I am writing from London, U.K. after having had the privilege of attending the United World College movement’s 60th anniversary celebrations at the very first UWC, Atlantic College in Wales. Together with colleagues from all 18 UWC schools and members of UWC National Committees, it was an opportunity to mark the dynamism and strength of this movement dedicated to peace and sustainability through education.
Unfortunately, during this short trip abroad, I was reminded that COVID is still present and, as a result, I’m spending a little more time in a London hotel room than expected before flying home to the campus on Pedder Bay!
This means I will not be in the Max Bell this weekend to watch the European bonanza which is the school year’s first Cultural Sharing Day! I realise how much work goes into these events and how uplifting they are so I hope someone takes a few video clips so I can watch later. I will be back in Canada, but I will not risk infecting the whole student body!
I have much to share with all of you about the various meetings I attended on our behalf last week and gained a real insight into the UWC movement and the great things that are happening across our campuses worldwide.
A documentary film has been put together detailing the history of the movement and our special place in that story as the second UWC of the Pacific following Atlantic’s founding in 1962. Did you realise that the first cohort at Atlantic in 1962 were boys only!!! Some of them spoke on Saturday during the celebrations and said their two years were “chaotic and crazy” as they had no formal curriculum and were making it up as they went along. They loved it nonetheless! Having keynote speakers like Queen Noor of Jordan and Musimbi Kanyoro, who now lead our movement, underlines how things have thankfully changed for the better.
This is also a moment for all of us to remembers that Pearson is fast approaching its own momentous 50th anniversary to be celebrated during the 2024-25 school year and that we need to collectively start planning. How do we reflect our own distinctive identity and honour this in the way we celebrate our half century? A committee will be convened soon that needs all stakeholder input so start thinking and ideating.
Finally, so many people have approached me over the past eight days to congratulate Pearson for its focus on Indigenous Reconciliation as a local expression of our movement-wide commitment to diversity, equity and social justice. Similarly, our commitment to Climate Action alongside global conflict resolution has also been commended. There is a necessary focus right now on how the movement is concretely living the mission to be, “a force for peace and sustainability.” The word force is important not because it implies imposing a will on others but in how we visibly demonstrate our work to reach that very high bar.
Students across the movement are demanding more practical and pragmatic ways to achieve our ideals and our alumni working in different spheres beyond education want to contribute. They have said that “activism” should and must be understood in diverse ways that focus on impact, not just protest. I have had countless conversations with our Pearson alumni who work in finance, business and entrepreneurial start ups who are living the mission with practical sustainability and climate action work in their companies.
I just wanted to share this insight as I often only identify “action” in a very limited way that I see as an educator and someone who happens to be very interested in politics. This is my own bias. This week I have been schooled by alumni who have broadened my view to recognise broader impact stories.
It has been a rewarding and enriching week. Good luck for the weekend performances and make sure you socially distance when in crowded places as COVID is very much still around!