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The snowflake generation – Headmaster’s Blog – Wednesday 14th December 2016

December 14, 2016
Ballard School Snow Snowflake Generation

The snowflake generation

I listened to a church sermon this week which had a reference to the ‘special snowflake syndrome’ – and this was a new expression to me. It refers to the fact that, like snowflakes, we are all unique and very much one of a kind. It has also come to be associated with forms of ‘political correctness’, sensitivities and a desire not to offend others – all very worthy aims. At Oxford University, law lecturers have been asked to give ‘trigger warnings’ ahead of their talks in order to ensure students are aware of the issues about to be addressed so that they can choose to attend or not – a little like the warnings given on the TV news about flash photography (‘look away now’). We are so special that it’s important we aren’t damaged in any way.

I certainly agree that we are indeed all very special and that we should do what we can to be accepting and tolerant of differing lifestyles and choices (providing they do not harm others), and understanding of the views, faiths and ideas of other people even if we don’t agree with them. It is right that we are compassionate, socially enlightened and more appreciative of the traumas and challenges we all face in different measure in our society. We do not want the ’snowflake’ to melt prematurely: far better to be part of a ‘snowball’ and all as one in our world.

2015.2. Pre Prep in the snow

Winter 2015 and our Pre-Prep are loving to snow!

I suppose what jarred with me slightly was the concern then expressed to me professionally from some teachers in my school, and in others, about how we are tending to give rise to a generation of, to use another modern expression, ‘cotton wool children’. This is nothing new, of course (Ancient Greek writers raised similar concerns), but it does seem to be even more prevalent today than ever before. Many adults (parents, teachers and concerned citizens) step in to prevent a young person experiencing any kind of disagreement or difficulty, pressure or stress, so as to (reasonably enough) protect them from the unkind word, an argument or even a significant challenge. The problem is when this goes too far (‘helicopter parenting’ comes to mind although it could be any well-meaning adult diving in prematurely) and our youngsters grow up with no experience or skill in individual decision-making, in negotiating a tricky situation or in being a mediator in an argument. Much of life is indeed to do with balance and yet we seem frightened of allowing some sense of risk. ‘No pain no gain’, yet another contemporary expression, may be simplistic but it has an element of truth in it.

The other, not unrelated, discussion in the Press this week was the headline in a recent Daily Mail article: ‘Pushy parents who pester private school teachers at all hours’! This referred to the dreaded parental email sent after the 9.00pm ‘watershed’ (or is it the vino-shed?) diving in, often very critically and aggressively, to complain about some ‘injustice’ in their child’s day. Thankfully this is not something that happens too often at Ballard but when it does I shall try and keep in mind ‘snowflakes’ and ‘cotton wool’ as I devise a measured and, I hope, a wise response!

Alastair Reid (Headmaster)

We tweet from @BallardSchool

Ballard School is a non-selective, private co-educational school in New Milton, Hampshire (on the Dorset/Hampshire border), providing an outstanding level of education for nursery to GCSE. With small class sizes and proven academic excellence, we strive to nurture the academic potential of all students. Learn more about our academic programmes, pastoral care, facilities and school ethos by visiting our website or by requesting a prospectus here

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