Vulnerability at the heart of education

Jack Flintoft

An exploration by the 2022 Captain of School, Jack Flintoft.

The most important attribute of learning is vulnerability.

Not vulnerability in the sense of physical harm or attack – for these definitions do span throughout the modern dictionary. Rather, vulnerability is fundamentally the attribute of being open to challenge, as well as being open to be challenged.

Being vulnerable is part of the human condition and yet it is an aspect of it we tend to deny or resist. Crucially, it involves pain and discomfort – for we do not like to be challenged in our views, nor do we feel comfortable in many scenarios embracing challenges.  But we also know that the most powerful experiences we have are those which deepen and strengthen us, and such transformation is only possible when we value something more than our own comfort and safety.

If we ask ourselves what the purpose of education is, it proves challenging to define and pinpoint. Is it simply to engrain students with doctrines to complete their VCE? Or is it rather to provide them with an educational framework that encompasses a broader development of oneself? I suggest it is the latter. Indeed, the deeper nerve that education touches on, is one that centres around human development.

It might be of benefit to picture education as a ticking clock, where all the various mechanisms – functioning in congruence – result in a symbiotic education model centred around this human development. Indeed, inside of this educational timepiece are the various gears: Leadership, Spirituality, Learning, Excellence, Community, Diversity, and Integrity; all harmoniously ticking together. But without the mainspring that delivers power to the watch, these gears will remain immobile. This mainspring of vulnerability galvanises the gears – it has the unique ability to function as a catalyst. Being open to challenge and to be challenged allows education to develop fruitfully, for without it we would all simply be podding in familiar territory without transcending beyond it.

Inside of a democratic system, the embrace of vulnerability is underscored further. Breaking down barriers of conversation through challenging beliefs inside of the classroom is where education excels. As philosopher Richard Oxenberg[1] noted, “democracy demands that its citizens embody a specific, and identifiable, set of moral and intellectual virtues”. As he would go on to discuss, for democracy to flourish, we must make value-orientated education the heart of schooling.

Very much in line with Oxenburg, at Melbourne Grammar, students are not simply churned through the system as entities. Rather, I believe, education here emphasises the importance of being open in heart and mind to what is good and true. And, to unlock and embrace this values-based education, vulnerability proves to be an essential key.

About Jack Flintoft

Jack Flintoft is our 2022 Captain of School.

A fine scholar, Jack is also well known for his accomplishments in the performing arts. He is a Senior Chorister at the School this year, and played Romeo in the 2022 Quad Play: Romeo and Juliet. Jack was awarded School Colours for Theatre in 2021 and for the Symphony Orchestra and the Chapel Choir in 2022. (You can read more about the 2022 Quad Play here.)

Jack has a strong commitment to service, with extensive participation in the School’s Values in Action program over the years, as well as serving as Co-Secretary for the SLIC Committee in 2021.

Jack began his education at Melbourne Grammar School in Year 2 at Grimwade House.