Devin Cassidy- Headmaster, Bury Grammar School Boys

The Bishop of Manchester recently preached in a sermon: Teach children to be wise; educate them as well-formed human beings; and commission them to change the world. It is worth considering these words and certainly the meaning of wisdom and why it is of such importance in preparing young people for the future.

But how do you actually teach children to be wise? I do realize I’m in danger of having quotes from great philosophers thrown back at me. Indeed I’m sure that it is not wise to put forward that you can simply teach wisdom as I certainly believe that it is the product of experiencing a rich and fulfilled life.

Perhaps it is better to think of how wise people have become so. My educational philosophy is simple: that every child has brilliance within them but it will only become evident if they develop a strong work ethic and exposure to many experiences. The child who gets involved, meets lots of other people and is exposed to different views and opinions is most likely to achieve brilliance. Such experiences help to shape their views and opinions and when parents and teachers challenge incorrect or inappropriate thinking, such as prejudice, the seeds of teaching wisdom are sown.

Many such children will take risks, some of which will get them into trouble. Childhood and schools are safe times and places as we are so forgiving of children’s risks and mistakes. A wise person probably took many risks in childhood and probably got into a good deal of trouble. Parents should probably beware of trying to achieve a perfect childhood for children, as Leonard Cohen said to counter the cult of perfectionism: “There is a crack in everything – that’s how the light gets in”.

So being involved, reading, handling money, playing sport, having hobbies, caring for others, work experience are all the sorts of activities which increase the chances of your child becoming wise.

So, assuming the end product is a wise person, how do you commission them to change the world and what does this actually mean? Well my interpretation is that every person has the ability to change the world so to help support you as you encourage your child to change the world just consider two questions. Firstly, what would you do if you knew you could do anything and wouldn’t fail? This question helps you think big without the negative doubts or self-talk. I recently posed this question to an aspiring medical student from my Sixth Form and she told me she would eradicate malaria: what a beautiful response from a seventeen year old. So, encourage your child to dream big!

Secondly, ask what is one thing you can start doing toward that goal within the next 24 hours? Big goals can be daunting, but focusing only on the next action allows you to make progress without feeling overwhelmed.

So changing the world is about dreaming big, acting now and ensuring that your dreams are well intentioned and ethical! It is indeed a great privilege to parent a child or teach a child. When we are a little overwhelmed with what life is throwing at us it is easy to forget that we must make time for children as they truly are the future!