Dr Stringer delivered her first assembly of the year to the Senior School on Thursday 5th September. Taking as a starting point the question, ‘What On Earth Are We Doing Here?’, Dr Stringer delivered a far-reaching meditation on the purpose and power of girls’ education in the modern world, which held students and staff rapt throughout.
In her search for an answer to the question of why we were all together that morning, Dr Stringer did not shy away from the challenges facing the girls. Rather, with refreshing élan, she contextualised today’s education system against a backdrop which includes the periodic tendency of governments to try and define school curricula as a means of determining ideology, as well as the impact of Pisa tables in triggering an ‘arms race of education’ in which it is all too possible for the individual and her personal development to get lost.
Alongside these challenges, Dr Stringer considered the obstacles presented by our particular historical moment. Climate change, a loss of faith in political solutions, the erosion of democratic norms and the changing nature of the workplace as a result of globalisation and automation – all will contribute to changing our environment and our lives beyond recognition.
Today’s student body will become the leaders, thinkers and problem-solvers of tomorrow, the ones who will rise up to meet the challenges bequeathed by previous generations and help not merely themselves, but all of us.
And yet Dr Stringer remained sanguine and even, with certain caveats, optimistic about the future of the girls assembled before her.
And the reason for this optimism? Dr Stringer was unambiguous: it is because girls’ schools such as OHS have a long tradition of going against the tide of popular orthodoxy, of using intelligence, moral instinct and resourcefulness to stand up for what is right. There is plentiful evidence of such spirit, Dr Stringer claimed, in the history of OHS – but there was also plentiful evidence of it, she added, in the fantastic achievements and spirit of the girls sitting before her.
Thus, Dr Stringer answered her question of what we are doing here by looking to the past and finding there not just doom and gloom, but grounds for hope. The reason we are here, she suggested, is because the proud traditions of Oxford High School and the GDST will equip today’s student body to become the leaders, thinkers and problem-solvers of tomorrow, the ones who will rise up to meet the challenges bequeathed by previous generations and help not merely themselves, but all of us.