Has It Been Worth It? Vice Captain’s Assembly

I asked a variety of people for advice about speaking in this assembly. My brother begged me not to say anything too embarrassing; several people suggested I talk about what great fun I’ve had playing sport and going on trips and tours across the world; and a couple of people seemed hopeful I’d be feeling subversive and in a mood to rock the boat. My dad, however, asked me a question: has it been worth it?

For most of you in this hall, seven years at the High School will cost your parents in excess of £70,000 and with that money you could buy a modest house, a not-so-modest car, years’ worth of holidays or one 500th of Andy Carroll. At first this struck me as a very mercenary attitude, but on reflection I think it merits greater consideration.

I’m sure none of you want me to tell you how lucky we are to be at this school, but I think it is important that we remember it and try to keep a sense of perspective. Being part of the World Challenge expedition to Ethiopia last summer provided me with a stark reminder of how good our lives here really are.

Image by Dietmar

Of course I have many amusing memories of my time there; however, the experience which stays with me most vividly is the time spent at a remote village school. It was truly remarkable to observe the difference that the few hundred pounds our group had raised had made to this tiny community. Many a High School boy’s Jack Wills and Ambercrombie-laden wardrobe will cost more than we were able to give to them, but the value of this donation to them was quite staggering.

We may moan and groan about coming in to school but to those children, their hut-of-a-school represented hope and an opportunity to attain a better standard of life. Their community was genuinely thankful and the gift they offered us was greatly appreciated after a day helping dig their long-drop toilet or entertaining the children on the football pitch, something I promise you that was just as exhausting. The goat they gave us was consumed with enthusiasm that evening, testicles and all.

As clichéd as it may sound, my visit to Ethiopia offered me a perspective on things and perhaps helped offer me a view of what my time at the High School has really been worth.

Maintaining a sense of proportion is something that can be very difficult, particularly in a privileged setting such as this school. This year’s House singing choir competition provides a good example of how easily perspective can be lost as briefly outrage gripped us all as we were caught up in the “Stacey’s Mom” debacle. Few people were satisfied with the situation, but as exams roll around, it seems a distant memory; a storm in a teacup.

I feel we have a tendency to take what we have for granted at the High School and the idea of this ‘High School attitude’ is something that anyone who has ever played hockey under Mr Cowley will be familiar with. More than once have I been reminded in Mr Cowley’s team talks as he beavers away over his whiteboard that we get a lot given to us on a plate here and that this makes it all too easy to take things for granted.

We owe a great deal in that we are able to attend this school (not least in an economic sense) and it can be all too easy to forget this. The opportunities we are provided with are quite literally life changing and in this respect I am a good example. The High School, for example, has offered me the opportunity to study Classics which I am now going on to read at university.

It is common for boys at this point in their speech to advise you all to make the most of your time at the High School and the fact that I am making a similar point shows just how important this is. However, I’d like to approach it from what is hopefully a slightly different angle. I suggest you try to keep in perspective how good it is to be a boy at the High school. But, more importantly, I’d like to remind that although your time here will probably COST about £70,000, it is down to you to make sure it is WORTH much more.

By David Bennett, Vice Captain 2011 – 2012

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