One of the most impressive scholars our School has produced since 1886 is Professor Sir Walter Murdoch, who was Dux of our School in 1889. He pursued an academic career at Melbourne University and then, for most of his career, in Western Australia, where a university now bears his name. Our School historian, Dr David Bird, wrote about him in Spectemur in 2015, and noted Sir Walter’s fondness for his old school – ‘all my memories of Camberwell Grammar School were happy ones’. He was perhaps Australia’s’ most eminent essayist writing on widely ranging topics in the national press: “Australianism”, “On Dull People”, “Are We Savages?”, “On Sheep and Goats”, “Laughter” and “On Being Human” are just a small sample of the topics he explored. His Collected Essays can still be found occasionally in second-hand book shops. The Australian Dictionary of Biography reports that he was a popular and well-liked lecturer: ‘in addition to the appeal of his wide-ranging and often informal literary lectures, of his sardonic wit and his ready debunking of the pompous and ultra-respectable, Murdoch was known for his help to students and junior colleagues in difficulties’.
Given his eminent academic career it is appropriate that a new research and development arm in our School will be called ‘The Walter Murdoch Centre’. Educational thinking and practice is moving very quickly at the moment, and the implications of technology and how it can be used to help teaching and learning are only just now beginning to be understood. In order for us to keep up with the rate of change, and also to help prepare our students for the world they will enter after school, we need to devote some resources to research and innovation, and the Murdoch Centre will provide these.
The Centre will be led by Mr John Tuckfield, who has been Director of Research and Innovation at our School, and he will gather around him a team of researchers and staff members who will gather data from within and beyond the school to help us better understand the ways in which students learn, and help us to equip them with the skills that employers are looking for in a technology rich world. He will also convene a number of project teams to look at strategic issues for our School: how can we give our students more truly international experiences? How can we better develop STEM programs throughout the curriculum? How can we extend gifted and talented students in different areas? Are we supporting students who experience difficulties adequately? How do we build skills in the affective domain in teenage boys? What will the impact on our students be of a world in which students increasingly seek ‘micro-credentials’ over University degrees?
As a ‘learning community’ it is fitting that we dedicate time and resources to learning. We do so in the spirit of Sir Walter Murdoch, a great enquiring mind, scholar and humanitarian.