From the Headmaster

Michael Parker began as Headmaster of Newington in January 2019.

A message from Michael Parker

August 2019

On Optimism 

I recently spoke to Newington boys about reasons to be optimistic about the world. I used the book Factfulness by Hans Rosling as the basis of my material. It poses a number of interesting questions … with even more interesting answers.  

It is easy for young men to be pessimistic about the way things are and will be, which in turn can lead to depression and mental health issues. The news and current affairs cycle can look pretty bad. There are some genuine long-term issues such as climate change that boys have every right to be concerned about. The strictures of school can conflict with an adolescent desire for independence, leading in some cases to cynicism. Social media doesn’t help.  

But there is plenty to celebrate about the modern world. If we got a choice would we really choose to live in any other time? If we did, the chances are we would end up a serf or a slave leading a life that was, as philosopher Thomas Hobbes said, nasty, brutish and short. Even if we got lucky enough to become a nobleperson, we would have to put up with tooth decay, body odour, disease and a diet that couldn’t even start to match what we can pick up in the fresh food aisle at Woolies. We need to remind our young people, who have only lived a fraction of our lives, how good things are and of the many reasons for optimism in their lives as they head into the 21st century.  

The insights provided in Factfulness are pretty powerful. Child labour, world hunger and plane crash deaths have all decreased (as well as many other terrible things). Immunisation, electricity, water purity and movie production have all increased (as well as many other good things). It’s not a complete picture of our world, but it’s a pretty exciting one.  

The optimist in me hopes our boys went home bursting to talk about how they heard that the world they are heading into is a fantastic place. The realist in me knows almost all their parents will have had to raise the subject with them. However, together at school and at home, we can help give our boys a world view that gives them plenty of reason to look forward to the rest of their lives.

Term 2 2019

To read past messages from the Headmaster, click here.

About the Headmaster

Michael holds a combined Arts/Law degree and a Masters of Education from the University of Sydney. Whilst at university, he worked in one of Australia’s leading law firms before pursuing his passion for education.  He taught English and served as a Housemaster at Cranbrook before travelling overseas to take up an exchange position at Eton College. 

In 2002 he joined Newington, where he was a highly successful Head of English and the subject of the SBS documentary ‘Inspiring Teachers’. He has a healthy level of Black and White running through his veins as a result of his time here.

 After five years in that role, he was appointed Deputy Headmaster at Cranbrook, where he served for seven years before progressing to become Headmaster at Oxley College, Bowral, in 2014.  Under his leadership, Oxley’s academic performance and survey results across students, teachers and staff rose markedly.

Michael is the author of 10 books, most recently Talk With Your Kids:  Conversations about Big Ideas and Talk With Your Kids:  Conversations about Ethics. His YA novel Doppelganger (Penguin) was shortlisted for the NSW Premier’s Award in 2007 and his children’s book You Are A Star (Walker Books) has been published in the US, UK, Brazil, China and Korea. 

He is widely travelled, particularly in the Himalayas, with four major treks under his belt, including past Camp One at 20,000 feet on Mt Everest in Tibet. He is married to Fiona, an English literature academic at UNSW, and has two teenage daughters, Julia and Elena.

Michael is committed to open engagement with students and the school community at large.  He is a strong believer in creating a teaching environment that engenders critical thinking among the boys. His aim is to foster a culture that combines improved academic performance with enduring pastoral care programs to ensure our boys are prepared for an unpredictable and constantly changing workplace.