School; Monovian Editorials

Editorials - 1967

 

No. 90 Summer 1967

 

 

Editors: G. A. SWAN, C. C. POND
Sub-Editors:
School Notes-S. J. BREAME School Visits-T. W. HUTCHINGS

School Societies-D. GILMORE

Sports Section-A. D. CLARK, R. MANN Literary Section-C. C. POND

SPEAKING EDITORIALLY

Change, it would seem, is the only constancy of our time; a paradox one might say, but nonetheless true. Change, provoked not only by the forces of circumstance, but the result of the labour of vast numbers of planners, or perhaps, the fulfilment of mere wild hope, affects all of our lives to an unprecedented degree. it is, seemingly, always for the good. and never regressive. We are given the impression that reaction is always evil, that there is some great inherent virtue in making changes and innovations, despite the very valid evidence of tradition and experience. We of the generation which has grown up under the uneasy peace of the 'fifties know of change only as a word. We have no first-hand knowledge of the period before that decade, and therefore can have no means of adjudging the violence of the effects of the changes that characterised those years. Yet we have lived through a time which has seen momentous upsurges of the previously-accepted order, on a world basis, nationally and to the personal lives of us all. Evolution rather than revolution has been typical of our time but evolution is by no means the less potent agent of change. Our lifetimes have contained the appearance of nations, cast from the still firmly-established colonial order of fifteen years ago. A new great power, in the form of China, has risen to prominence. Europe, so long dominant in world affairs, has diminished in importance to the status of "having certain aspects of its security" discussed by an American and an Asian power at a Summit Conference. The Britain of today differs radically from that even I can remember. We dispensed with ration-books, identity-cards and clothing-coupons. We entered a period of affluence, to use the description of the times. We magnanimously gave our colonies their independence. Affluence merged into national impecuniosity, The rest of our colonies took their independence, perhaps rather more with malevolence than in servile gratitude. And why shall I remember the 'fifties and early 'sixties? The first two decades of one's life are always reckoned to be the most formative, and thus, in common with most others, I shall remember childhood becoming gradually replaced under the mass of problems that could be no longer accepted without question, or glossed-over in blind trust. I shall remember the long years at school, perhaps with nostalgia, perhaps with mild contempt for my own personality at that time. I shall remember. That is certain. Whether I shall regret, approve or remain indifferent to the changes that will have altered my life, and my environment-only the future can tell. Wild progressivism may be my attitude, or just as  likely, total reaction. But whatever one's standpoint, change must be accepted. A Russian says "Why not ?" while the British ask "Why ?" we are told. But on occasions and this decade is one of them-this attitude is not the mood of the vast majority. It seems as if the British public, having gained a standard in a particular field by one means has now decided to seek to improve it by another. It is therefore pointless to resist planned change when it is so considerable a part of the pattern of things, and when the overwhelming mood of the many is inclined to search for betterment in the unknown. So, the individual must if his views do not happen to concur with those of that majority, adapt to that which is inevitable. There is little room for continued resistance or to merely sustain the injury to the pride of one's own philosophy by sulking petulantly and bemoaning the harshness of fate. Internationally, it is useless to think that Britain's former status of an Imperial power will ever return. We cannot hope to witness the decline of the new powers, as events stand. In years to come, membership of, and perhaps union with, the Common Market will be accepted just as the concept of the United Kingdom is now. Impending internal reforms - decimal currency, criminal justice, law amendment, revision of county boundaries, the law on abortion-may seen unnecessary, inappropriate or otherwise distasteful now. But they are, in their context, much less revolutionary than many that are now accepted as a normal part of life. They will change the pattern of life of the nation to an extent, but their effect will not be drastic. And we must not ourselves forget that changes must take place. We have twelve months before a semi-comprehensive educational system replaces that we have known. We must use these months, not in remembering our past pride and achievement, but in preparation for what is to come, It must be the duty of every Monovian-from the First Former to the School Captain, to ensure that the transition is effected as efficiently and dispassionately as possible. Given this co-operation due to it, the new system will not fail. Just as in the nineteenth century, the school was reorganised for boys only, just as in this century, it accepted the rule of the County authorities, in place of its previously-independent status, just as it developed from a village school in one room to an urban establishment in a dozen acres, so will its spirit, its traditions and its standards accept this change-a change which is much less radical than George Monoux's original decision, four hundred and forty years ago, to provide for the education of the children of Walthamstow-itself an innovation, which, after all, was the start of it all. Why, therefore, must we be bound to distrust change . . .?

C.C.P.

 

 

No. 91 WINTER 1967

 

 

Editor: C. C. POND Sub-Editors : School Notes-S. J. BREAME School Visits-T. W. HUTCHINGS School Societies-D. GIL'MORE Sports

Section-A. D. CLARK, R. MANN Literary Section-C. C. POND
SPEAKING EDITORIALLY
The Sixth Form, most would agree, provides a very different sort of education from the lower school. Especially, I think, at Monoux, enthusiasm replaces a certain apathy, choice succeeds compulsion, and the relationship between master and pupil develops into more of a fellowship than the "superior-subordinate" position which is adhered to strongly, at least from the pupil's point of view, in the first three or four years. Our Sixth Form attitudes and traditions, whilst giving rise upon rare occasions to petty incidents, on the whole produce re-sponsible and mature young men, and provide a good introduction to the next step, which for the many is University or College, and, for a diminishing number, employment. The size of the majority which does progress to full-time further education is an effective proof of the School's high academic standards. Yet I think the way in which these results are attained gives rise to some concern within the Sixth. The problem is "specialisation"; not merely the segregation of "Arts" and "Sciences", which remains very apparent, but the almost apathetic attitude with which subjects other than one's own are generally viewed. On the Arts side, the groups of subjects most often taken fall into three categories: languages; economics, geography, history; and literature, art, music. The numbers taking an admixture of the three is reasonably large, but almost certainly two subjects for these people will be in one group and constitute their main interest, and the other in a different one. This "third subject" is very often regarded as definitely subordinate. Moreover, in languages, one not rarely hears the comment, "Oh, I'm not interested in the literature. You have to read it to pass the exams". And this comes from so-called "specialists" and even from those who are contemplating reading languages at Oxford or Cambridge. This state of affairs is coupled with a widespread indifference to matters of more general and even practical interest. Politics usually form a topic in which most have some interest, yet even here there are those who cannot "be bothered". I am sure the majority of the Sixth do not read an intelligent newspaper, nor at all widely outside their particular subjects. The lack of general knowledge is very noticeable. I was asked a few days ago, "What is the postal district of Leyton?" and this from someone who has spent every one of his eighteen years not two miles from that town. If that is the sort of uninterest that prevails, is it any won-der that the attitude to General Studies, which are meant to broaden the Sixth Form outlook, is so cold? Time and time again one hears the familiar comments, "What has Anglo-Saxon poetry for me ? I'm a biologist." "Computers? I'm going to spend the next five years reading English." "Why do I need the history of world religions? I'm an economist, and an atheist besides." And there is some point to this argument. There is very little purpose in going through "Beowulf" if the class has never heard of Shelley or Chaucer or Eliot, and in computer -programming if one failed O-level mathematics. General Studies would, I think, be of infinitely greater value if the tendency to impart thirteen weeks of specialist knowledge in a confined field were replaced by one of broader scope. The greater comparative success of Psychology, which covers many studies, than of the Sumerian civilisation, which is restricted, is an indication of this. But no amount of general work in the Sixth will rectify the shortcomings of the system. A scientist can reach the Lower Sixth and never have been introduced to a Shakespeare play, an "artist" without encountering the mild logical discipline inherent in even lower-school physics or chemistry. He may have chosen the wrong language in the First Form, may have dropped the wrong subject at the end of the Third, and may have lost immeasurably as a result. I wonder if the French do not have something to teach us, with their more flexible system. Yet every year the requirements of employers and universities become more stringent, more specialised, and more narrow in outlook. The situation is becoming worse. It is a forlorn hope to imagine that liberality and univer-sality will reappear in our curricula, when this is considered. We shall continue to produce highly-trained specialists: to this we must become reconciled. The world has reached a stage when narrowness is inevitable. Yet I think that this inward turning must eventually have its reaction, and when it does it will be essentially personal and not imposed from outside. We should not forget that the School includes voluntary societies where indi-viduals quench their enthusiastic thirst in topics ranging from stamp-collecting to the Investigation of Ferroequenological An-tiquity. The narrowness of the curricula will tend to expand this enthusiasm into something of real value. Eventually, I am sure, the numbers of students who try to embrace a wider philosophy will increase. Already, or, para- doxically, I might say, still-there exists a small number, even in the detail-infested realms of Advanced Level constriction. Let us encourage wide and general reading, in literature, science and the intermediary subjects, right up to the Fifth; make the valuable library-work topics less specialised, and ensure that nobody comes into the Sixth without at least a skeleton knowledge of every sub-ject. And if this encourages the individual to broaden his outlook, might not education become again a "drawing-out"-and a prep-aration for the purposes of life. In the Hellenist and Renaissance fashion, could not knowledge become wisdom, by preserving spec-ialist knowledge, but at the same time, and no less importantly, by fostering a general philosophy? It is, I think, the only way we shall dispel the bitter, arrogant insularity which is so much a factor of modern life.

C.C.C.P.

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