Death of Jack Shallcrass: writer, educator and humanist

Press Release – Quality Public Education Coalition – QPEC
QPEC notes with regret the death of Jack Shallcrass, a fourth generation New Zealander, writer, broadcaster and ‘devout Humanist.’

Jack was educated in Wellington and for more than fifty years taught in schools, at Wellington Teachers’ College (where he was Vice-Principal) and Victoria University (where he was an Associate Professor). He wrote several books and hundreds of articles. He chaired four ministerial inquiries, was active in the Council for Civil Liberties, the NZ Heritage Foundation, Humanist Society and other progressive movements.

He saw overseas service in the Pacific during WW 2 and was awarded the Mobil Radio Award in 1980, a CBE in 1990, and the Humanist Award in 1994.”Nominally retired” as he described himself, he was seen well into his 80s working in the National Archives, preparing to write and to contribute to debates.

He had a deep commitment to education which he saw as an essential element of a just and caring society. He is remembered by generations of teacher education students who responded to his deep concern for their welfare and his determination to develop their thinking skills by open-ended debate and discussion. He believed fervently in the possibility of humans creating a better world. As he wrote himself:

“ An ethical future of cooperative mutuality that is at once the natural order is possible. It is a human future requiring human choice and commitment. It requires hope and belief in ourselves individually and as a species. Is that a faith? Perhaps the traditional myths and visions don’t change except to move the responsibility from the divine to the fallible, imperfect, vulnerable human being. We are all we have. To be fully human is to accept the consequences and get on with behaving as we should. Call it what you will, the responsibility is unmistakable and inescapable .”

QPEC salutes this liberal and progressive thinker who shared our ideals of a universal and equal system of education, funded by the state and committed to a fair deal for all students.

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  1. Annette Ellis, 16. August 2014, 10:08

    Very sad to hear of the passing of one of NZ’s greatest
    educators and an exceptional human being.
    Most inspiring teacher I ever had.

  2. Lynette Symister (nee Esdaile), 16. August 2014, 20:57

    So sad to hear of my “Uncle Jack’s” passing. He was a brother of a very dear friend of mine – Betty Shallcrass who lived in Tauranga.

  3. Makere Stewart-Harawira, 17. August 2014, 14:50

    He was indeed an exceptional human being and educator whose influence is and has been far-reaching. He will be well remembered and greatly missed.

  4. Stan Andis, 18. August 2014, 15:55

    Jack was a teacher of mine at Rongotai College. He was most respected and will never be forgotten.

  5. Tim Walker, 19. August 2014, 16:52

    I remember Jack Shallcrass well for his radio and TV appearances. He was the mature warm voice of reason in discussions. He seemed humble in the sense of being without ego and when he made a contribution it was always considered and constructive.

  6. Bruce Holt, 20. August 2014, 17:30

    As is usual with the passage of time we find ourselves living in the shadow of giants of the past. Jack Shallcrass was such a giant, but he would be the first to point out that he was neither more nor less than a human being and would be satisfied that he would be remembered for seeing his way and then getting on with the difficult business of trying to live up to and by his own ideals.
    Despite curmudgeonly opinion that “young people nowadays don’t have the strength of purpose and moral foundation ( and ethical curiosity) of their forebears”, there is ample evidence, that generations are being raised who have the capability of filling such eminent shoes.
    Jack is not lost; he has left a legacy of the ideas and standards he espoused to a generation who are recipients of the benefits of the quality of education he wished for.

  7. Paul Burns, 24. August 2014, 20:59

    An inspiring man I had the good fortune to have as a university lecturer in 1969. He would have made a superb Principal for Wellington Teachers College, but the government was determined to roll back liberal education and opted for safe pair of hands rather than a charismatic intellectual.


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