BY Tim Middleton
Even if we did not do any Latin at school, we may well have come across the sentence: “Veni, vidi, vici”, which, of course, were the words attributed to Julius Caesar after he had defeated Pharnaces II of Pontus at the Battle of Zela, which words mean, “I came; I saw; I conquered”.
It all sounds so easy! He just came along; he had a quick look and saw what was there and, simple as pie, he won — no problem! Next, please! The coming was obviously important; he had to be there to conquer! The conquering was perhaps also pretty straightforward for seasoned soldiers. But what was so important about the seeing? What was it that he saw that led to him being able to conquer?
In short, he had vision; he saw the conquest in his mind. That will have been based on him seeing the terrain and weather conditions at that time, the attitude and resources of the opposition, the strength and commitment of his soldiers, the reward and promise that awaited them, the tactics and strategy required. He will have seen all those and he will have thought: “We can conquer. There is nothing here which need fear or worry us.” He had vision in abundance.
We have shared previously how we need to help children have vision, failing which there will only be “di-vision”. What then must they learn to see? Like Caesar, they need to see the opportunities that lie within education. They need to see the positives that are bubbling away there. They need to see the possibilities that it has for growth, for development, for character. They need to see the sense of what is being given them, the significance of what is being shared, the value and worth of what is entrusted to them, the relevance of it all within life. They need to see the choices they have, the changes they can make. They must learn to see the dangers, the obstacles, the challenges, to avoid or overcome or suppress them. They need to see the solutions that are hiding in the wings, just as the meaning is always hiding in the text. They need to see the big picture, if they are to conquer.
We will all know the story of the optimist who sees the glass as half-full and the pessimist who sees it as half-empty. Those are the two traditional ways of looking at the glass and through that at the situation. However, those are not the only ways to view it; we need to have vision to see it differently still. So the scientist sees the glass is completely full (it is after all full of water and air), the engineer declares the glass is twice as big as it needs to be, the opportunist drank the rest of the water while the others were debating the whole matter, the enlightened person is just grateful to have a glass and finally, for the socialite, it is not about seeing whether the glass is half-full or half-empty, but about seeing who is paying for the next round! They all have vision, as Caesar had.
In a similar way, we may have heard of the three pupils who were asked what they thought of school. The one responded that, “I see school as a great way of gaining qualifications to go further.” The second pupil replied that, “I see school as a necessary requirement.” And what did the third one say? “I see school when we drive in the gate.” Each has a very different view of education, but only one really has any vision for education. The view must become a vision.
For many years, the Peanuts cartoons by Schulz have delighted audiences. A memorable cartoon had the characters Lucy, Linus and Charlie Brown lying on the baseball pitcher’s mound when Lucy states: “If you use your imagination, you can see lots of things in the cloud formations. What do you see, Linus?” Linus in turn responds, “Well, those clouds up there look like the map of the British Honduras on the Caribbean. That cloud up there looks a little like the profile of Thomas Eakin, the famous painter and sculptor, and that group of clouds over there gives me the impression of the stoning of Stephen. I see the apostle Paul standing there to the side.” Charlie Brown has looked somewhat alarmed throughout these descriptions and is then asked by Lucy what he saw. “Well, I was going to say I saw a ducky and a horse, but I changed my mind.”
What do we see from this article? Do we “see a generation rising up to take its place with selfless faith” (as a popular modern hymn declares)? Do we see how our children can (and must) have vision? Are we helping our children to conquer the challenges that they face in life? Do they come to school, then see and then conquer? Are they like Linus or Charlie Brown?
We shall see in due course.
Tim Middleton is the executive director of the Association of Trust Schools [ATS].
The views expressed in this article, however, are solely those of the author in his private capacity and do not necessarily represent the views of the ATS. Email: email@example.com; website: www.atschisz