Message from Scott Cowie, Head, Senior Division
Monday, April 16: Leaving class assembly, Laidlaw Hall, 9:55 a.m.
Tuesday, April 17: Prep/Upper School professional development afternoon (classes end at 1:10 p.m.)
Friday, April 20: “Green” casual dress day for Earth Week
I heard a great line from a keynote speaker at a conference I recently attended: “The last thing a fish recognizes is the water it’s swimming in … until it gets toxic.”
About a month ago, there were news reports about a teenager in the Vancouver area who threw a party at a house she’d rented with her parents’ credit card. According to one article I read, the young girl invited a reasonable number of her friends to come over and enjoy themselves. But before she knew it, the rental home had more than 200 young people in it, many of whom were inebriated. The end result was $20,000 in damages that the girl and her family have agreed to pay.
When questioned about what happened, the dismayed host said: “The party quickly outgrew its intended size and things got out of control fast.”
The young girl obviously made a series of mistakes, one of which was using her parents’ credit card without their knowledge. But I wondered why she, like that fish, only noticed the change in her environment when it was too late, after it had become toxic. Why didn’t she take action sooner to prevent what happened?
There have been many studies done and much written about bystander mentality over the years. As I understand, most of the research concludes that people choose not to act for two reasons: a lack of courage or a belief that someone else will most certainly get involved. In one simple study chronicled in a New York Times article a number of years ago, amateur filmmaker and hardcore cyclist Casey Neistat filmed a series of staged bike thefts that occurred in front of a number of witnesses. Here’s a link to the article and his three-and-a-half-minute video called “Bike Thief.” I think you’ll find it interesting.
Tomorrow night, many Year 11 boys and most Year 12 boys will attend our annual Battalion Ball. Evan Williams, our dean of students, has written to and spoken with all those who are attending about the school’s drug and alcohol policy, and about the need to make wise decisions in preparation for the event. I urge you to have a further conversation with your son as well, especially if he’s planning to attend the event. In that conversation, you could use the following as speaking points:
- being a positive influence on his date and friends;
- making good decisions and considering the impact of those decisions on others;
- and paying attention to his environment, and having the courage to speak up or take action when the situation calls for it.
Even if your son isn’t going to the Battalion Ball, I encourage you to speak to him about being a bystander and the need for him to step up when he sees others making poor decisions or taking unreasonable risks.
“In the end we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”
–Martin Luther King Jr.
Thanks for reading,