This short article is printed with kind permission of the James Allen Girls’ School in London, Howard Peacock, who teaches philosophy there, and philosophy pupil Matilda Simpson.
Stoicism at James Allen’s Girls’ School
As a part of the “live like a stoic week” our Year Thirteen philosophy class decided that it would beneficial for all to try to actively educate our fellow students in the ways of Stoicism. Setting up a stall in the middle of the common room we stood on hand handing out pamphlets and giving advice to our peers on how they could make the most of that week. Though most people’s immediate response to us was to inquire as to why we were wearing beards (not quite understanding we were undertaking the role of classic philosophers) they soon became interested in the actual ideas of the doctrine. There was some misunderstanding at first but they soon became accepting of the concepts of the importance of wisdom and harmony and decided altogether these were definite traits they felt could be integrated in to their work fuelled life styles. To those who were receptive we handed out cue cards with key phrases that they could take away that would remind them to live stoically such as “If something bad happens, you must simply accept it”, and “If someone is mean to you say : It seemed so to him.” Although nobody made a definite promise to swap their morning coffee for meditation we nonetheless felt that the idea had been a success, and hopefully they will think about employing stoic ideals in to their lives for more than just the week.
More background, from the school’s website: From 26-29 November, girls at JAGS participated in the UK’s first “Stoic Week”, organized by the University of Exeter to raise awareness of the continued relevance of Stoicism, the ancient Greek and Roman lifestyle philosophy that emphasized self-control, virtue, and above all the “Stoical” acceptance of events which it is not in our power to control.
The Year 13 Philosophy class set up a stall in the sixth-form common rooms offering Stoic advice to their peers, and spread Stoic doctrine peripatetically through the school, while Stoic ideas were the theme of the Year 10 & 11 philosophy discussion group. Year 12 Greek students set about translating two chapters of Epictetus’ Encheiridion (“handbook”) of Stoicism from the original koine Greek.
All concerned were very pleased by the success of the events, but not excessively so: participants were quick to remind us that success or failure in worldly affairs is beyond our control; the important thing was that at all points they acted in accordance with virtue and their own nature as rational beings.
Want to try Stoicism in your school? Check out these resources for secondary school students.