Think Tank

March 27, 2024  
Rev James Rogers - Deputy Principal

Last week, we were privileged to have Stephen McAlpine visit the School. Mr McAlpine ran separate seminars for Year 12 and teaching staff; he also participated in a lunchtime conversation with the Principal’s Heads team.

Mr McAlpine is a cultural analyst who is skilful in applying biblical perspectives to societal trends. His book Being the Bad Guys was awarded 2021 Australian Christian Book of the Year. It is a book which explores the place of Christianity in today’s society. Mr McAlpine charts the shift from society’s open acceptance of Christian belief and behaviour towards a more suspicious, sceptical, and sometimes hostile view. His recently published follow-up entitled Futureproof examines societal narratives about purpose and authenticity, connectedness and progress, and compares them to perspectives from the Bible. Mr McAlpine shows that despite society’s aversion to the Christian faith, the Bible offers a satisfying, realistic and hopeful vision of the future.

‘Expressive individualism’ and life in community

Mr McAlpine engaged both staff and students in many of the themes of these two books. There was a particular focus on the theme of identity. With Year 12, Mr McAlpine helped the students appreciate the tension between what he called ‘expressive individualism’ and life experienced in community. Expressive individualism prioritises the desires of the individual over the interests of others. At its worse, it can lead to the dissolution of community. While expressive individualism is so much a part of the air we breathe in the West today, it was pleasing to see students naturally recoiling from its more extreme forms, particularly as this impacts the good of others. I believe this is because students at The Illawarra Grammar School experience community to be a positive force for good. Mr McAlpine anchored a positive view of individuality and community in the servanthood of God.

Christian school graduates oriented towards common good

With staff, Mr McAlpine elaborated on the benefits of Christian schooling within our current cultural context. He referred to a 2020 report ‘Australian Schools and the Common Good’ conducted by Cardus Education Consortium which found that Christian schools produced students who were oriented towards the common good. This is evidenced after school through active participation in business or professional associations as well as political and religious organisations. The report also attests to higher levels of volunteering in graduates from independent and Christian Schools compared to their government or Catholic School counterparts. Moreover, as someone who has worked in many different schools, Mr McAlpine commented upon the ‘feel’ he often experienced when walking into a Christian school. He says there is a calmness which is representative of an approach to education that has a high view of human beings in community. I was glad to hear he included The Illawarra Grammar School in this assessment.

There was much that was positive about this day. More than anything, I was pleased to be reminded that schools like The Illawarra Grammar School are shaping students to hold a high view of the individual and place value in community. This is contrary to some of the more forceful currents in our society.


Senior School News: A Strong End to Term I


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