Eloquent & Truthful
Pupils at SSPP Pupils are growing to be eloquent and truthful in what they say of themselves, the relations between people, and the world.
“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.” (Matthew 7:7)
If you had asked anyone familiar with Jesuit schools and universities in the first two centuries of their existence what the distinctive characteristic of Jesuit education was, they would have replied eloquence.
We don’t often talk about this virtue today. And yet eloquence was at the heart of the Jesuit educational mission – to make sure young people had the language to ask questions, express emotions, speak beliefs, talk about matters of faith and hope, debate points of view, and engage in conversation. Those first Jesuit educators recognized that lack of vocabulary and linguistic skills are a form of human impoverishment. My ability to speak competently my own language, and the languages of others, is fundamental to my growth and confidence as a social human being.
Eloquence is not confined to speaking – it finds expression in writing, music, drama, dance, the creative arts, design, film, digital media, and sport. All of these are important to Jesuit education because they encourage children to express their identity as well as their talents.
However, being able to speak well is not much use if what you speak is not worth saying. Eloquence must be used in a truthful way – to speak truth about myself and others, about relations between people, about the world, and about God. Education is the search for truth and the eloquent articulation of what we discover. As Jesus tells us, “The truth will set you free.” (John 8:32)
Knowing the truth about some thing or situation or person is what sets you free to see clearly and know surely. It is what allows us to grow as individuals and as a society. Promoting the virtue of truth in our schools is not simply about teaching children not to lie, important though that is, it is about teaching them to seek the deeper truth, the more nuanced expression, the better account of something.
Our contemporary culture seems obsessed with the quick and easy, the instant sound bite; there is a temptation to settle for the trite and superficial.
The virtue of being truthful seeks, in contrast, to speak the truth in all its depth, complexity, messiness, and uncertainty. This is the Ignatian magis in action – seeking the more.
As we enter the summer term, we are at a stage of the year where children are being asked to draw together all of their previous teaching. We know that to be eloquent means to be able to speak or write fluently, persuasively and appropriately. We encourage our children to use language to express their ideas or opinions clearly and with conviction. At SSPP, our ethos promotes the concept that when we choose our words, we should do so carefully so they are kind and compassionate, and don’t hurt others.
We know that children can express themselves in other ways like music, drama, painting or dance. We want them to use their creative gifts to say things in a way that is interesting, truthful, memorable and faithful.
Knowing that God wants us to be truthful in all we do means when we are, we are following in Jesus’ footsteps, living life the way God wants us to. Being truthful is being faithful to ourselves and to Jesus. We should stand up for the truth.
Summer 1 sees us move into our ‘Relationships’ PSHE topic. Our Marian procession at the start of May offers thanks to Mary. At this time, children express their admiration and gratitude to Mary through donations of flowers. Summer 1 also sees our end-of-keystage tests take place in Year 2 and Year 6; at this time, children are given the opportunity to eloquently express themselves and all they have learned during their time at SSPP.
Questions for reflection:
Do we set out to widen our pupils’ vocabulary and deepen their language?
Are there opportunities for pupils to be eloquent in different ways (eg. public speaking, drama, dance or music, art and digital media)?
Do we encourage pupils to seek the deeper truth? And to ask the question ‘Why?’