Georgetown Prep President: Working for Hope in a Season of Contempt
James Van Dyke, S.J. October 03, 2018
photo above: Georgetown Preparatory School
WN: This strikes as significantly sane and hopeful. By virtue of living in the wealthy West with a white male middle class pedigree, I am “privileged”. I cannot unmake that any more than one can redo any history. It is what it is. So in that I benefit from living downstream from often the brutal establishing of my privilege in the past, I can only hope that I “use that tool for the good”. As St. Paul writes:
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. [For overcoming evil by evil simply spreads evil. Only ever has. Never otherwise.]
Toward the end of the oft-cited (but less frequently read) address by Pedro Arrupe, S.J., commonly referred to as “Men for Others,” Father Arrupe, the superior general of the Society of Jesus at the time, struggles with the problem of what the alumni of Jesuit institutions, and by extension what the institutions themselves, might do to formulate a genuine response to the call of a faith seeking justice in a fallen world. One of the possible responses Father Arrupe notes is that those who have privilege—the well-educated alumni and the distinguished schools—should renounce it. In the end, however, Father Arrupe rejects this solution as facile. He points out that privilege is but a tool and that if good men and women will not use that tool for the good, others who are less scrupulous and more egotistical will be happy to use it for their own ends rather than for the goal of creating a more just world that reflects to all, especially to those who are less privileged, the undiscriminating, spontaneous, generous and merciful love of God.
This has been much on my mind these past weeks as I have read the repeated caricatures in the media and the internet of the institution I now lead, Georgetown Preparatory School, as privileged, elitist, uncaring and negligent. While Georgetown Prep has been much in the spotlight, our sister schools here in the metropolitan Washington, D.C., area, as well as our brother Jesuit schools, have also been painted with the same caricature. And, frankly, it is time to confront the caricature and speak plainly about the reality.
…That, finally, is the challenge and the opportunity that I see for Prep, for all Jesuit schools and indeed for any school that dares to take seriously the notion that education is not merely about content but about the formation of character, and especially the traits of empathy and compassion. As I said to our juniors and seniors last week in a blunt discussion of the challenge we face—not a public relations challenge but one of school culture—I have no doubt that they will be intellectually competent as they go to college and beyond. That is not even a question. But will they be competent as human beings; will they have the compassion to enter into the sufferings of others, of the wrong others have experienced? Will they have the courage to stand up for those who suffer injustice and contempt, even standing up to popular and peer culture? Can they do that not only here at school but in their neighborhoods, in their social gatherings, in the larger world as they go to college and beyond?
Privilege is but a tool and that if good men and women will not use that tool for the good, others who are less scrupulous and more egotistical will be happy to use it for their own ends rather than for the goal of creating a more just world that reflects to all, especially to those who are less privileged, the undiscriminating, spontaneous, generous and merciful love of God.
Tweet this: It is time to confront the caricature and speak plainly about the reality.
They have so much potential: In their efforts to be men who show respect, men who seek to serve, men who want to offer hope, they offer witness that bad behavior and cynicism do not have to be the end of this story. If they can persevere in hope and help others to do the same, then “men and women for and with others” is not another empty motto, nor a tagline, nor even a really neat quote on a webpage. It is a living reality.
Please click on: Hope in a Season of Contempt