In using the word ‘us’, we mean not only the members of the Australian Academy for Human Excellence. ‘Us’ includes all who are reading these words; it embraces those who will attend the Academy’s workshops and apply the principles for self-transformation outlined in our three books:
‘Us’ includes the many thousands of teachers and education reformers who already believe that education without a focus on character is no education at all.
The question we are faced with is: If we do not take the ball and run with it, who will? We who can see that values education is an imperative will have to assume a leadership role so that a critical mass of others might follow. It will not be enough for us to think ‘big’ – the challenge is too great for that – we will have to think ‘infinite’.
With the world seemingly unable to address the pressing issues confronting us as a civilisation, it is appropriate to remember the words of that great statesman Abraham Lincoln, who, in the midst of the pathos and carnage of the American Civil War, emphasized the importance of preparing our children for the task of reconstruction awaiting them in the future:
A child is a person who is going to carry on what you have started. He is going to sit where you are sitting and, when you are gone, attend to those things which you think are important. You may adopt all the policies you please, but how they are carried out depends on him. He will assume control of your cities, states and nations. He is going to move in and take over your schools, universities, corporations. The fate of humanity is in his hands.
It is mostly the teachers, engaged in the most noble of all of the professions, who will be creating the conditions for children to transform their still-malleable personalities into ones who can steer the ship of state away from the dangerous shoals into safer waters.
We need teachers to join this revolution in education – lots of them, most of them – and, for this to happen, those of us who can see ahead to the dawning of a new day in the quest for human excellence will need to become the change that we hope to see in others. Only in this way will enough teachers be inspired to ‘cross the great ocean’, as the I-Ching would say, to become exemplars of true humanity for the children in their care.
It will not require many of us – many teachers, parents, reformers – to undergo a profound metamorphosis in how we think, feel and act. An all consuming wildfire can be ignited by a relatively small number of sacred activists committed to setting themselves ablaze with the inner fire of the five universal Human Values. As we change, the world will change.