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King's Worcester

11 May

The Value of Human Life – Senior Assembly (11.5.21)

This week’s Senior Assembly began with a very inspiring and thought-provoking address from Mr Houghton where he questioned how do we measure the value of human life? Where should we, as human beings, find our value? 

Good morning everyone. This morning I would like to talk to you about the value of human life. I’d like to ask the question – how do we measure the value of human life? Where should we, as human beings, find our value?

I think it’s an important question, not because it’s the kind of question that will come up on an exam paper this summer but because it helps us to understand who we are.

How should we measure the value of human life? There are a few different ways you could do it.

Firstly, we could try measuring the value of human life from a size point of view. We could look at the size of the universe, which is bigger than we can even get our heads around. And compare it with the size of human beings who happen to live on a planet in that universe. If we do that then we’d have to conclude that human life is pretty insignificant.

How about if we judged the value of human life not from a size point of view but from a financial perspective. According to Google, a living human being is valued at about 1.8 million pounds. That’s quite a lot of money. If you think about the combined value of everyone in this room right now, that’s quite a lot of money. Maybe that’s where we should find our value. A friend of yours has had a bad day and you’re trying to make them feel better. You could say, it’s ok, you’re worth 1.8 million pounds. I don’t know if that’s going to work.

How about if we judged it from a relational point of view. You could say the reason human life is valuable is because we form relationships that have real meaning. If you didn’t go home tonight your parents would miss you. If you didn’t come to school tomorrow, presumably your best friend would miss you. Is that what makes human life valuable? Maybe. But then I guess you have to ask the question – what about the people who are very alone. The people who don’t have anyone to notice if they’re not there. The refugees, the orphans. Do they matter? Are they valuable?

Even that way of measuring the value of human life I don’t think is particularly helpful.

At this point, I’d like to read you a quote from the bible. And it’s a quote that I find really helpful for understanding why human life is valuable. You might not. You can let me know afterwards. I find it helpful.

Here’s the quote. It’s from Genesis. Chapter 1 verse 27.

‘So God created mankind in his own image. In the image of God he created them.’

I’ll read it again.

The claim of this verse is that human beings have a unique place in this world because we are created in the image of God. In other words, created to be like God. Created to represent God in the world. That is unique to human beings and it’s true of every human being. It is the reason human beings are valuable. The great thing about measuring value in that way is that doesn’t change. It doesn’t change based on who you are or what you’ve done. It doesn’t change whether you have a good day or a bad day. The claim is that the value of human life is fixed.

Here’s a visual aid that might help to explain it.

This ten pound note has a value, would you believe it, of £10. That value is fixed. If this ten pound note has a bad day, it doesn’t suddenly become less valuable. If it has a good day it doesn’t suddenly become more valuable.

The claim here is that it’s the same with human life.

I think it’s particularly important to remember this during exam season. In our culture, I think a mistake we can sometimes make is thinking that our value as a person is dependent on how clever we are. Or how good our exam results are. The person who gets six A stars in their A levels and gets on the front cover of Worcester news. That’s great, they’ve done really well. That person is actually no more inherently valuable than someone at the other end of the spectrum.

Now, don’t misunderstand me, I’m not saying exams don’t matter. In fact recently, I was giving a class a test, as I sometimes like to do and a student put their hand up and said to me, ‘Sir does this matter?’ And the I said, yes it does.

But what I should have said was, it does, but it can’t add any value to your existence as a person.

That would be like saying, you can add value to a £10 note by polishing it – you can’t.

So as we go into exam season. It’s good to work hard. It’s good to be disciplined. It’s wise to get a good night’s sleep the day before your exam. But I would say the most important thing as we head into exam season – is to realise that your value isn’t dependent on your exam results. Thank you for listening, have a great day.

Headmaster Mr Doodes then addressed the Upper Sixth pupils in the theatre and all the other pupils watching live from their form bubbles around the school. He spoke of his desire to encourage, cajole and promote sport involvement for every member of the community. 

“When you’re older, there are many things that you will look back upon in your school days with great fondness. There will be things that you will look back upon with displeasure. There may even be a few regrets. But however stellar your school career, everyone will have experienced peaks and troughs, much of which will be learning curves that will help you develop your confidence and resilience as you journey through life.

One of the finest elements of a school is that of being a community. Our community will mostly get things right. We’ll be in positions to celebrate triumphs and recognise success, all within the atmosphere of a family that looks out for one another. Sometimes, we won’t get things right, and it is in these moments that we learn the most. At the beginning of this year, I talked about success in life being measured not by how high you fly, but by how well you bounce. And bouncing is about how you learn from instances of upset and disappointment, propelling yourself back to where you belong, having learnt from the life-experiences you have harnessed on the way.

To bounce effectively, and to enable yourself to be propelled back to where you belong, you need a team around you. And that team should be there to help, nurture and support you. It should be there to encourage, to advise, and to cajole. You also need experienced staff who will lift you up when you’re finding yourself at a low point, and encourage you to push yourself beyond your own known limits to achieve a goal.

Now that we’re edging ever closer to a period of normality, some of the key elements of King’s are returning. Public concerts and productions are being planned; we’re looking ahead to a closer-to-normal King’s Day than we initially imagined; we’re celebrating the return of trips, and yesterday I was delighted to witness the Upper Sixth undertake a field trip. This last weekend, the grounds of King’s echoed to the sound of CCF rifles being cleaned and prepared, of military drill and army discipline.

Despite the inclement weather, we had planned for a Saturday of fixtures as the King’s St Alban’s Open Day went ahead in the background. This wasn’t to be. Despite the exceptional organisation of the sports staff, your day of sporting events had to be cancelled, leading to much disappointment for many.

Sport has innumerable benefits. Many members of staff would admit that they probably don’t do enough sport. Many would look back to their schools days with fondness and wish they were in a position where sport, aerobic activity and teamwork were locked into their working day. Sport has the ability to bring people together, whether that be as amateur 4th XI hockey players, or elite rowers who have their eyes on the Paris Olympics in 2024.

As we emerge blinking into our post-lockdown world, journeying with caution yet excitement towards a newly moulded normality, I want to encourage, cajole and promote sports involvement for every member of the community. Over the last few weeks we would have hoped to have seen more people playing, more people involved. This may be due to nervousness of going back, of other engagements, or the attraction of a warm bed on a Saturday morning. It’s definitely not due to lack of provision.

Therefore, whatever one’s hesitancy, now is the time to throw off caution and get back involved in sport. I’ve outlined the benefits, and explained why the teamwork and the camaraderie make it so central to our community. But in addition to the health benefits, the work it does on resilience and the sheer emotions it empowers, sport is something that represents life itself. The more you put in, the more you’ll achieve. The harder you work as a team, the greater the mountains you will climb. And despite what political correctness says, life is not about everyone coming first, and competition will be a key element of every aspect of your daily existence.

So get your sports kit on, push yourself out of the house, and throw yourself into activities. There are memories to be made, friendships to be developed, dreams to be realised. And importantly, there are local schools to be beaten, schools that need to cough in the dust of our athletic shoes as they speed majestically in front of them out of sight, schools that need to look in trembling awe as girls and boys score unbeatable tallies of runs, win races on the river by boat lengths galore, that weep at their inability to break our serve.

Schools need to be reminded once again that when it comes to sport, success and competition, King’s strives to be, and always will be, the best. Get out on the fields and the courts, and wear our crest with pride.”

View our previous Senior Assembly – VE Day Assembly: The liberation of Denmark in 1945