From Quaker schools to cruel behaviour
I read with interest and concern the article ‘Support for our values’ (18 January) concerning Quaker schools. I agree that our state schools often fail to offer our children a rounded, balanced and nurturing education. I am sure Quaker schools offer excellent education.
However, Quaker schools are extremely expensive private schools and cannot provide any sort of answer for the vast majority of our children. The yearly boarding fees, particularly for older pupils, are equivalent to the average yearly wage in Britain.
These schools will cater predominantly for the children of the very wealthy and will play a part in social segregation based on wealth.
The private education system relies on and promotes a very unequal society. Private education is considered to be one of the main drivers of inequality and poor social mobility, powering what has been described as ‘an enduring cycle of privilege’.
Most Friends will be aware of the great range of social and psychological problems either exacerbated by, or caused by inequality.
These include: poverty, impaired life opportunities, alienation, focus on material wealth, and mental health and substance misuse problems.
Core Quaker principles include equality, simplicity and community. Private Quaker schools clearly conflict with these principles.
We all, as individuals and communities, fail to live up to our principles and core values at times. I think it is vital to take the uncomfortable step of acknowledging these failures, re-evaluating the situation and deciding how to act differently.
Sources of hope
Jane Killeen (18 January) writes that the despair following her daughter’s death from leukaemia was absolute. My experience has been very different.
My wife and I were married in 1961, but we had to wait four years before our son Donnie was born. He was a lovely child, bright and joyful. However, eighteen months after his birth, he became increasingly pale and lethargic. He died, aged three years, from leukaemia. His last words to us were ‘keep the door open’.
Later that day, one of the nursing staff told us that, if we wished, we could now see his body laid out in the hospital chapel. I declined because I knew this could not possibly be all that remained of the joyful being who was the child I knew.
We live in a world full of miracles. Many are so commonplace that we hardly notice them. If we allow ourselves the time to wonder at them, we cannot dismiss them as the outcome of meaningless chance. They lift the spirit.
Those who embrace scientific materialism may reject this, arguing the death of the brain is the cessation of a person’s existence. Quakerism was not founded on such a belief. ‘They that love beyond the world cannot be separated by it. Death cannot kill what never dies… Death is but crossing the world, as friends do the seas; they live in one another still’ (Quaker faith & practice 22.95).
Impermanence is the characteristic of many things, but not of love.
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