by Dr. Stefanos Gialamas, President, ACS Athens
(translated from the article in Greek published in the Economist’s “The World in 2016”)
“So the world’s a mess.
Was it ever any different?
this is our reality, cynical as it may be.
And you‘re born into it.
Are you supposed to set things straight?
Does it fall on your shoulders to clean the mess you haven’t made?
Everyone wants to help, to fix things, to make it better.
But where do you even start in the vastness of wrong?
If you internalize what you hear, you cannot change a thing.
So what are you supposed to do?
Submit to indulgence?
Because you can, if you accept that you can’t make a real change.
At what point in your life do you make a choice about who you are going to be?
Is it the day you decide to stand up for injustice?
Or the day you can hardly recognize your reflection in the mirror?
What defines you? When?
Does it ever end? Or doesn’t it ?”
The above is a theatrical dialogue. A script in process, being created by the thoughts of 17 year-old students who are questioning life and seeking answers from within, in order to shape the future they dream of.
What does this young generation expect of life? What foundations are we building to support the dreams of these children? How do we exemplify and promote critical thinking, creativity, initiative for action and young people’s contributions towards “fixing” this adverse world, putting things in order, “correcting” the mistakes of others. Before it’s too late, before they can barely recognize themselves in the mirror and won’t have the learned mind and cultivated heart to outline a future they dreamed of and want.
What do the Theater Arts students at ACS Athens do during their lessons? They immerse into experiential performances, shaping a life stance through Morfosis, the cultivation of mind and soul, in a team-spirited and self-critical way.
“Morfosis”, according to my late father, Panagiotis Gialamas, my own lifelong teacher and an unforgettable educator, means “scholarship, spiritual development, mental cultivation and broader education. It is the balanced development and harmonization of all psycho-spiritual competencies resulting in a perfect whole”.
Scholarship that relates to one’s inner cultivation, intervenes fundamentally in the development of one’s personality. It leads to assimilation, classification, systematic and rational utilization of knowledge. According to Heraclitus, “Scholarship does not teach good judgment.”
Morfosis can be transmitted; it broadens our horizons and unites us. It penetrates through generations and influences active communities and institutions who believe that “the world changes through example and action and not just through our views and opinions of it.”
Academic institutions now more than ever play a leading role in preparing young people to cope with and to be productive members of an increasingly global society. The opportunities and the learning outcomes for students attending schools are directly related to the educational experience they receive (Gialamas S. & Pelonis P. 2008).
So what should education address today that is different from the past? Education should be about molding human beings capable of responding to the fast and multiple changes in today’s society rather than being usurped by these changes and becoming devoid of emotions, incapable of forming community bonds, their only purpose that of becoming organizational drones trained for specific jobs (Gialamas. S, Pelonis, P. 2008).
Therefore, academic institutions should become “significant” academic institutions, meaning institutions which fulfill two basic conditions:
- They Sustain Excellence, in the process of fulfilling their mission, vision, commitments and goals for all stakeholders; students, faculty, staff, administration, board members, parents, and alumni
- They continuously serve humanity (the community the institution belongs to as well as the region,the nation, and the world, which has shrunk though technology and direct unfettered communication). In other words, the institution is engaged in transforming the community, for the benefit of all people, especially for the less fortunate or less privileged.
Therefore significant academic institutions have a responsibility to adhere and promote universal values, as well as providing a curriculum that teaches world history, literature and looks at the interdependence of cultures and nations.
These are the institutions that will effectively influence drastic social changes. They will be the
carriers of a new type of “gnosis” which includes wisdom, critical thinking, the ability to use knowledge and the ability to discover and provide solutions to social challenges. These institutions will foster the spirit of supporting the culture, innovation, respect for diversity and commitment to providing globally recognized and enduring principles and values.
The beginning and the end to the effort of educating youth is “the sculpting of mind with Ethos that reflects Harmony and makes the world peaceful and beautiful to live in.”
It is Morfosis that consistently shatters the foundations of hatred and the interests of violence, human exploitation, blind fanaticism, racism and the ideologies of destruction, therefore establishing the foundations for lasting Peace.
Gialamas, S. and Pelonis, P. “Providing Exceptional Educational Experiences to Students with Financial Need: A modern challenge for International K-12 Schools”. International Schools Journal. Volume XXXlll, No. 1, November 2013
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