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Roland Martin - Issue #58

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Comparisons are Odious: final HM Assembly of the school year (with thanks to Janice Ross)
 

Roland Martin

July 4 · Issue #58 · View online
Headmaster - City of London Freemen's school; Chief Officer - City of London - '...write things worth reading, or do things worth the writing' Benjamin Franklin

Comparisons are Odious: final HM Assembly of the school year
(with thanks to Janice Ross)

Monday's Headmaster's assembly to students, years 9-12.
Go compare...
The man in the ‘Go Compare’ adverts first appeared in 2009, singing about car insurance. Since then, he has been popping up everywhere: in taxis, on advertising hoardings and even, as you can see, on aeroplanes. His purpose is to inform us about where we can find the best deals on everything from insurance to broadband providers. 
Gocompare.com [OFFICIAL] TV Advert - Flying High - YouTube
Opera singer Wynne Jones may have thought that his involvement with the persona of the Italian Operatic Divo, Gio Compario, has brought mixed blessings, having been dubbed ‘the most annoying man on TV’.
Regardless of whether we find the character annoying, there is such a range of prices for different products that it is a good idea to have a way of comparing all the different rates so that we get the best deal. I imagine many of your parents will use such sites when they consider their annual car or home insurance renewal. Whether they succeed or not, the adverts are designed to make us smile while at the same time encouraging us to use a particular website to compare prices.
...or not?
American Theodore Roosevelt – who at 42 was the youngest President to take office when he was inaugurated in 1901 - had this to say about comparing: ‘Comparison is the thief of joy.’ Theodore Roosevelt wasn’t of course thinking about comparison websites or comparing prices or interest rates. Instead, he was speaking about the way in which we often compare ourselves to others. And he may have had a point.  

I expect we spend far too much of our time reflecting on what we don’t have and what others do have – whether that be material possessions or talents – and I wonder what impact this has on us.

Here are a few statements upon which we might reflect when thinking about comparisons…
Comparison can hinder progress
We can be so caught up in another person’s achievement or achievements that we end up grinding to a halt. Think about a football field or a netball court. What happens when someone scores a great goal? Do we feel pleased? Does it spur us on to try harder? Or do we feel resentful and jealous that someone else has scored rather than us? Or if they are in the opposing team, would we ever acknowledge – even though our own team has been scored against – that the goal was worth celebrating? When we see someone else’s name on the Cast List of a School Play in the part that we wanted – or – dare I say it – on the Prefect List when our own name is not on it, how do we respond? What comparisons do we make? If we are negative in these situations, our own progress can be hindered. 
So, the idea is, that by not spending time comparing and instead focussing on our own next steps, we can potentially make progress ourselves and push on to better things and better achievements.
Comparison can hinder learning - the eye-roll
Most teachers in the room will have seen the rolled eyes of a student or two when a particular child in the class volunteers an answer. If we envy others because they always get higher marks in tests, or because they always seem to understand what they are being asked to do, or because they always want to give out the answer, we are unlikely to ask for help or ask questions ourselves and could lose a chance to learn. We might even give up trying and simply become jealous and resentful. In the end, we are only harming ourselves and our own learning. The important thing is to challenge yourself and measure yourself against your own capabilities – not against anyone else’s.
Comparison is often inaccurate
One of the biggest mistakes that people make – adults in particular – is making a judgement – often a harsh one, because that is in our nature – without knowing the full picture. Often, we don’t know the whole story of a given situation but respond anyway. We see a small part of what a person has or is, or a small part of a situation. We see something that makes us feel inferior or jealous, but we don’t see what is going on in a person’s life: we don’t always see the full truth. We may feel that a person has an easy life, but perhaps we don’t see the effort that person has had to make to get to the position that they are in, or the mistakes and disappointments that occurred along the way. Rarely do people get on in life without some bruises and bumps along the way. I think I cited Thomas Edison earlier this year (‘I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.’) who was beyond comparison where it came to perseverance. 
Comparison can make us grumpy, boring and annoying
Next academic year, we will be treated to the retro musical Oklahoma! performed by one of the largest casts that Freemen’s has put on the stage. Oklahoma! was conceived during a rich period of musical and film output in the United States that focussed on the old or ‘wild’ west. One companion piece, written at a similar time to the Hammerstein musical, was Annie, Get your Gun, a fictional account of the life of Annie Oakley, star of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show. Central to this musical, is a sung badinage (banter) between Annie and Frank which essentially proves Roosevelt’s point about comparison being a thief to joy.
There are actually dozens of weird and wacky settings of this song on YouTube and although I was tempted to show you the Alvin and the Chipmunks version to prove the point that comparisons can be annoying, I thought this version was more bearable… 
I Can Do Anything Better Than You // Sherlock vs. The Doctor - YouTube
A joyful ending...
I don’t want to go into huge generalisations in conclusion, though some of you will have discussed this comparative question with me: ‘If money can’t buy you happiness, are poor people more likely to be happy than rich people?’ I have heard some interesting answers to this challenging question and many of you have articulated the perception that the more we have, the more difficult it might be for us to appreciate what we have.
Happiness is of course a state of mind at any given moment. Just wanted to share this with you to conclude HM’s Assemblies this year: a few kids who probably have next to nothing materially, but who in a particular moment show us an enormous amount of joy …
Happy Kids Africa - Pharrell - YouTube
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