You Need Black and White to Make Grey

I have a ring. Well, I actually have a few different rings – a wedding band, a signet ring and one other. The one other is the one that I reference today. This ring was given to me by my grandfather when I was relatively young. It is roughly crafted from a spoon handle, turns your finger green if you wear it for more than a couple of days and you cannot buy a similar one anywhere. I cannot put a value on its worth, to me.

This ring was made by my grandfather whilst he was in the Brig during his army service around the time of World War II. Now because he was in the Brig at this time, it can be assumed he had done something wrong. In fact, he had broken army rules and expectations. He was being held accountable for his actions, which is a fair thing, isn’t it?

My grandfather had just met my nan. The war was on. He went absent without leave to see her. When this was discovered on his return to barracks, he was held accountable for this transgression. During this time of reflection, he made this ring for her. He had time on his hands (and he probably broke another rule by breaking the spoon).

Should he have gone to see her? Did he really do anything wrong? Was it really that bad? Should he have been ‘let off’? If he could get away with this seemingly minor transgression unpunished, what precedent would this have set? And what would be next? Where would the metaphorical line in the sand be moved to? Also, did he regret it? I know I’m glad he did this – I now have the most valuable worthless memento in the world.

So, what is my point?

Rules are black and white. We need rules. I hate stopping at red lights on 4.00am surf trips, with no cars in sight. But I still stop. Failure to have and enforce rules means no boundaries, no discipline and no expectation. Things as we know and need them to be, stop working. And there is a flow on effect. So quite often rules mean and give us far more than just the specific rule itself. Wearing a uniform correctly, stopping at a red light, a night time curfew, all help develop respect, discipline, pride, and association with a community/society/family/religion. Following rules allows us to develop and recognise the value in doing what needs to be done. I want my children to understand the value in doing what is needed. This will help them achieve great things.

At SCOTS PGC our rules are there to protect our boys and girls, to instil pride and a sense of belonging, to assist in developing the discipline required to succeed and to help provide the tools for our children to function in an ever increasingly complex society. It is one of our strengths in being an independent school – we are proud to set high standards and we are not afraid to expect more from our boys and girls. And, invariably, they reach incredibly high standards.

Similarly though, like a good football referee, you have to know more than just the rules. You have to understand the game. This means knowing how and when to apply the rules. This is the shade of grey you make from the black and white.

I thank all of our boys, girls, parents and staff for their support and recognition of our high expectations. We recognise that none of us are perfect. However, we also recognise the need to strive for excellence, to meet expectation and in fact, exceed it. We all should, and do, strive to do what we know to be right. This is the pathway toward continual learning and development.

Occasionally the referee (or teacher or parent) will blow a penalty. They’ll interpret a rule and our children  will learn a lesson greater than the rule itself. At other times, we might ‘play on’ in an area of grey. Either way, the decision will be based on the interpretation of what is best for the player/s in the game, or indeed the game itself.

We definitely need the black and the white. However, grey can be equally important and comes in many shades. For what it is worth, I’m glad my grandfather broke that rule. He married that girl! I’m secretly glad that our boys and girls push boundaries too. It’s how they grow. It our jobs to make sure their boundaries are appropriate.

Kyle Thompson – Principal