Committed to the common good

edit_img_0108.jpgI must say it is an honour to lead a community that is so wholly invested in developing good young men. This term I have had the privilege of visiting Mentor Groups to meet with the boys and reaffirm their commitments to themselves, their families and the College community to embody the CBC gentleman. It is heartening to think that most of the students first made this pledge in Year 5 before their enrolment interview with what may have been their first ever signature scrawled onto the page. Talking to the boys about this responsibility, they noticeably sit taller and prouder, and recall what they have signed up for and why. While they might not fully grasp the deep moral purpose of our school, the boys appreciate and benefit from the values we promote.

This commitment that every boy makes to himself and the College has deep roots in the history and tradition of our school. Almost one hundred years after Edmund Rice established his first school in Ireland in 1802, CBC Fremantle was born. The year was 1901 and 30 young boys commenced their liberating education in a school hall constructed from roughly hewn limestone foraged from the site. Their families would have had high hopes for the rigorous religious and academic learning the Christian Brothers would deliver to these original CBC scholars, and this has not altered for the generations of young men who have passed through that very same building. When our boys sign the enrolment agreement, they are supported by the values and aspirations of their families who have chosen CBC for the specific purpose of developing the best possible young man he can be. Today that original old school building is our Blessed Edmund Chapel and it is the physical and spiritual heart of our College. In 2023, almost 900 students tread its sturdy wandoo floorboards – times have changed, but the need for good young men who stand up for what is right has not, and we thank our families for their support in this mission.

It's not an easy job to be a parent and there are many outside influences that affect our decisions and actions at any moment. Of course, we love our children beyond measure and worry about their safety and happiness. We are so fortunate with modern technology that we have access to our families and at any moment have our questions answered, but it comes at a cost. When speaking with parents about why their children have smart phones, there are two main responses: social pressure and safety. No-one seems entirely happy with the decision but we see this ubiquitous technology as a kind of necessary evil.

Smart phones do not make children safer. They propel children into a complex and dangerous world that is unsupervised, difficult to regulate and designed to be addictive. What is posted online is instant and often impossible to remove. What our children are exposed to is bullying, image-based abuse, extortion, threats, grooming, inappropriate content and addiction. Harmful acts are more often than not carried out by peers and their impact can be perilous. Young people act without thinking of the consequences, believing they are somehow separate from their online behaviour, and indeed this is happening with people of all ages. The keyboard warrior and trolling online syndrome prompts people to act like they never would in real life, and it provides an easy platform for insidious behaviour to flourish. It is great that programs are available that allow monitoring and control of online activity, but there can still be issues associated with smart phone usage. At this stage, the reality is, if you want your child to be safe, the best solution is the old-fashioned mobile phone without internet or camera.


Br Purdon with his class outside our original school building in 1905

Early adolescence is a time when belonging is so important. A sense of belonging has a significant impact on wellbeing, happiness and behavior, and has lasting effect into adulthood. Belonging makes our kids feel good – we know that and we celebrate it in so many ways. Unfortunately today, belonging and owning a smart phone go hand in hand and we need to bring this back into perspective. There is no longer just correlation between smart phone use and declining mental health in youth, there is proven causation. Educators, parents and mental health professionals are facing an emerging crisis, and by working together we can proactively achieve better outcomes for our young people. There is no easy solution – what works for some may not work for others – but we can be fully awake to the disadvantages of our children having these potentially damaging tools in their pocket and engage in a consistent strategy to change the perception of its use.

Today, outside in the Cloisters, the celebration of our founder is in full swing. Following a lovely community liturgy, the boys are now enjoying our annual festival with rides, food and loads of fun. Edmund Rice Day is an opportunity to reflect on and celebrate our values as a Catholic school in the Edmund Rice tradition, and to blow off some classroom cobwebs with their peers. It is a day that highlights our mutual goals, our common commitments and our shared journey towards being a better person – even as that well-aimed throw sends another teacher into the icy depths of the Dunk Tank! It is a day of belonging – no smart phones, no online games, no Snapchat or TikTok. The only photos that will be taken are by our College photographer, Tom Yeates, who will pop them onto our parent portal so you can see your boys enjoying this beautiful day.

We are so blessed to belong to this community. I hope you have an incredible weekend with your family.

Ms Jenny Knox