In his 1985 paper entitled A Conceptual
Framework for the Development and Maintenance of a Co-ordinated School
Culture, Dr Ross Millikan writes:
"Culture is that system
of shared meanings, cognitions, symbols and experiences which are expressed
in the behaviours and practices of the members of an affiliated group,
and which gives them both social definition and a sense of association."
Culture, he says, is inherited, but
not static. It is perpetually tested, evaluated and refined.
It is omnipresent, frequently discerned very quickly, and interprets and
"Culture is that complex whole which
includes arts, morals, laws, customs, beliefs and knowledge, and all other
capabilities and habits acquired by man as a member of society."
Central to Millikan’s framework are
"Conceptual/Intangible Elements" of school culture. These elements
- philosophy and
which, he claims, are "foundational
to all decision-making."
This paper attempts a re-discovery
of the conceptual/intangible elements of Wesley College’s culture by referring
often to the writings of John Wesley between 1738 and 1791 and
of James Waugh, Inaugural President, and James Corrigan, first Headmaster
of the College, in 1866. There is one quote, also, from the Melbourne
Whilst changing times, circumstances
and personnel inevitably and necessarily temper essential values, the following
were present in Wesley College’s genesis.
God, through Christ, fulfils
"I think it was five this morning
that I opened my Testament on these words: 'There are given unto
us exceeding great and precious promises, even that we should be partakers
of the Divine nature’..."
"... while he was describing the
change which God works in the heart through faith in Christ, I felt my
heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone
for salvation; ..."
"The power I have I never sought.
It was the unadvised, unexpected result of the work which God was pleased
to work by me."
"The best of all is, God is with
"... we ought especially to recognize
the goodness of that Great Being whom in this undertaking we desire to
serve and glorify."
"... we desire to place our institution
under the fostering wing of Almighty God."
"We wish it to be a Bethel, not a
Bethaven - a house of God, not a house of vanity."
Education is for fulfilling individuals.
"Some parents could not afford to
put their children to school, so they remained as wild as an ass’s colt.
Others were sent to school where they learned to read and write, but no
more ... Our design is to train up children in every branch of useful
"It is not only giving instruction
and conferring accomplishments. It is that, but it is more than that.
It has to deal with body and mind, and with heart and conscience ... the
better to choose rightly between truth and error, good and evil."
"... we aim steadily at training
into healthy development the whole nature of the pupil, physical, intellectual
Education is for fulfilling society.
"The wants of our age and our adopted
country ... demand an increasing number of thoroughly, Christianly educated
"They" (schools) "refine and elevate
"... we look to the future with
hope and confidence, cherishing the laudable ambition, by the Divine blessing,
of making ourselves felt as a power for good in this great and rapidly
Education is a passion.
"It is not too much to say that
general education ... was raised and stimulated by the Wesleyan revival.
Methodism was born in a university, and has always been a friend of mental
culture. Many of its first ministers were scholars. She descended
into the cottage and cabin, and gave the lower orders of England such an
intellectual upheavement as nothing before had ever done. She had
formed Sunday-schools before the name of Robert Raikes was heard.
Her Wesley wrote grammars of Latin, Greek and Hebrew, a system of logic,
and many other works besides for the encouragement of general learning.
He founded Kingswood School for the common people."
"Surely the importance of this enterprise"
(Kingswood School) "is apparent, even from the difficulties that attend
it. I have spent more money, and time, and care on this than almost
any other enterprise I ever had, and still it exercises all the patience
I have. But it is worth all the labour."
In short, Wesley College’s raison d’etre,
as gleaned here, is a deep commitment to the education of individuals and
society to fulfilment as an expression of God’s will.
There are a number of specific reflections
of these values. The following notions are wise:
The School and its Church have
an intimate relationship.
"she" (the Church) "is to purify
the fountains of instruction. She is to encourage and promote the
expansion and improvement of the human mind."
Wesley’s church-relatedness guards its
priorities, forces it to account beyond the demands of its clientele and
ultimately defines its nature.
The School is open-hearted.
"The parents of some pay for their
schooling; but the greater part, being very poor, do not; so that the expense
is defrayed by voluntary contributions."
The Argus, 11 March, 1858:
"The new institution" (Wesley College)
"is to be conducted, not on sectarian, but on general and catholic religious
principles. In subservience to this, it is designed to afford to
the youth of our colony a first-class classical and commercial education,
as well as instruction in the higher branches of literature, at a reasonable
cost so as to place the advantages of the establishment within the reach
of most persons in the colony."
"A number of boarders, equal to
one for every twenty-five, and day-scholars equal to one for every twenty-five,
will be admitted as free scholars. They must be children who have
lost one or both of their parents - whose parents or friends are unable
to pay the usual fees."
Here is a clear desire to make Wesleyan
education accessible as widely as possible, particularly to those for whom
circumstances and cost are prohibitive.
The School offers breadth of
experience for the fulfilment of students in their own time.
"The course embraces the ordinary
curriculum of superior public schools, with perhaps more than ordinary
time and attention devoted to the subjects essential to commercial pursuits,
embracing the various branches of English, with arithmetic and bookkeeping."
In the 1986 Wesley College Chronicle,
Norman Young recounted a
staggeringly broad curriculum for John Wesley’s 18th Century Kingswood
School claiming that John Wesley would consider modern Wesley’s curriculum
lacking in breadth!
Certainly, breadth of experience has
been a firmly fixed philosophical plank in the Wesleyan educational platform.
Such breadth enables widest opportunity for students.
The School is willing to change
to maintain breadth of experience for the fulfilment of students in their
(Referring to a parliamentary report
recommending the upgrading of subjects other than the classics.)
"....organization of schools is gradually undergoing important changes
.... Our own previous experience fully approved this arrangement, and....we
felt free to avail ourselves of all its advantages from the first....it
necessitates a larger staff of teachers, contributes greatly to the advancement
A willingness to anticipate needs is
a hallmark of Wesleyan education. John Wesley’s insistence on schooling
anticipated by a century moves for universal education. Wesley College,
Melbourne, in the 1860’s, was alert to change as noted above and, certainly,
in the last 15 or so years it has been sensitive to altering educational
priorities and needs. We are here today because of this particular
aspect of our philosophy.
The School-teacher is paramount.
"I found two schoolmasters as I
wanted, men of honesty and of sufficient knowledge, who had talents for,
and their hearts in, the work."
" ....I honour the competent, painstaking,
conscientious schoolmaster ....he is possessed of a mighty influence, and
has much to do with shaping the character of the coming age."
"As head-master, I endeavour to
exercise a constant and careful supervision over the entire work of the
school; yet all my efforts in that respect must have failed were it not
for the very efficient staff of teachers with which it has been my happiness
to be associated, and to whose ability and faithfulness the success attained
is mainly due."
If the school is to comprehensively
value personal and societal fulfilment and found this on Christian belief
then such an undertaking is possible only with competent, committed and
The School is wholesome, happy
"The morals of all rightly conducted
schools are carefully fenced and guarded. They are conformed to the
character of a happy, cheerful home as much as possible, so that every
boy may feel that his teachers are among his best friends, and that the
lines have fallen unto him in pleasant places."
The school provides an atmosphere where
growth can occur. It is humane, caring and kindly. It is a
place where a number of varying individuals can find fulfilment.
The School is an illuminator,
"May our college be like an angel
standing in the sun, sending forth streams of light, for many a year throughout
In all this, the school need not be
apologetic. It has a role to actively promote the enrichment of the
society in which it exists, not only by educating its pupils but also by
just being there.
It may be said, in summary, that
Wesley College’s philosophical focus delineates the wisdom of a church-related,
broadly-based, adaptable and pupil-centred educational program executed
by excellent and valued teachers in an open-hearted, friendly school which
enriches and enlivens its society.
The school’s Wesleyan Methodist roots
also in-lay certain positions or directions which will affect its operations.
In a conservative but shifting 18th
Century English society, John Wesley’s central teachings and those of his
earliest Methodist societies were first that all men and women needed to
be ‘saved’ and second that before God all souls were of equal value.
(The contrast between equality before
God and inequality before men eventually led many Methodists to be effective
critics of the social and political order. So began Methodism’s renowned
social conscience which many 20th century Methodist Sunday School children
had defined for them as WOWSER-ism -- We Only Want Social Evils
The application of these teachings
led to immense effort, required excellent organization and demanded sensible
John Wesley’s personal efforts are
legendary: prolific author and editor; 250,000 miles travelled; 52,400
sermons between 1738 and 1791.
During that time, an organization
of societies which soon led to a complex system giving centralized direction
but localised power through a network of Congregations, Circuits, Districts
and Annual Conferences evolved.
From, and within, local Congregations
to Annual Conference, small groups met in mutual encouragement and edification
acknowledging the personal relationship that God had with each person and
the authority of the Bible.
The involvement of members at all
levels was achieved through class leaders, local (lay) preachers (dating
from 1740), trustees, leaders and committee members working with ordained
Such a structure, relying as it did
on lay involvement and commitment, was revolutionary in the 18th and 19th
centuries and was aimed at the widest possible outreach to all people in
all conditions, particularly those neglected and disadvantaged.
As a sidelight to this theme of innovation
here is John Wesley’s written account of a new experience for him:
"I could scarce reconcile myself at first to this strange way of preaching
in the fields ... having been all my life, till very lately, so tenacious
of every point relating to decency and order, that I should have thought
the saving of souls almost a sin, if it had not been done in a church."
(The 'Methodists' didn’t break from
the established Church of England till 1795 -- 51 years after
the first Annual Conference and 4 years after Wesley’s death. Methodism,
with its founder, had stood, somehow, within and yet apart from its doctrinal
and organizational 'parent'.)
Finally, much of the enthusiasm and
unification needed for this enterprise and the imparting of knowledge and
emotion was buoyed and enshrined in the hymns of Charles Wesley --
singing was important.
Many characteristics from this all
too brief account of the peculiarly Methodist 'way' will be familiar.
Effort, organization, innovation,
enthusiasm, fellowship, involvement, time, mutual support and a social
conscience are required if, as David Prest often and rightly reminds contemporary
Wesleyans, each individual in our school is unique and of infinite worth.
"Standing within and yet apart" also may be familiar -- and
This paper has aimed at exploring
the conceptual/intangible elements (values, philosophy and ideology) of
Wesley College’s culture.
These elements, as Ross Millikan
writes, "while closely inter-related, are discrete to the extent that the
latter two can be conceived of as reflecting greater degrees of specificity,
selectivity or focus within the former."
Millikan also explores, in some detail,
the "Expressive/Tangible Elements" of school culture which he catalogues
Written and Aural Symbolism:
Aims and Objectives; Curriculum; Language; Sagas and Legends; Myths and
Physical and Visual Symbolism:
Crests and Mottos; Icons; Uniforms/Dress; Resources and Facilities; Artefacts
Enacted or Behavioural Symbolism:
Rituals; Ceremonies; Metaphors; Organizational Structures; Operational
Procedures; Rules and Regulations; Rewards and Sanctions.
As well, Dr Millikan appends a set of
"Perceptual-Observational Bases for Considering the Nature and Degree of
a Co-ordinated and Constructive School Culture" to his paper.
This is a 'checklist' of desirable
characteristics of a worthy school culture. It may be useful to peruse
these with particular reference to numbers 1 and 2; 3 and 4; 20; 6; 17
and 18; 23 and 26.
"1. Members of the school
community have a clear perception about, understanding of, and are able
to articulate: the underlying values, philosophy and ideology of
the school (both that which is formally/officially presented as well as
that which is informally/unofficially practiced).
2. There is a clear
collective/shared vision about the operational direction and future mission
of the school.
3. The formal statements
of Aims and Objectives are unambiguous and understood by the school community.
These statements bear a direct relationship to the espoused values, philosophy
4. Curricula foci and
content are clearly established in accordance with the stated Aims and
Objectives, and are supported with appropriate and consistent levels of
staffing and material resources. The long-term vision is clear, but
is subject to continual re-appraisal and planned up-dating in accordance
with the needs of students.
20. The operational
metaphors have been carefully adopted and adapted to closely reflect the
espoused values, philosophy and ideology of the school. The language,
curriculum and operations of the school reflect the adopted metaphors,
each supporting and re-inforcing the others.
6. Teachers and administrative
personnel understand the selected operational metaphors of the school and
choose their words very carefully to help ensure that ambiguity in communication
with students is minimized. They also recognize the power of words,
and the potential for misinterpretation by students and colleagues.
17. Organizational structures
are both people and task oriented, and are flexible to accommodate shifts
in emphasis appropriate to particular situations and circumstances.
There is a clear relationship between the espoused values and philosophy
of the school and the organizational structures.
18. Operational procedures
and processes are again people and task oriented and closely align with
the organizational structures and the espoused values. The emphasis
is on support, flexibility, and responsiveness to each issue and context.
Negotiation is a high priority as is representativeness and influence in
policy and decision-making.
23. The leadership of
the school displays expertise, consistency, sensitivity, flexibility, responsiveness,
trust, consideration and commitment in interaction with both students and
staff. The Principal/Headmaster/mistress embodies the values and
philosophy of the school and conveys a clear vision for its future.
26. The general appearance
and ethos of the school convey a concern for image and for interpersonal
relationships. The culture of the school has been carefully developed
and maintained as evidenced by a high order of reciprocity and reinforcement
between the various elements of the framework. The gestalt is a constructive
and co-ordinated school culture."
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