays from two very different parts of the school. Both Class 5 and Year 11 Drama presented plays based on stories from ancient Greece:
• Class 5’s Perseus and the Medusa was a lovely rendition of the ancient Greek myth of Perseus, son of Zeus and a human mother, and his journey to save Andromena from the sea monster. This ancient story from our primal past is a key element in the Greece Main Lesson of Class 5, and brings alive to our students the richness of the Greek myths, a source of continual inspiration for generations of the western tradition. Class Teachers Susie and Michele, assisted by Evan Saunders, along with all of Class 5 deserve praise for their wonderful efforts.
• Year 11 Drama presented a modern adaptation of Sophocles’ Antigone, one of the most famous tragedies of the ancient world. The adaptation was made by the Nobel Prize winning Irish poet Seamus Heaney and renamed The Burial at Thebes, using some modern language in the translation and an updating of the setting. For all that has passed since, the Greek tragedies remain a foundation of our whole tradition of theatre, even inspiring Shakespeare. Our Year 11 Drama class gave a mature and moving portrayal of the tragedy of Antigone and the fall of her uncle Creon, putting in stark focus the ethical dilemmas of personal responsibility versus the law of the state. This eternal dilemma is also a very modern one, one that grows ever more urgent in our own century, and to see how the ancient Greeks grappled with an eternal human dilemma on our own Sylvia Brose Hall stage was moving in itself. Congratulations to Director Delaney Crawley and all the Year 11 Drama class for their dedication and achievement.
The plays reminded me of the “golden thread” of history that runs through our Main lesson journey at Glenaeon. Each year of the Class Teacher period and Middle School the students work on the stories of the sequence of historical epochs that are our human history.
Of ancient epochs, the Greeks are our intellectual ancestors, the first to step into the analytic reasoning that is the foundation of modern Science, Mathematics, and indeed all modern enquiry, of our contemporary world. As importantly, they are the source of democracy and human rights: the word itself comes from the Greek words Demos Kraiton which means “the people speak”.
Our Main Lesson curriculum tells the story of Humanity and our journey over epochs from the primal consciousness of legends and fairy tales, all the way to how we think now in the contemporary world, and the Greeks occupy a special place in this journey. The Main Lessons give every student as they pass through the school a connection with the narrative that is Our Story, the human story, locating each student in a living tradition.
The very institutions we prize so dearly are based on this story. As Barack Obama put it in his visit to the Australian Parliament in 2012, democracy and human rights might have emerged and flowered in just a few places on earth (ancient Greece and then the West), but they now belong to everyone on earth. Our Main Lesson curriculum tells the story of the emergence of democracy and human rights and all that accompanied these two fundamental pillars of a contemporary society. They had to emerge in one part of the world so they could be embraced for the benefit of all humanity and cultures across the globe. They are now the benchmark against which all societies are measured.
Our Main Lessons tell this story in sequence very deliberately. As Edmund Burke famously said “Those who don’t know History are doomed to repeat it”. I would turn his words around to say, Those who are inspired by the stories of the great epochs of the past will be inspired to build a greater future.
The stories from our Main Lessons are a hand from the past reaching out to take the hand of every Glenaeon student, and accompanying them on the path to the future.