It’s that time of year (in Australia anyhow!!!) where school is coming to an end for the year. Formals, schoolies and parties mark the calendars of anyone under the age of 18.
It’s often a time, also, for speeches. One speech by Sarah Haynes, school captain of Ravenswood Girls High School in Sydney (Ravo) has gained particular attention.
In its own right it is a pretty good speech for an 18 year old kid. However as I turn my mind towards some of the aspects the church is dealing with at the moment, it took on a greater meaning. Whenever the text below mentions “school” or “Ravo” replace it with the “LDS Church”.
I have transcribed some of the speech, however if you prefer, the YouTube link is here. I really recommend spending 13 minutes listening to it. When you do, it becomes apparent that she has a gripe with the school. Apparently her sister got kicked out for bullying another student. That aside, the speech contains some really good points.
What are your thoughts on the speech as it relates to the church?
Walking out of the Ravo gates…was a surreal experience. I felt like I was entering uncharted waters. I’m now faced with very difficult decisions, like what I’m going to do with my life.
There’s a lot that I’ve missed about Ravo over the last four weeks. It is hard to leave something that has literally encompassed half your life. The structure, the activities – the great teachers and most importantly – you girls. It can get rather lonely not seeing your smiling faces every day.
Now I’ve spent a lot of this year speaking of the achievements and successes of Ravo, but I’m going to do something a little different this year.
Everyone knows I have a strong love of this school and the people who are a part of it. But I also know that a lot of people here today know that I have a lot of other feelings towards my school this year.
About half way through this year, at a time when my family and I needed Ravo the most, it let us down. My aim today is not to point out people in a personal vendetta. I’m sharing this today because I want to be honest with everyone here and I would feel insincere if I got up here today and pretended that I loved everything about this school, when so many know that I don’t.
For a large part of this year, I was hurt, betrayed and very much began to hate certain things and people within the school. But as an important person once said, “There’s no point hating something you love”. I still do love my school and my year group and teachers that have carried me through this final year – and there are still a great many good things about it, but there are also a few that aren’t. There’s no point hating something you love. But there’s nothing wrong with realising that something you love isn’t perfect.
Anyway, I was writing a speech early this year for an open day and selling the school, which is something I used to love, because I loved everything about Ravo. I thought I’d be really clever and include the school motto in there. I concluded my speech with, “Ravo isn’t perfect, but we are always towards better things”. I sent this to those in charge of me and received the comment, “Great speech, but change the ending. No parent wants to hear that the school isn’t perfect”. Now I’m very sorry to all the parents here today, but Ravo isn’t perfect. But you probably already knew that.
Nothing is perfect and nothing should be expected to be perfect. As my main gal Hannah Montana said, “Everyone makes mistakes, everyone has those days”. But how often do we really recognise and believe this. If a school can’t admit that they are not perfect, then how can they expect ordinary adolescent girls to realise that perfection is unattainable.
Before 2015 I really do believe I looked at Ravo through glassy eyes – seeing its wondrous perfection that it wants to sell everyone. So as you can imagine, being elected school captain was the most humbling experience. But also freaked me out. Like a lot. I’d always looked to previous school captains and couldn’t find flaws in them. They excelled in all areas and seemed like they had it all together. And here I was crying.
I think we have all felt at one point that we are not good enough or deserving of something. I saw Ravo as perfect. But I wasn’t. But I wanted to give Ravo the impression that I was. Things didn’t go too well for me as within the first term a friend of mine came up to me and said, “Hey Sarah, you know I’m really glad you’re Captain because you’re not as perfect as the others” At the time it felt like a bit of a backhanded compliment, but it’s now something I’ll cherish. I’m far from a model student. I’ve been on detention. I’ve even had my skirt above the patella. Now these aren’t things to be proud of, and they aren’t things to look up to. But they certainly aren’t things to be ashamed of – they are things to learn from. And schools all about learning…right. And we learn from mistakes. But I think we are all still afraid to make them and admit to them – myself included. The only dangerous thing about mistakes – which I think Ravo lost sight of this year – is being able to recognise and admit to them.
Have any of you not done something you wanted to do for fear you would mess it up? What I try to remind myself all the time is that mistakes and failures are inevitable. So we shouldn’t let them stop us from getting involved or trying something new.
The person who doesn’t make mistakes is unlikely to make anything.
In my final weeks of school I overheard my parents having a conversation that went something like this:
Mum: Chris, I’m kind of worried for Sarah finishing school.
Dad: Why’s that
Mum: Well you know at school she was somebody. After school she’s going to be nobody.
But what they said was actually very true. Ravo gave me so many opportunities to be somebody. Whether it was sport. Debating, etc. And I’m really thankful for these opportunities. Some people work hard and get noticed and good on them. But some people work hard, struggle and get overlooked.
I don’t know how to run a school. But it seems to me that today’s schools are being run more and more like businesses. Where everything is financially motivated. Where more value is placed on those who provide good publicity and financial benefit.
I’d love to see Ravo work towards something better where each member of the school is valued equally as they should be.
If you’ve forgotten everything I’ve said, remember these two things
- Ravo isn’t perfect, but it can always work toward better
- And don’t let perfect be the enemy of good or mistakes from taking chances
I’ll leave you with a quote that makes me look really smart
“Before you criticise anyone, make sure you walk a mile in their shoes. That way you are a mile away from them…and you have their shoes…”
 I took this photo last year on Highway 1 in California driving on the way to Monterey.
I liked that.
The “aspects the church is dealing with” in some cases have been self imposed and I don’t feel bad for the church anymore than they would feel bad for a member who, by their own choices, are living the consequences of their actions. The church would tell the member to repent. That’s what the church needs to do – repent of its actions and move on. Often times the Mormon hierarchy thinks they’re above admitting they make mistakes. Weird…
That’s wonderful, but it calls into question how much we as an organisation, and individually, can allow that our young people are allowed to trip up occasionally and move on, and whether they know they are allowed to do this. The narrative is of disaster following a mistake.
Wouldn’t it be marvellous if we were to be able to model the work of the atonement within Christ’s church?
Love the post, and I can see the clear parallel.
Nice (and nice photo!).
I am not sure if I would have made the connection, but since you mentioned it, it is oh so clear and what she had to say about it applies to the church and my involvement in the church.
The church has to take chances too, and perhaps its view of itself is a bit too perfectionist. Rather, I think the leadership understands from its own perspective that it has limitations. (Pres. Hinkley once told Orin Hatch, “if you think government bureaucracy is bad, you should see the church). But it is very concerned with creating the appearance of perfection that it looses some of the flexibility it could have in trying to work its way to the best policies and decisions.
I loved this post. The church tries to hard to present itself as perfect. It would be healthier for everyone, if leadership just admitted it was not perfect.
“The church tries to hard to present itself as perfect. It would be healthier for everyone, if leadership just admitted it was not perfect.”
No matter what you guys are trying solve here, if you end up saying something like this then you haven’t learned or solved anything. Get a testimony that the Church is off God and then start learning that you are on here on a test and that when you start saying what you have said here then you are doing a lousy job of that test.
Rich – I guess we don’t see eye to eye and we will have to leave it there.
I actually worry that at the end of this life I am going to be judge and feel I might very well be asked, “what did you do to improve things so that less people leave the church?” and I am not sure the standard checklist covers it all. For myself I grow when I realize (either myself, someone telling me, or the spirit telling me) that I am lacking. I feel that if I just 100% support the status quo, I am “sleeping through the restoration” as I feel self-evaluation (including on an organizational level) is one of the ways we get revelation.