Directors: Neasa Ní Chianáin, Declan McGrath
Released: March 18
Kevin McAreavey is the principal of Holy Cross Boys’ Primary School in the Ardoyne district of North Belfast. It’s a predominantly Catholic and working class area which has seen its fair share of troubles and tension. McAreavey, admittedly, has been through the wringer himself once fusing fists and alcohol with untempered emotions.
Now he’s a mellower man, an Elvis fanatic and someone who wants to steer the next generation on to a different path – through philosophy.
The walls of Holy Cross are adorned with quotes from Plato and Aristotle and the full squad of thinkers over time. At the outset, we are introduced to the ‘concept mapper’ and ‘Socratic circle’ and over the course of the documentary we see how philosophy is woven into the day-to-day routine as a means of defusing and contemplating action.
Seneca is called upon to enlighten the boys about ways to control anger. Young Plato is a sensitive, enlightening and uplifting portrait of young kids grappling with emotions and their own personal journeys through life.
Education is “the kindling of a flame, not the filling of a vessel” reads one of Socrates’ quotes on the wall and it is clear that this is the optimum time to try and mould impressionistic young minds, to make them question and think and realise their best selves.
Of course, boys will be boys and there’s schoolyard squabbles, the odd punch thrown and the backdrop of family and societal environments which may run counter to McAreavey’s philosophies.
“To find yourself, think for yourself” is the message on a commissioned mural and Young Plato fills one with hope that a better, more considered, future may be possible.
Words: Michael McDermott