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The Cheapest is Not Always the Best

The school year Ambrose Treacy College has well and truly started for 2018. The introductions and welcoming programs are now behind us and as a school we have settled into the very important routines of teaching and learning. The New Year intentions, the academic plans and the study guides have been clearly put in place by Ms Kath Little our Dean of Learning. It is all go from here. But how do we go from here, as teachers, students and parents?

I went clothes shopping over the holiday break, mostly from necessity and partly to get out of the cold. I was in Oxford UK, visiting family and it was much colder than I prefer, so going into a warm shop was a good recovery session. The shop in question was Walters of Oxford at 10 Turl Street, a place that can boast more than 150 years of business history, impressive longevity in the retail industry!

The shop sold simple clothes, timeless style, good material, sound workmanship and everything to outfit a gentleman. The clothes were not cheap, but they were not at extortionate prices either. They had a few “sale” items to attract the roaming eye, but it was old stock of random sizes that were probably not selling well.
Then I noticed, in the wooden stairwell leading up to the first floor, was this large sign:

I was most impressed. It reminded me of “The First Law of Thermodynamics”, which, translated into plain English is “There is no such thing as a free lunch”. The “Conservation of Energy” is a basic law of physics that refuses to be violated. As the sign says “When you pay too little, you sometimes lose everything, because the thing you bought was incapable of doing the thing it was bought to do. The common law of business prohibits paying a little and getting a lot – it can’t be done.”

With a little research, I found that the author of this piece, John Ruskin, was a former student of Oxford, although apparently, he was very sick during that stage of his life. He eventually graduated and became a successful art critic amongst other things. I wonder if there is more scope to reflect on the current 21st century social reality in the blight of John Riskin’s thoughts. Do we want everything quickly and cheaply, fast but not sturdy? Do we want a disposable culture? If so, do we risk obtaining something that was “incapable of doing the thing it was bought to do”?

As teachers and as guides for our ATC students we should keep this message front of mind. If we put too little effort into our important tasks, then we risk losing everything, meaning the time and opportunity that education can bring to our students. The students themselves can appreciate their part in this opportunity too.

I left Walters of Oxford, 10 Turl Street with clothing – two business shirts and a waist coat, and with the reassurance that by investing in the important things, that being our students, we can make a difference to life long outcomes.

Email the author, Greg Quinn Assistant Dean of Learning.