Loyalty, labour, courage, commitment and honour.
These are the five values of Robert Land Academy which we strive to instill in our students. For many of our students, and many adults as well, these words are understood as concepts or ideas but not in how they apply to everyday life.
To help our students understand these values, as well as the importance of having values, I have ben spending time each Tuesday morning talking to the cadets to help define these words, how they apply to life on campus as well as life after RLA, and how the cadets can live within these values.
I started with why the Academy has five values and where those values came from.
Many military schools, which have existed much longer than RLA, have a declared value or values which support a lifestyle based in honour and integrity. And the military has a strong connection to honour and integrity as well. The Academy chooses to maintain this tradition of basing itself on having a strong and defined set of values.
The five values Robert Land Academy chooses to base itself on were created based on the belief that if students at RLA are to reach their potential there needs to be standards of behavior that they can strive towards both here at the Academy and in everyday life.
They were inspired by Robert Land, who the school is named for and who epitomized these five values in the work he did; and by the 1 Can-Para group, the 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion which fought in WWII and whose members were instrumental as practical role models for the RLA program (Lt. Col. G.F. Eadie was the last unit commander of the battalion and is who the Parade Square is named for).
The first of the values I discussed with the boys is loyalty, which is the quality of staying firm (not changing) in your friendship or support for someone or something.
It’s fairly easy to be loyal to a friend or to your school or workplace. At RLA loyalty is shown when cadets and staff follow the rules and expectations set out by the Academy and respect themselves and each other. At the Academy we also encourage the boys to support each other, rely upon each other and be loyal to each other.
It’s much harder, however, when your loyalties conflict and are pulled in opposing directions. I shared this example: if a student brings contraband to the school – does his friend stay loyal to the other student and not report the contraband or does he remain loyal to the Academy and report the violation of the rules to a staff member?
It’s a tough situation to face and a tough decision to make. I explained that the students can be loyal to both the school and their friend by understanding that by doing the right thing they are ultimately being loyal to both by helping the friend learn the importance of these values.
I also noted that we need to consider the long-term effects if we have to choose between loyalties. In this specific example, considering the Academy has the best interest of the student at heart, helping him to succeed now and throughout life while friendship, while important, is often fleeting and more focused on short-term pleasure than long-term gain.
Living by a set of values usually helps make these types of decisions clear, because you will make the choice that aligns with your own values no matter how difficult it may be to report your friend’s contraband.
Labour, as defined by the dictionary, has many definitions including childbirth or the working class movement, but for our students the simplest and most relevant definition is productive activity or work.
The key word here being productive.
As part of my talk on labour I pondered whether it is natural for humans to work, and of course the answer is yes. Throughout time, work – building shelter, hunting or collecting food - have all been forms of labour that have improved the individual lives of humans and progressed our overall existence.
At RLA labour helps our students reach their true potential. Work around the barracks and on campus can improve life skills, work in the classroom improves academics, and work in the physical program improves health and wellness.
Beyond RLA working hard at everything you do – academics, jobs, furthering your career, family relationships, etc. – is the labour required to build a successful and happy life.
I continue to talk to the boys about these values, and I’ll share these talks on the remaining values in future blogs.