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Less is more? – Headmaster’s Blog – 3 January 2018

January 3, 2018
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Less is more?

A Happy New Year to the readers (reader?) of this blog! I trust you have had a festive break with some refreshments with family and friends.

Festive sort-out?

I returned home yesterday after a week away and decided to look for something ‘in a box somewhere’ in my garage. After a good hour and a half I found what I was seeking (an old teaching file) but in the process waded through an incredible amount of ‘stuff’. Why on earth have I kept all those history books from university days, those teaching notes from the early 1980s and all those video cassettes from yesteryear? I accept that I am a bit of a hoarder (I prefer to say that as an historian I’m interested in sifting through the past and everything has a value) but there has to come a limit.

Post-Christmas analysis

These thoughts of excess and surplus are, I suppose, natural at Christmas time when most of us will no doubt receive many more presents than we really need or want. (As a teacher I am extremely grateful to all those pupils who have kindly given me cards but, I suspect, I won’t have the stomach – literally – for the many boxes of Belgian chocolates which were generously given to me and so I hope my colleagues in the staff room will enjoy sharing them over the next few months / year!) On a different scale, but similarly thought-provoking, I read recently that 200,000 books are published annually in the UK. The Times literary editor, Robbie Millen, has written an exasperated piece asking people to kindly stop sending books to him as he was overwhelmed. Apparently, with so many books clamouring for our attention, it’s much easier to award them ‘nervous little pats on the head rather than to separate wheat from chaff’ (as DJ Taylor has written in the I newspaper). Moreover, there were 821 films on release in the UK in 2016 (equating to 16 per week) and so surely way beyond the capacity of mere mortals, let along film critics, to assimilate, evaluate (or even enjoy)!

Perhaps ‘less is more’?

‘Less is more’ for the environment as well it seems

I expect that most of us who have seen some of the harrowing images from Blue Planet 2 will agree that where plastic is concerned, less is indeed more – more sea creatures and, in time, more health for humans, too. A simple walk around our local woodlands or seashore, even a glance in the roadside ditch, reveals extensive amounts of waste and litter. (Can anyone understand the mentality behind those who apparently throw away tin cans and coffee cups with thoughtless abandon?) Less is more beauty and, again, greater health to the planet.

DJ Taylor, in the aforementioned newspaper, comments on a further concern:

…the more stuff becomes available the more the overall quality of things on offer starts to sink…the greater the volume of stuff brought before our eyes the less able we are to discriminate between good and bad, to work out what we really want to watch, read or listen to and establish whether it shapes up.

New Year’s resolution

Taylor’s advice for a New Year resolution is that we buy less of everything as we may then enjoy what’s left more. This seems to me to be a sound approach but I hope it’s not simply for what it might do for ourselves but also for others. One present I particularly appreciated this year was from a parent: a donation made (in place of a ‘thing’) in the school’s name to ‘Oxfam unwrapped’ to help pay for a child’s education in a developing part of the world.

Here ‘more’ will in fact be ‘more and not less’!”

Alastair Reid (Headmaster)


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