An ex-insider's view on Shore School: 'the rich are going to go to school'

A former chaplain hopes for better things to come

Ian Powell is a former chaplain at Shore School Sydney, the private school that is currently under fire for an extreme version of its Muck Up Day. The question of how well elite schools can form students into Christian adults, is being debated widely in the wake of Shore students’ controversial scavenger hunt list becoming public.

I am a government-school bloke, and before going to serve at Shore, I had a friendly hatred of private schools.

But I was, and am, so impressed with what Shore is trying to do for the boys and for society through them.

Bad things, sometimes terribly evil things happen at the very best organisations. What marks out a great organisation is how they respond. According to the media, it was Shore that alerted the police to this ugly “joke”.

The unhelpful instinct of organisations is to hide bad stuff and only deal with it in house.

Bob Grant was the headmaster who contacted me about possibly becoming Chaplain at the school back then. He is one of the most impressive humans I have ever known. A mark of that is that the longer I served with him, the more impressed I was with him as a human and as an educator. He urged me in my first year to go to hear a man giving a lecture at the Playfair Hall. It was brilliant and I learned this saying “A great school is not great because it has no incidents. It is great because of how it responds to the incident.” True of any organisation.

I am confident Shore will seek to use this ugly moment to do deep good.

The School Prayer and teaching is superb – that real men are Christ like-men, and that Cross-like loving sacrifice and humble service is the essence of a truly good and great life.

That’s totally counter-cultural and it does put the boys under tension – and a need to decide one way or the other. Many decide against what the school seeks to inculcate, while many are salted by the teaching on sacrifice for others, and some meet Christ and are transformed, for life and eternity.

The very rich are going to go to school. They will be imperfect, the spoilt rich are usually an ugly bunch.

Shore is imperfect, like we all are, but it is seeking to love the world by truly teaching and training these men to know and be a bit like Jesus, the true man.

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