At Senior School Speech Day Mr Barron gave a rousing speech about how our students need to look beyond the bashing young people seem to get in the press. We’re pleased to reproduce it here:
Let me ask you a question:
Why do young people get so much bad press?
Shock jocks tell us you’re lazy… But from where I’m standing, I see young men proud of who they are and excited to take on new challenges.
Columnists write that you’re snowflakes… But from where I’m standing, I see young men with the inner strength to fight for causes in which they believe.
TV news calls you narcissistic… But from where I’m standing, I see young men happy to put their friends before themselves in difficult moments.
And this is the problem. The media has decided, for whatever reason, to highlight every mistake young people make as if it’s some evidence of the collapse of society.
I know that it’s having an effect on you. Whenever I ask our young people how they think they are portrayed in the media, the response is always the same – negative. This media-driven frenzy is making everyone think poorly of our younger generation.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
I see, day in and day out, students at Wesley doing amazing things. You boys care for each other so much more than my generation did when I was young.
You’re so much more attuned to the environment and the world. You have a real desire to connect with other people. You are passionate about equality. You are vocal, you are motivated, and you are driven to succeed.
When I look at the quality of student work you’re producing, it reflects both higher thinking and higher standards for evidence-based thinking, problem-solving, and problem-posing than education required in earlier decades. And you’re meeting that challenge.
In every way, you have a maturity that belies your age.
These aren’t even observations based on a hunch. An American study of your transatlantic peers showed that your generation is making much safer decisions than previous generations.
Cigarette smoking among teens is at an historic low since peaking in the mid-90s. Under-age alcohol use has also declined significantly – a 50% drop in the same time period. Teen pregnancy rates have hit historic lows, teen driving fatalities are down. And so it goes on.
You are sensible and as a generation, for the most part, making smarter decisions than older generations did.
And yet the media keep bashing you, building a mentality in society that young people are not destined to be amazing in the future. That’s a negative mindset and, from my position, does not reflect the truth of what’s happening in schools.
You have agency, the sense of your own existence. You own your right to make decisions and you take on the responsibility for the outcomes and consequences. You believe in change through teamwork and negotiation.
If you want people to know your position about climate change, you prepare a speech and use a world of online connections to get your time at the United Nations Assembly – a 16-year-old making us all stop and think.
Of course, for every million motivated teenage activists there’s one bad news story, that makes the news but I ask: why should that be the case?
The key point is that the media doesn’t pick up on the endless good things that you boys are doing, because it’s not considered newsworthy.
But that doesn’t mean your generation should stop. It doesn’t mean you should deviate from your course.
And I believe this goes tenfold for you, as Wesleyans.
You live in a hyper-connected world. In my youth, if you wanted perspectives on a current event you turned to people in your community. You might hear a range of views, but – ultimately – they would all be filtered through a lens of being a West Australian.
Today, as news breaks, you can get on social media and immediately see the unfiltered views of people from every corner of the world. Real-time perspectives from Europe, Asia, Africa, India, America – each person bringing something unique to the conversation, based on their own cultural experiences.
As Wesleyans we have to be honest with ourselves and recognise that when the world is conversing, we are in an incredibly privileged position.
We live in one of Earth’s most peaceful countries. There’s no war on our doorstep. We have plenty of food on our table. Famine is no issue. That alone puts Australians in the top percent of the planet’s most fortunate people. But you have even more. You go to one of the finest schools in this stable and safe country. That is very rare air.
I made a point at the Valedictory dinner that I would like to repeat today.
In attending Wesley, you have experienced a great privilege, a quality of education not afforded to everyone. Your job is not to position yourself as better than others because of where you went to school. Your job is to be for others because of where you went to school.
I’ll say it again, because for me it is the quintessential difference of a Wesley education: Your job is not to position yourself as better than others because of where you went to school. Your job is to be for others because of where you went to school.
So step up when you find a cause you believe in. Never be arrogant, but always have a quiet confidence in your belief that you can help. I genuinely believe you have the opportunity to be one of our greatest generations.
Because, from where I’m standing, I see a room full of young men of whom I can be proud.
From where I’m standing, I see you endeavoring to give your personal best every day.
From where I’m standing, the future is very bright and incredibly exciting.
It is an honour and privilege to serve this special College, thank you for your part in making 2019 a year to remember.
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