Telling the stories of the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, NZ and Polynesia

Sharing a better vision for schools

Anglican Schools Office Director Rev Dr Anne van Gend offers a challenge to Anglican schools to strengthen their students’ vision of a fairer, better world – one where nobody’s starting point in life makes them “less deserving” than others.

Anne van Gend  |  05 Aug 2020  |

<This blog was originally printed in the Anglican Schools Newsletter, Term 3, 2020.> 

It’s lovely writing this knowing that I have seen so many of you in your schools in the past couple of months.

I’ve never tried to get to all our schools in one go before, and although I didn’t quite make them all, 32 out of the 36 schools in Aotearoa New Zealand still gave me a pretty good sense of how you have all weathered the Covid-19 storm, and how many of you are getting ready for what might be some tough times ahead with the Royal Commission.

I hope it is not too long before there can be some travel between us and our Pacific whanau as well.

Before I left, I sent some pretty tough questions ahead to many of you, with a request that I could video you responding to them when I visited. 

The responses were inspiring, and reminded me of what a remarkable network of chaplains and principals we have here.

The interviews will be combined and made into short videos for our website, so that anyone who is interested in why one would choose to work at an Anglican school as principal or chaplain, or what it means to be an Anglican school in our Province, or what the “good news” is that we are “proclaiming,” can find lots to think about by watching and listening to the wisdom across our network.

One thing which struck me was the desire of many of you to address the inequities in our education system which came to light over Covid-19. 

We have some ideas to think about along those lines and I’d love to hear of more. But there is one question for us all to consider when we look at the underlying causes of inequity in our countries, or wonder at the apathy we often find towards addressing it.

We commonly teach our students that hard work brings success, and that if they set their minds on a goal and work hard enough, they can reach it. Fair enough.

That has been the experience for most of us, and there is naturally much truth in it - but most of us had, on a world scale, privileged upbringings which gave us a major head-start in the collective race for success.

How do we avoid the danger of our students absorbing the corollary that those who haven’t reached such goals didn’t deserve to? That those who are poor, are only poor because they haven’t worked hard enough? That people “deserve” the position in society they inhabit?

That attitude is one of the most powerful preservers of inequity in our society.

It would be good to be able to share ways we are working to increase understanding and empathy rather than entitlement in our students, as it is not easy to do. 

God bless you all as we continue on through this remarkable year.