Monday, July 1, 2013

The Speech (given July 1973) by John Corlette -- You are invited to complete the exercise created by David Rhodes, found at the end of this blog post

An Address by the director given at the graduation ceremonies and prize giving in Exeter Hall, 3 July 1973
Annotation and numeration added by JC Society to aid identification of the Society's watchwords for its program "Certificate of Recogition.

1. Some of you probably without thinking too much about it, will have assumed that the goal of education is the acquisition of a body of knowledge which will enable you to pass the examinations set by universities, technical colleges or other such bodies.  You believe that success in these examinations may enable you to earn a better living and make more money so that you can more effectively satisfy your physical needs and desires and such other needs and desires as can be satisfied by these means.
2.  Whilst we agree that the ability to earn a good living is a necessary and important accomplishment we do not regard this as the goal of education but as a by-product of it.
3. We believe that the goal of education is, or should be, the development of the spiritual man, that is of that part of each one of us which, with development and training, is capable of a vision or direct apprehension of the purpose of life, of the true nature of ourselves, of the world in which we live and of such other worlds or states of being as may exist besides.
4. If we are able to achieve such illumination, the business of everyday life and its problems will be taken care of as a by-product, and such physical wealth as we may need for our passage through this life will follow the spiritual wealth which we have worked to achieve.
5. Hence, although we can and do and should work to equip ourselves as efficiently as possible with the tools necessary for earning our living, we shall do this with the more success, and at the same time achieve for ourselves lasting happiness and peace of mind, if we set as our primary goal the acquisition of spiritual wealth or the development of the spiritual man.
6. The organisation and practice of any educational establishment should therefore be such as to recognise this as the goal, and such as to contribute towards its achievement.
7. So, if an educator is to have any success in the accomplishment of his mission, he must take into account not only the basic aim of the development of the spiritual man, but also the nature of man and the practical means whereby he may help him towards his goal.
8. Now, man's nature is complex, but for the sake of simplicity and to provide a practical basis for action it can be divided into four main aspects, each of which influences and reacts to all the others. They are the physical, intellectual, emotional and spiritual.
9. Each of these four main aspects, if well nourished and well exercised, can help us to develop our spiritual side, help us to perceive truth which, as we approach it more nearly, will bring us closer to perfection or closer to the Eternal One, to identity with cosmic intelligence, cosmic energy, creative principle or Ultimate God according as you like to describe it.  This is the ultimate destiny of us all and the reason and purpose of our lives here on earth.
10. It follows that any education which helps to prepare man to fulfill the purpose of his life on earth, must nourish and exercise all four aspects of his nature and regard them of equal importance in the development of the whole man and in the satisfaction of his profoundest aspirations. The joy and happiness which all men seek can be attained only in this way. This is the path to self-realisation and through this to god-realisation which is our ultimate goal. 
11. All other satisfactions are either a means to this end or are a mistaken attempt to attain happiness by concentrating un one of these aspects, or perhaps two, and neglecting the others. This results in imbalance and dis-harmony and dis-ease.
12. So, how, in practice, and in a school, and with the material, human and otherwise at our disposal, do we set about this task?
13. Nothing, or very little, we do at Aiglon is haphazard, or done because other people do it or somebody has said it ought to be done that way.  Everything we do has been carefully thought out with reference to our basic aim and developed from first principles, and whenever new problems or questions arise, we seek their solution within the same context.  We ask ourselves, "Is the solution proposed consistent with our basic aim and principles?"
14. Since this point is not always well understood by those associated with the school, be they parents, staff, students or outsiders, it is perhaps worth giving a few examples of how it works out in our practice here.
15. For example, taking the physical aspect, we start from the premise that the body is the temple of the spirit. This can be stated in different ways. It is the house which "we" inhabit during the short span of our life on earth.  It is not "us."  It is an instrument which "we" use to express or manifest the various aspects of truth as "we" perceive them.
16. Therefore, the more perfect the body is as an instrument for this purpose, the greater will be its contribution towards the attainment of our goal.  We should therefore learn to care for it, nourish it, and exercise it in a way which will help it to function in the best possible way for this purpose.
17. So we have Morning PT, so called.  This should be a few minutes gentle jog-trot or the equivalent whose purpose is to stimulate the circulation of the blood after a night of relative stagnation, so that it may carry away for elimination some of the toxins accumulated during rest, and at the same time, circulate fresh oxygen from the lungs to all the cells in the body, thus helping to keep them in optimum condition.
18. Then we have the cold shower.  The skin is one of the major organs of elimination of toxic wastes from the body, and also acts as a kind of thermostat or controller of the body temperature.
19. To fulfill these tasks the skin must be kept in top condition.
20. Owing to the artificial kind of life that man today leads and the clothes he wears, the skin does not have the constant practice of having to respond to the forces of nature such as heat, cold and wet which in more primitive societies kept his skin healthy.
21. It is therefore necessary to do this deliberately, hence the cold shower to stimulate the operation of the thermostat for the control of body temperature, to stimulate the irrigation of the glandular and lymphatic systems and to stimulate the circulation of the blood.
22. With regard to Sports, games and expeditions.   Because of their value in developing and training different aspects of the character as well as for their value in the development of the body and the maintenance of health, every student is required during the course of the year (unless some medical reason prevents it) to:
a) Take part in at least one team game.
b) Ski during the winter and take part in ski expeditions.
c) Take part in expeditions on foot when snow and climatic conditions permit.
d) Follow a course of gymnastics appropriate to his ability.
23. These physical activities contribute also to the intellectual, emotional and spiritual development of the student.  Intelligence is required to perform physical activities well. Considerable emotional satisfaction can also be had from them, from the physical pleasure of doing, as well as from the satisfaction derived from successful performance, and from the companionship with and service to others.  All the foregoing plus the contact with nature also make their contribution to the spiritual development of the individual.
24. Now Food and Drink.  This is of the greatest importance, but owing to the bad feeding habits of modern civilisation and the resultant falsifying of natural instincts it is very difficult to handle correctly. quite apart from the difficulty of finding good produce, and cooks and housekeepers who understand what is required and are able and willing to carry out the policy.
25. Ideally all the raw materials for meals should be fresh and biologically grown without the use of pesticides or chemical fertilisers.   They should then be eaten raw where possible or conservatively cooked in such a way as to preserve the maximum amount of the nutritive elements in the food, especially in relation to vitamins, mineral salts and trace elements.
26. All refined foods such as white bread, white rice, white sugar, and anything made with or containing them should be eliminated from the diet as well as stimulating or toxic materials such as coffee, tea, chocolate, alcohol (including wine or beer) and "soft" and carbonated drinks, all of which contain sugar or chemical compounds of various kinds.
27. Efforts should be made to dissuade students from absorbing these things and candy and chewing gum, etc. between meals and when not in the school.  Since most children are brought up to value those unhealthy substances, the task is not an easy one.
28. A pure blood stream is the greatest defence against disease both of body and of mind.  The old tag "mens sana in corpore sane" - a healthy mind in a healthy body, has a great deal of truth in it.
29. Another of our basic principles is that we believe that it is the business of those who direct the school, first to set the standards which they believe the students should be aiming at, and state them in no equivocal fashion, and secondly that they should provide a method of grading for each aspect which will enable the student to know what progress the school authorities think he is making.  This grading should, if necessary and where possible, be accompanied by explanations which will help the student to understand his assessment and plan his future progress.
30. And so we have our different grading systems concerning the activities which are designed to help in the development of the four aspects of man's nature.  First we set standards
for the students to aim at, then by grading, we let them know how we think they are doing.  The object of grading is not to stimulate Competition with others but to let the student know what progress he is making.
31. Hence we have a grading system for studies, academic and artistic and practical, another for sports, games and the adventure training programs or expeditions, and a third for "the whole man."  This last is of course the key one and combines all the others in its assessment.
32. It charts the course of the development of the boy or girl as regards his character, sense of responsibility, maturity and general development in relation to the basic standards of conduct and morality which we lay down and which are derived, as far as we are able to understand them, from the  teachings of Jesus Christ and other great teachers.
33. This assessment has come to be known here as the Rank System, and is absolutely basic to the idea of education at Aiglon.
34. The term is, I think, unfortunate and misleading, with its military overtones, and perhaps someone can think of a more felicitous way of describing it.
35. It may be objected that an assessment of this kind must necessarily be subjective and therefore unfair. Of course it is subjective, but so are
all our judgements, except possibly in the case of mathematics where it can be argued that two will make four regardless of what anybody thinks about it.
36. However, this is no reason for teachers to avoid the responsibility of judging their pupils' work and progress, moreover this is precisely how promotion is accorded to us in real life outside school.  
37. We get promoted in our business or occupation and our salary increased precisely as we are able to convince our superiors in the hierarchy of our merits with reference to their requirements.  The exception to this is of course if we are members of a trade union, in which case, as things are today, our salaries are increased, not according to our merit, but according to the seriousness of the threats with which we are able to menace our employers. There have been attempts by students in some schools to follow this example by threatening the school authorities in various ways if they do not give them what they want.  This could not happen at Aiglon for the very simple reason that we would rather close the school than abandon our principles.
38. I hope these examples will give you some idea of how we arrive at the various practices which we employ at Aiglon.
39. Given our aim of the education of the whole man and our belief that the lynch pin of this is the development of the spiritual man, we believe that the solution of this problem ultimately rests in the development of the spiritual life of the individual,
40. This can be nourished through many channels.
41. First and foremost of course come the various world religions, the various denominations of the Christian Church, Judaism, Buddhism, Mohammedism, Janism, Hinduism -- to name some of the principal ones.
42. Then there is today an increasing number of groups all seeking the spiritual life along more or less independent lines, some owning allegiance to or at any rate inspiration from, one of the great religions or great Masters, others owning no specific allegiance but drawing inspiration from the wisdom of the ages wherever it may appear.
43. Other means for the development of the spiritual man lie in such techniques as contemplation, meditation, prayer and the growing insights of psychology and parapsychology.
44. Intimate contact with nature, too, is important, and a realisation of our living relationship with it.  Hence our adventure training programme.
45. The development of sensitivity to and the practice of art in all its forms provides a very positive channel for the development of the spirit; that is through music, painting, sculpture and all forms of craft -- to all of which of course we attach great importance here.
46. Absolutely essential too is a positive and loving relationship with all other people regardless of their origin, background or beliefs, and a positive and loving relationship with everything in the world and in the universe around us.
47. This was after all essentially the message which Jesus Christ brought to us.
48. At Aiglon we try, imperfectly no doubt, but always trying to do better, to put these ideas into practice.
49. So, next time you think something we do is stupid and won't help you to pass your exams or get a better job, just stop and remember that the education which we offer, whilst it does this, is designed to go far beyond it, to develop the whole of you and not just a part, to help you to become truly and intensely alive, to help you to a knowledge of and understanding of that part of you which I call the spiritual part, by attention whose dictates you can attain to much more than success in examinations and a good job, that is to lasting happiness.
J.C. Corlette  3 July 1973

THE EXERCISE created by David Rhodes

Imagine you had never heard of or knew John Corlette.  Imagine, also, that your memories of your student days have been wiped out, except for the barest details like the Swiss village Chesières, the O/A level exams, camping in the mountains, etc.  Let's assume, then, that you have no EMOTIONAL recollection of the educational value of your time in Chesières, whether it was a rewarding time in your life or not - all those things which loyal alumni feel so strongly when they reminisce.  
What's the point of this exercise?  Well, you have in your possession a copy of John Corlette's 1973 graduation address in which he sets out the goals of his educational philosophy.  It's the longest document produced by JC and it can give us insight into what he was trying to do in setting up his school.  You are not allowed to rely on your memories of the man himself because they have been erased.  You read this document with a detached, analytical eye.  You are looking for those educational insights that strike you as deeply valuable and relevant to today's young people, in particular for your own children, godchildren or friends' children.  Try to keep your sentiments and feelings out of it. 
You are allowed to choose only two insights from this document that strike you as the most important for today's world.  Step 1: Re-draft them in your own words, in a way that makes them sound less archaic and more in line with today's jargon.  Step 2: Explain your reasons for your choice of these two insights.
You are now allowed to re-connect with your emotions about the school.  They come flooding back, as if you're recovering from a bout of emotional amnesia.  Read again your choice of the two most important principles and the way you re-stated them in modern terms.  Are you still happy with your choice, in light of your vivid emotional memories?  And finally, ask yourself whether your feelings about the value of your education and your choice of the two most important JC principles are the feelings of (a) the young person you were when you were sent away to a Swiss boarding school, or (b) the feelings of the older, more mature person you have now become, or both.  When you you done all this and you're completely happy with your response, please send it to and David Rhodes

You can see other people's responses by going here

Erik Friedl             Louis Snyder             Elaine deMartin         IB
More responses   <<< click here

1 comment:

  1. The JC Society has received the following comment:

    First of all, I think it needs some more meat if it's going to have to stand on its own—that is to say, find a readership that knows little if anything about Aiglon's history. It is first and foremost a book about ideas, and ideas sometimes need context. So, I'd have Will write an "introduction." In it, I'd want something about the influence of Kurt Hahn, I'd want a brief history of the school under JC. And I'd want Will to talk about the man and his core principles, including concrete examples of how JC translated his ideas into practice. Finally, if possible, it would be nice to talk about JC's legacy. Do we know whether he had much if any influence on, say, the Round Square?
    Then how to market it?
    it seems to me, you have to decide what you're trying to sell. Are you trying to promote one man's life and legacy? Or are you trying to sell an educational philosophy? What Will Sutherland is doing is unique. And it lends itself well to a documentary treatment—it looks good on film, what with the cutters and the scenic English and French coastlines. You could bring Aiglon into the discussion, even see if Friedl would let you use some of his old film, but let Will talk about what he's doing to carry the standard forward. I think one of the keys for Will is to try to establish himself in the same way Ken Robinson has.

    Anyway, I think a documentary/presentation that could be uploaded to YouTube would help. Then I think you use that to try to get some press. The pitch would be something like this:

    "Outside of parochial and other church/synagogue/ mosque-affiliated schools, spiritual training has been banished from American classrooms. The consequence, of course, is that the development of the human spirit has languished. Is it possible for children to explore their own sacred geometry in school—along with math, literature, and science—without crossing the fine line of religious indoctrination? Some prominent educators think it is. And not only that, they think it's absolutely essential..."

    What would that cost? I don't know. But a lot less that it would have ten years ago.


    RESPONSE: The JC Society issued the slim version without a lot of commentary from students so that there would be one document that is virtually purely JC. We have a separate project called "Conversations with JC" for people to share their memories of conversations with him. Send your memories to

    If you would like to see what Will Sutherland is up to, search ... Will Sutherland is also on Facebook.