Home Headmaster HM Newsletter - 19 March

Dear ParentsHM 2011

I am a so-called "Baby Boomer" according to generational theorists William Strauss and Neil Howe. I grew up in an age of optimism, but also in an age of severe Apartheid oppression and propaganda, Beatlemania, Sharpville, Woodstock, Vietnam, the Soweto Riots, and Neil Armstrong landing on the moon. This was all conveyed to me via my own personal devise - my transistor radio! It provided me with a window that enabled me to look out on a world that I could only imagine through listening to the BBC. I was able to tune in to the "Goon Show", a match between Liverpool and Man U, a test between Wales and the Springboks on their Demo Tour and cheer as Andy van der Watt scored in the corner. I zoned in on plays, readings from books, debates on topical issues. I clearly remember the applause from our Accounting class as we gathered around our teacher's transistor radio as Neil Armstrong stepped onto the surface of the moon and said those now famous words: "One small step for man - one giant leap for mankind." We could listen and be touched by the world.

Now, like the X and Y and all other generations, I find myself a digital immigrant - an older generation of people who must learn to adapt to ever changing technology. On the other hand, we work with pupils that are digital natives - kids born into a world of technology, video games, computers, iPhones, digital music players, and continual visual impact. I wonder if the kids of today are in a better place than previous generations dating back to WWII? It would be an endless debate similar to trying to conclude if Sachin Tendulkar is a better batsman than Donald Bradman. This extract from an article by Diana and James Oblinger I found interesting, and I share it with you.

"Eric wakes up and peers at his PC to see how many instant messages (iMs) arrived while he slept. Several attempts to reach him are visible on the screen, along with various postings to the blog he's been following. After a quick trip to the shower, he pulls up an eclectic mix of news, weather, and sports on the home page he customized using Yahoo. He then logs on to his campus account. A reminder pops up indicating that there will be a quiz in sociology today; another reminder lets him know that a lab report needs to be e-mailed to his chemistry professor by midnight. After a few quick IMs with friends, he pulls up a wiki to review progress a teammate has made on a project they're doing for their computer science class. He downloads yesterday's chemistry lecture to his laptop; he'll review it while he sits with a group of students in the student union working on other projects. After classes are over, he has to go to the library because he can't find any online resource he needs for a project. He rarely goes to the library to check out books; usually he uses Google or Wikipedia. Late that night as he's working on his term paper, he switches back and forth between the paper and the Internet-based multiplayer game he's trying to win. Information technology (IT) is woven throughout Eric's life, but he probably doesn't think of it as technology. One generation's technology is taken for granted by the next. Computers, the Internet, online resources, and instantaneous access are simply the way things are done. Eric is a member of the Net Generation; he's never known life without the Internet."

Now the world is in our cell phone and tablet. This is an educational and Hilton College challenge - how to remain relevant in an explosion of advances in the technology of academics, sport, culture and residential accommodation while bolstering the socially accepted behaviours traditionally associated with Hilton College. This is indeed an intriguing balance and one with which we grapple endlessly to find new and flexible solutions for the Net Generation.

It is the weekend and time for Saturday sport, At the Astroturf, it is quite a culture shock standing in "Coolerbox Country" with the parents supporting our team rather than being the coach-in-charge in the players' dugout! The First Hockey team does well and will rue a few lost chances, but will take heart from a good second-half revival to draw their match.

During lunch I have a moment to collect my thoughts and consider the determination and drive from every rugby team I have watched - no throwing in the towel, no backing-off, and no ill-discipline - just total commitment, and parental chats alongside the field fuel this train of thought - there is a positive vibe amongst the boys, a sense of self-belief, a determination to deliver and this is epitomized most of all by the Third Team victory.

I have no doubt that player twenty-three is ensconced amongst the boys in the Hilton stand, and as rain buckets down and drenches our awesome cheerleaders and supporters to the bone, there is a sense that they will not be moved. They epitomize the resolve on the field as our First Team thunders into a fierce storm contrived by the weather gods and a mighty and competent Westville team. We take a one-point lead with seven to go, but it is not to be as we surrender a penalty to lose narrowly by two points.

The all-round resolve witnessed in every match, the exceptional support from the school in rain-soaked blazers and our disciplined performance, both on and off the field, give indication of the collective positive energy amongst the boys in general. There is promise of a really exciting season ahead and in the words of a parent: "We are back!"

The following email warrants inclusion in this letter:

"What a day at Hilton College! To see 500 plus boys stand out in the torrential rain singing and pouring out war-cries was something to behold. I climbed out of my vehicle in which I had sought cover and stood with them in the pouring rain. Soaked, I retreated again but felt an awesome feeling for what the College is about." Proud Hilton Parent.

On Sunday evening I receive am SMS announcing that Matthew Gearing, Kyle Schoonbee and coach Ernie Steenkamp will be going with the South African Rowing team to the World Championships later this year. In addition is the news that Ben Johnston is selected for the SA Schools' Rowing team. This is an awesome set of personal achievements that cap a great Rowing season.

This has been an exceptional term for our boys in all areas; they have given of their best and deserve the Easter break. To all the coaches and teams that will be travelling and playing in festivals during the holiday we wish them, and our parents who will be supporting them, a safe and enjoyable holiday. For the remainder of the staff, it will be time to put their feet up after the New Boys' Weekend and enjoy a deserved holiday.

All the best - have a great week and a wonderful holiday with your sons and family!

G Thomson