THERE are few maxims in life I adhere to with any real devotion, let alone can recall at will, except for “Manners maketh man”.
A primary education spent at Bathurst West Public School with the motto literally worn on my chest ensured it was bound to stick, and what a good one to remember.
There aren’t many things that link the venerable New College at Oxford University to a modest public primary school in Central West NSW, but until Bathurst West did away with the handsome crest and motto that had served the school proudly for 64 years, it could claim an alliance of sorts with Oxford.
Replacing it was undoubtedly the creation of a junior graphic designer or brand marketer with a spare five minutes and a serious lack of inspiration. What the school now has for a logo (not a crest, or shield) is a high-five between person and a star. The motto now reads “Together in excellence”. The less said about any apparent guiding principles in those three limp words, the better.
If manners maketh man, allow me to temporarily suspend mine to say something: stuff this.
I’m not overly nostalgic, I’m only 32 and welcome most change, but in a dizzying 12 months I have seen the identities of two of the formative education institutions of my youth altered beyond recognition, with a third in doubt.
Sure, we all had a derisory laugh when my secondary school All Saints’ College (recently merged with The Scots School) suggested a new name with “college, college” in the title. Logic prevailed in that instance, but still, All Saints' as we knew it ceased to exist.
In its place, a compound name and another graphic designer’s afterthought for a new school crest. While Scots retained the Lion rampant, the All Saints’ crest – visible since 1874 – was cast away in favour of an italicised cross and the motto “All for Christ”. I don’t mind if a little bit of it is for Christ, but surely most of it is for a good report card.
Which brings me to the proposed change of name at Charles Sturt University, the place I spent a happy few years studying all things media, branding, communications, PR, and marketing. An education that gave me friends for life and the skills to work for global brands like Apple, Honda, and Toyota in the United Kingdom, Asia and the USA.
What I learnt working for those companies is that a brand is very valuable, and that changing one is not easily done, and certainly not at the whim of the current leadership team or CEO.
I also know spin, and when a CSU spokesperson said it was important to “evolve our brand to meet the needs of the market”, I had to applaud the banality.
Clearly, the experts were having a field day tweaking the “brands” of my former schools. Except that they aren’t brands, with logos, and slogans. They’re institutions, with history, and whose iconography has meaning to people beyond the current cohort of students. This meaning is for most a source of immense pride, and a reminder of a shared earlier life.
I understand you have to look forward, and appeal to new audiences, customers, or “markets”. We can’t hide from the fact that schools are businesses, after all, but heritage and a strong unbroken history are powerful attributes too.
I welcome every effort to improve reconciliation with Indigenous Australians, so rather than change the name to something like Wiradjuri University, I’d urge the university to offer more scholarships to Aboriginal students, more courses that seek to understand and celebrate our incredible pre-European history, and more employment opportunities.
The contribution by settlers like Charles Sturt to the foundation of modern Australia shouldn’t be forgotten or supplanted by something else, rather it should be celebrated in conjunction with our pre-European history.
As if three out of three schools in my life wasn’t bad enough, I hadn’t considered the current identity of my pre-school. Do I dare find out? If I do, I might discover where all those new school logos are being drawn.