In search of faith, hope and love

2nd March 2007 at 00:00
In the same week as Tony Blair met representatives of the Scottish business community and heard their perceptions of Scottish education, and the widening gap between the rich and poor was reported (and derided by the Prime Minister), Norman Drummond addressed the issue of journeying towards a purposeful life in the Edinburgh Lectures series at Napier University.

One Scottish home in three experiences poverty; one school child in nine will run away from home; half of Scottish children report depression; and the UK is reported to be 20th out of 20 among developed nations for the factors creating happiness and security among children.

Mr Drummond, founder of Columba 1400 and of Drummond International, mercilessly flayed the crass, consumerist culture in which such circumstances arise, in which hotels and casinos are the architectural monuments of the age and in which success is measured by the attainment of money and sex.

He brought similar criteria to bear when he confronted education, with its reliance on bureaucracy and paperwork and the judging of educational quality by facile numerical outputs. Against the appalling statistics of unhappy and unfulfilled children, he advocated that adults should offer "compassionate witness" and provide more reliable, consistent support and care for young people.

Mr Drummond's antidote was a contemporary restatement of Paul's ethical trinity of faith, hope and love. Faith he defined, not as a commitment but as acts, as the reiterated practice of loyalty, integrity and friendship.

He posited hope, not as groundless optimism but as the relentless pursuit of good. Love was being unselfish in the service of others.

Through his personal work and through Columba 1400, Mr Drummond's mission (and for all that he insists the discussion should not be posed in religious terms, his is indeed a mission) has been to develop ethically-challenging leadership models for, and dialogues with, a wide range of professional and social strata, from potential leaders of all ages to those from what he describes as "tough realities".

Mr Drummond's challenge for a "resurgent spirit in our consumerist age" is, alas, insufficient. Just as the politicians and the bureaucrats require the ethical wake-up call which he is delivering, the moralists also require a political call to arms.

The dishonesty, and the lack of integrity which characterise international geo-politics, is not because of a lack of Christian ethics among politicians. Indeed, it might even be suggested that many of those most explicit in announcing their Christian conviction are the least ethical.

It will be to the credit of Norman Drummond if the coming elections in Scotland are contested around ethical issues and if meaningful commitments come, in recognisably honest and humane terms, to tackle even a few of the problems which he identified.

Alex Wood is headteacher at Wester Hailes Education Centre in Edinburgh

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