God is Grace: The Hoi Polloi
Personal Instructions (2 Timothy 4:6-8,17-28)
A reflection on the Second Reading from Feast Day of St Peter & St Paul (Year C)
Written by Mr Casimir Douglas
“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” (2 Timothy 4:7)
In writing the Pauline Epistles, St Paul used a technique known as philophronesis. Far from being confined to the annals of history, this atavistic literary device still has contemporary application in the form of the humble school newsletter. Epistolary works of the early Christians were characterised by using this technique in their correspondence. Philophronesis is the literary process whereby the writer attempts to duplicate the intimacy of face-to-face contact and re-establish the friendship by presenting their theological directives in a more conversational rather than academic and edictal style.
The Pauline Epistles are a rich source of theological guidance, ecclesial directives and formed a ‘Bible’ for early Christians on how to live in the way of Christ. In Chapter 5 of the letter of St Paul to the Romans, the phrase ‘the many’ is repeated almost ad nauseam: “For just as by the one man’s disobedience the many are made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous” (Romans 5:19). In this passage, St Paul is explaining to the early Christian communities of Rome, who were suffering under the persecution of the Roman Empire, the relationship between the actions of the apocryphal Adam from the Book of Genesis and person of Jesus in an effort the highlight the redeeming grace available to all who would pursue the way of Christ.
However, the repeated use of the term ‘the many’ in this chapter is curious. Who is ‘the many’ to whom St Paul is referring? Surely not the early Christian community to whom he wrote, who certainly were few in comparison to the vast authority of the Roman Empire. The term ‘the many’ in St Paul’s letters is a loaded term that derives inspiration from the phrase in the Greek language, hoi polloi. The term hoi polloi is an Ancient Greek expression that directly translates as, ‘the many’, or more strictly speaking, “the majority”.
Hoi polloi, in the last 100 years, has been used in the English language as a derogatory remark. Its use as a slur has its origin in the 19th century when the semantics of the phrase were altered. According to Lord Byron (a renowned British poet in the early 1800’s), one was only considered to be truly enlightened academically if they were familiar with Greek and Latin, and there were very few of these men at the time. Those who were not likewise educated were considered less intellectual and less enlightened and therefore part of the hoi polloi. Academics used the term to distinguish themselves from ‘the majority’ who they considered lesser than themselves. Thus the emergence of the derogatory nature of the term. Synonyms include ‘the great unwashed’, ‘the peons’ and ‘the rabble’.
Naturalist and evolutionist Charles Darwin also used the phrase in reference to his matriculation from the University of Cambridge as an undergraduate student when writing his autobiography in the 1870s: “By answering well the examination question in Paley, by doing Euclid well, and by not failing miserably in Classics, I gained a good place among the hoi polloi, or crowd of men who did not go in for honours.”
It has also been used for many other commercial enterprises in the past century, having been adopted by various businesses, music groups, literary journals and blogs. L. Ron Hubbard also used it as the name of an alien race in his Space Opera narratives of Scientology. 75 million years ago, Hubbard’s hoi polloi came about as a result of the Galactical Confederacy’s tyrannical leader, Xenu, blowing up his captured subjects by throwing them into Earth’s volcanoes and then attacking them with nuclear weapons. Once placated, these subjects were forced to watch a super colossal (his words) 3D motion picture for 36 days straight that was aimed at causing the inception of specific ideas in their psyche.
‘Hoi polloi’ has also appeared in many other forms of media by being; mentioned on Larry King Live, uttered by Chuck Bass on Gossip Girl, sung by Duran Duran and used as a topic for teaching by John Keating (Robin Williams) in Dead Poet’s Society. The school newsletter article genre benefits greatly from the technique of philophronesis in that it attempts to convey information about the life of hundreds of students en masse whilst retaining a personal and intimate connection with readers. Our students are the hoi polloi.
Despite its many and varied uses and appearances in modern English, my intention when referring to our students as the hoi polloi, is to use the phrase semantically as it was derived in the Ancient Greek language and coined by Thucydides, an Athenian War General come historian. In his works on the Peloponnesian War (a war fought between Athens & Sparta in the 5th century BC), he recalls a speech by an influential Athenian politician, Pericles, that was delivered during a public funeral that was held at the end of the First Peloponnesian War for all those who had died. Pericles spoke:
“It is true that we are called a democracy, for the administration is in the hands of hoi polloi [the majority], and not Hoi Oligoi [the few]”.
In this passage, Pericles is extolling the nature and the benefits of Athenian democracy while cursing and mocking Spartan governance. When using the phrase Hoi Oligoi, Pericles refers to the power structure existent in Spartan culture that is now referred to as an oligarchy, a term coined by Aristotle. At the time (4th-5th century BC) Sparta was ruled by a small group of aristocratic, wealthy and often tyrannical individuals.
Pericles was not only hoping to instil a sense of trust and pride in the Athenian government among his people but was aiming to accentuate the difference in the empowerment of the people in Athens as opposed to Sparta. The Spartans were held prisoners in their own lands by their plutocracy, whilst the Athenians were responsible for electing politicians into power, power in the hands of the hoi polloi. When Pericles spoke of the hoi polloi, he spoke not of a dumb, unenlightened rabble but of a people empowered. The power to influence, the power to create, the power to change, the power to make a difference. But it was a power the Athenians had to fight for, lest it be taken away should they succumb to the Spartan armies.
This school newsletter article is addressed to the hoi polloi, not the uneducated riffraff that the Three Stooges referred to in their 1935 film, but to the powerful and enlightened majority. For me this means that I am writing for the people of the St Thomas More’s community, who are empowered to influence, create, change and make a difference in our world... and are willing to fight for it.
Friday 1st July, 2022
Phillip Von Foltz, Germany, 1853
Dear Parents and Carers,
Grace to you and peace.
After weeks of anticipation, the School Aquarium has arrived! The pumps, filters and lights are on, and the fish are home. The tank is filled with neon tetras, angel fish, shimmering blue gourami and more! The students have been eagerly and excitedly naming the fish. And indeed, the students will be given a formal opportunity to name our fish!
Introducing an aquarium to St Thomas More’s Catholic School has a range of benefits for our students, both academically and pastorally. It also provides additional life, light and colour into the learning environment. This is not a short-term measure but is intended to be integrated and enmeshed into the life and learning program of the school as a permanent fixture. Its potential impact in each of the domains in the life of the school community is listed below.
Leadership – It is the responsibility of our School Captains, House Captains & SRC to feed the fish in the aquarium and to provide support with the regular cleaning of the tank. This responsibility will rotate through our student leader’s groups on a rostered weekly basis. The intention then is for our School Captains, at the end of each year, to teach the incoming students leaders how to care for the fish and the aquarium itself, passing down the knowledge from year to year.
Wellbeing – Empirical research is conclusive that the introduction of an aquarium into the learning environment provides the following benefits for students in terms of their mental health:
- Reduced levels of stress
- Improvements in sleep quality
- Lowered blood pressure and heart rate
- Decreased anxiety levels
- Improved focus and creativity
- Increased levels of calm and clarity in decision-making
Cognitive Development – Again, research indicates that introducing an aquarium into the learning environment inspires cognitive development, sparks imagination, and improves social and emotional skills.
Visual Learning Space – The intention is to position the aquarium in the learning environment as a visual learning space. It will eventually include information posters providing insight into the species of fish living in the aquarium, information on the specific environment developed for the aquarium to support the life of the different types of fish, and instructions on how and when to feed the fish, and how to clean the tank. The intention is also to use augmented reality to enable learning through engagement with technology in the space so that students will be able to observe the fish in the aquarium environment but then also able to scan the augmented reality symbol and be able to view a video of the fish being observed in their natural environment. They could even virtually explore the St Patrick’s College Aquaculture Centre, or other large aquariums, from this space.
Curriculum – Stewardship was the key principle outlined by Pope Francis in his encyclical, Laudato si. Sustainability is a cross-curricular priority in the Australian Curriculum and should be addressed in all subjects, but it should also be present in all learning environments. The aquarium is a valuable and tangible learning tool and learning space to support students in developing their understanding of these concepts, which are central to our Catholic identity and academic enterprise.
Pathways – The provision of an aquarium for the school will enable students to develop an interest in, curiosity for, and experience of aquaculture before it appears on the list of elective subjects they can choose from at St Patrick’s College. Establishing these pathways validates the centre as a communal resource for Catholic education in the region and as a critical learning experience for our students and families.
Below is a short video of the School Aquarium in all its life, light and colour!
GOSPEL VALUE AWARDS: DIGNITY
At our Monday morning Prayer Assembly this week, I spoke to our students about our focus Gospel value for the month of June: DIGNITY. I highlighted to our students that to live with the value of dignity is to: be yourself, try your best, and be proud. We centred on the importance, value, and call to be. I shared with the students my experience of playing soccer the day before. My team had played against the team of Fr Chathura Silva. And unfortunately for Fr Chatty, my team prevailed. I shared the story of the game in two different ways, one in which I was ‘boastful’, and the other in which I was ‘humble’. The students were quick to tell me which example was boastful and which one was humble. We must be proud of our work but be humble in our expression of it.
The key message is to be proud of our achievements and utilise and celebrate our talents, as Jesus taught us in the Parable of the Talents: “For to all those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance” (Matthew 25:29).
The following students received a Gospel Value Award during our School Assembly this Friday as nominated by their class teacher for exemplifying being proud (and humble) this week:
|Archer Coombe||Prep More|
|Estelle Williams||Prep Thomas|
|Summa Zuj||Grade 1/2 More|
|Dominique Williams||Grade 1/2 Saint|
|Mikayla Bardenhagen||Grade 1/2 Thomas|
|Lucy Muller||Grade 3/4 More|
|Raghavi Sompalli||Grade 3/4 Saint|
|Elliot Wheatley||Grade 3/4 Thomas|
|Alex Smart||Grade 5/6 More|
|George Johnston||Grade 5/6 Saint|
|Cooper Tasker||Grade 5/6 Thomas|
These students will also attend the Principal’s Morning Tea this coming Tuesday (5th July) morning during first break at 10:50am.
Speaking of being proud of our work! Next Wednesday, 6th July, the Mid-Year Reports for all students will be published on Compass. The Mid-Year Report is the major, formal, formative feedback communication between school and home. The purpose of the report is to provide parents with a holistic overview of their child’s educational progress and engagement in life at the school. I cannot overemphasise how important it is for parents to read and absorb this document and to discuss the successes, the learning, and the opportunities for improvement with their child. Research is conclusive that parental engagement in their child’s education significantly influences a child’s academic and social outcomes. The family’s value on their child’s education begets the value that the child places on their education. We are so proud of the educational progress of all our students at St Thomas More’s Catholic School during Semester 1. In the midst of the challenges provided by COVID-19 and the busyness of school life and home life, we must marvel at the resilience and commitment of our students to their learning.
STAFF SPIRITUALITY DAY
Our students this week were blessed with a long weekend, as Monday (27th June) was a Student Free Day in which all our staff participated in the Staff Spirituality Day at the Tailrace Centre, where we were also joined by the staff of Sacred Heart Catholic School and Our Lady of Mercy Catholic School. The professional learning day was hosted by Dr Dan White. After ten years of leadership and service, Dr Dan White has recently retired as the Executive Director of Sydney Catholic Schools for the Archdiocese of Sydney. Prior to his appointment Dr White was the Director of Catholic Education for the Archdiocese of Hobart for six years. He is currently providing consultancy and professional learning support for school communities and educational systems across Australia.
Dr White’s focus for the day was to create space for our staff to encounter the mystery of our faith, to deepen our knowledge and understanding of the context 1st Century Palestine into which the mystery of the Incarnation occurred, and to enable the staff gathered to examine the truths of the Gospel to provide a lens for us to analyse and identify opportunities for us to improve and enhance the life of our schools.
We thank Dr White for his wisdom, pacing, presence, and patience.
May the grace of Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all.
Mr Casimir Douglas
On Wednesday 29th June, three brave ambassadors from the STM Conservation Club went to the ABC Studio in Launceston, before school, to record a promotion for plastic-free July. Isabelle, Georgia and Tilly were confident and enthusiastic as they read their carefully rehearsed words in the recording studio under the guidance of Ross Marsden. They also met Belinda King, who warmly welcomed us to the ABC studio.
Special thanks to Trish Haeusler from Plastic Free Launceston for inviting STM to participate. (You might remember Trish's name from last year as she coordinates the clean-up event that we did at Hobbler's Bridge Reserve last year.) Special thanks, also, to all of our current Conservation Club students who meet each week to make caring for the environment a priority at school - thank you, Lillian, Ivy F, Lola, Halle, Tilly, Georgia and Issy! You are all amazing.
Listen to ABC Northern Tasmania's Breakfast program during July, and you might hear our students and their tips on hosting a plastic-free birthday party!
Mrs Tracey Kidd M.Ed L, B.Ed, BT
The Pass The Baton Challenge is marching on, with our school officially reaching the halfway point on Wednesday.
3/4S have spent the week marching on in Western Australia, virtually walking from Broome and Exmouth.
And hot off the press ... just this afternoon, they reached their goal!
The Baton is now in the hands of 1/2T, who will take it from Exmouth to Geraldton, a journey of 850kms.
As we head into the final week of Term Two, we wish them luck, and fingers crossed, they can complete their journey by the end of the week.
Why not spend this weekend sharing a good gag and bringing it in to share with your class on Monday or Tuesday (at the latest) next week.
We will celebrate International Tell a Joke Day on Wednesday (July 6).
On that day, we will be sending out a link with all the best jokes from each class ... and there is a prize for the joke that can make Mr Douglas laugh the most.
So hurry and get those jokes written down, and we look forward to sharing the result next week.
Please note that there will be no lunch orders available on Monday, 25th July, (first day of term 3) as St Patrick's College has a student free day on this date. Lunch orders will resume on Wednesday, 27th July.
St Patrick's College have also advised that due to the increasing cost of supplier fuel levies, freight costs and continual produce price increases, there will be pricing increases on all lunch order items from the beginning of Term 3. They apologise for any inconvenience caused.
Please contact Shaun Johnson at email@example.com or 0430 740 039 for further information.