The release of the SEA results earlier this month threw into the spotlight one word which resonated among the top-achieving students and – had they been asked publicly – among the general body of the students: the word, ‘sacrifice’.
Laudable as this concept may be and essential as it is in a Christian context, the word carried with it echoes of sadness, given the ages of the speakers. It begs the questions of what the long-term value is in the practices which gave rise to the students’ ‘sacrifice’ and of the entire perception of student ‘success’.
In an ideal world, all students would achieve ‘success’ and would progress from the primary level to schools that empower them to realise their potential. The value of the student whose talents lie in the vocational field would be seen as equal to that of the ‘academically inclined’ student.
The concept of the craftsman, the artist, the musician or the sportsman as a high-achiever, worthy of recognition as a valuable and cherished contributor to his society would hold true. Such a student would see his unique and God-given talents as a blessing and essential to the balance, efficiency and upliftment of his country.
He would know that his country’s bank of knowledge and skills are enriched as much by his contributions as those of his more ‘academic’ brother or sister. In addition, the student would be given the opportunity to play, to relax and to ‘be a child’.
Tragically, in our society, this would be seen as quixotic, even ludicrous. We do not cherish all our children and their talents. In our materialistic and competitive environment, we may say that we cherish all in equal measure but in practice, we uphold some as ‘more equal’ than others. We force them, as well, to turn their backs on the healthy balance of play and work.
This is not to decry the outstanding achievements of the students who employed their intelligence, capacity for hard work and ambition to good effect. This country needs their intelligence, creativity, innovativeness, direction and work ethic. We need our young people to set the standards that will make us hold our heads high in the global village.
The scientists, the teachers, the philosophers and the researchers are among those who are the cornerstone of a just and progressive society. They are jewels in our national crown. The danger we pose to ourselves is in recognising only the academically inclined as the valuable jewels in the crown.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus presents us with the parable of the sower and the seed. His words should force us to ask ourselves some uncomfortable questions.
Are we offering our children the good seed of the Divine sower or are we substituting inferior and infertile seed, which will never bear valuable fruit? Is the ground of our children’s minds prepared in such a way that the true seed finds the depth, richness and the opportunities to produce in abundance as the Lord has intended for them?
In our bid to ensure that our children enter ‘good schools’, are we forcing them to live lives of stress, which deprive them of the joys of childhood? Are we sacrificing our children’s need to interact healthily with their families and with one another? Are we curtailing their ability to think independently, to create their own identities and to develop their own talents, and leading them instead to sacrifice their gifts on the altar of our fears and our vanities?
Let us sow the good seed that will redound to the benefit of all our children and the society to which they belong.