Although Gilbert and Sullivan amused us greatly with their ditties, their 'Gondoliers' assertion that "When everybody's somebody then nobody's anybody" no longer works in a twenty-first century context. We tend instead to look more to the type of song perhaps suggested by the title, with its plethora of multi-cultural crooners from the ‘Live Aid’ and ‘Band Aid’ moments! Nowadays, we do tend to want everyone to count, to be 'a somebody' and, indeed, to be a whole lot more. We want each individual to be viewed as a person: someone with a character, an identity, feelings, dignity and self-respect. In many ways, the word 'somebody' itself is inadequate, if taken literally, as there is so much more to the human being than "the body." We cannot ignore the mind or the metaphorical essences of the heart and the soul that combine to complete the person. As our modern world takes its first faltering steps into the 'era of humanity' then it is surely more important than ever that the worth of every individual be prized. We need to elevate the respect we have for the lives of others, to promote the well-being of each and every individual and to entrench that fundamental respect for human life that has been at the heart of most of the uplifting and heroic moments of our history. In short, if 'nobody's anybody' then we won't care if they are ignored, neglected, downtrodden or worse.
Greed, self-interest and ignorance (in its true sense of 'not knowing'), have all played some part in the numerous tragedies and disgraces of our collective histories on this planet, and, although there is something incredibly daunting, not to mention, wonderfully idealistic, in thinking that we can ever change the tide of human interaction, there is also something quintessentially satisfying about trying. Parents can generally elect to convey some form of the wholesome, compassionate values to their children, but schools should have no choice. It is a moral imperative that the institutions responsible for the education of society's youth, rise to the challenge of installing respect at the heart of every human transaction. Without respect being proffered, it will rarely be genuinely returned and to offer it requires some degree of awareness or sensitivity to the recipient, or at least some recognition that there is a person on the other end of the interaction.
Now, more than at any time in history, we have the ability to extend and contract our reach at the click of a button and we can flit seamlessly between the local and the global. Surely then, it becomes even more important that our attitudes to the other beings who share the same planet with us, be as informed and sensitive as they can be. If nations and peoples can increase their mutual understanding then there is a small chance that they will treat each other better. At the very least, the dreaded fear and suspicion which have historically colored so many of our actions and reactions, may be reduced. Schools all over the world are connecting to share their cultures and heighten their awareness of each other, to bring light into the dark recesses of ignorance. As classrooms 'skype' and students 'moodle', the only barriers are those of time and other commitments. Set in a context of learning about each other's world view and respecting our differences, these cross-cultural connections can be powerful and compelling, but, more than that, they represent part of the future of education.
Young people will never be content to be contained in tightly-closed boxes with lids on them; they know that there is a very large and over-populated world out there. To deny them access to it is futile, but to prepare them to handle it properly and correctly is the very stuff of progress. Schools the world over are adopting a similar approach to the imperative that is the global perspective and, of course, in the hugely increased communication, there are so many opportunities for highlighting the positive virtues that all emanate from basic respect. Every interaction, from the most incidental to the most impactful, provides a chance for a 'way of being' to dictate a positive experience.
Many schools have families and alumni dispersed all around the globe and we would hope that this diversity has helped them to move seamlessly between cultures and countries. More than ever, our collective mandate is to provide the world with leadership in its multitude of forms, small and large. To do so effectively is to embrace a world view and to subscribe to an ethos where everybody is indeed a somebody and that individual is full of potential and possibilities.