Don’t Make Assumptions

It was a pleasure this week to have Year 3 and 4 together for a socially distanced assembly in the larger main church congregational space at Haven Green Baptist Church. The subject of the assembly was to explore how assumptions can so often lead to misconceptions and misunderstandings. As all-boys school assumptions are often made as to the nature of the school ethos and that, the stereotypical assumptions made of testosterone-fuelled, competitive, boisterous and often entitled males, which can feed, into a toxic commentary that really could not be any further from the truth.

I have said on so many occasions during my first year here at Durston, to anyone who will listen, at how considerate, kind, and intuitively in touch with their feelings and those of others around them that the boys are here. But back to this morning. I started by asking what was meant by an assumption – an immediate response came back from one of our 8 year olds in 4O; when you think something is true but you have no proof that it actually is. Spot on I said.

I followed up with a short story to try to illustrate the point that I thought I might share with you.

One day two cars are driving around the narrow lanes of Cornwall. A man in one car and a woman in another car. It’s a warm beautiful day and both drivers have their windows down. Now the two cars are coming towards each other from opposite directions. They are speeding along these narrow lanes with high sides so that they can’t see ahead very well and certainly can’t see themselves approaching each other. Around a tight bend they come upon each other at the last moment. They both slam on their brakes and narrowly squeeze past, without damaging the paintwork – it was really close. As the woman passes the man in his car she shouts through her window ‘Pig!!’ Quick as a flash the man shouts back ‘Cow!!’ And so they pass, the man speeds up again and around the next corner comes head to head with a pig and crashes to avoid it.

So often we only get half of the information – we invent in our minds our own narrative, a reality for us that has very little to do with what is actually true. The man jumped to a conclusion that he was being insulted, but without the facts ended up thinking the worst instead of realising that the woman was simply warning him that there was a pig in the road just around the next corner.

A salutary story that the boys were quick to apply to their own everyday interactions. Having the bravery to ask questions and to try to look at the bigger picture helps not only in managing our friendships and interpersonal dealings with each other, but it is also an important skill to be able to step back, take stock and keep an open mind to what we often see before us. I was equally impressed by the way, with the boy’s understanding of diversity, discrimination and the protected characteristics around gender, which were also thrown into this morning’s assembly for good measure. A link to the short clips I showed the boys can be found here, and here.