Hundreds of school heads and deputies, parents, pupils and guests from the community met at Cranleigh last week to take part in the school’s first ever education conference. Held in honour of the school’s 150th anniversary, the agenda for the Culture Summit was based around the its motto, Ex Cultu Robur (from culture comes strength).
Martin Reader, headmaster, introduced the day. He said: “Ex Cultu Robur was Cranleigh’s original motto and the shape of our day is still built around an approach to education that focuses on really developing young people and offering them a wide range of cultural choices. We believe that culture is the very heart and essence that makes a person human. The Culture Summit is therefore a very fitting celebration for our sesquicentennial anniversary,”
Speakers included historian Bettany Hughes and Baroness Tessa Jowell, who looked at the meaning of culture and how it has shaped our societies. Adventurer Simon Reeve explored the impact of globalism culture and heritage, and Alan Rusbridger, Principal of Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford and former editor of the Guardian newspaper provided a fascinating look at the way digital culture is changing the world in the same way the printing press changed society.
Alan, himself an Old Cranleighan, praised his old school for placing cultural experiences at the heart of education. He said: “When I was here at school, I learnt about all sorts of culture, I didn’t perform them at a very high standard but it has stayed with me ever since. We need to get young people to really think about this vast revolution we are going through in which culture is going to work in a different way, by the crowd and not by a small number of people from above. Culture will be generated, distributed, shared and created in a very different way and I think a lot of people haven’t quite got their heads around that yet.”
Later, Professor Alfred H. Bloom, Vice-Chancellor of New York University Abu Dhabi, explained cultural commonality and the role of education in fostering meaningful cultural exchange across the globe. The sessions, chaired by Headmaster of Cranleigh Preparatory School, Michael Wilson, finished with a look into the future from learning futurist David Price and Baroness Susan Greenfield, reviewing evidence from neuroscience, on how we live and learn now. The dichotomy between the sheer potential of the online revolution and the damaging effects of overuse of screen-based learning and leisure activities made for some lively and stimulating debate.
Cranleigh Abu Dhabi, which Michael Wilson helped to establish, celebrates its first birthday this academic year. The school now educates 54 different nationalities together. In his address, Michael said: “With modern communication and increased mobility the world is becoming a smaller place and we are meeting many more people from different cultures. We are all so busy that you could argue that we do not spend enough time getting to know them, the customs and what is important to them. It is often easier to impose our values on them, which can lead to tension, intolerance and often conflict. Our duty as educators is to mould those children to understand each other in tolerance, empathy, understanding and the acceptance that we are culturally different and that is something to celebrate.”