Letters - 24 May 2023

From Darkness around us but… to Changes to BYM

Darkness around us but…

The darkness around us is a chaos we can’t make sense of. It can be so frightening we plaster it with explanations, excuses, the unreal. This is OK for survival and a kind of emotional health but it is limited and limiting.

How do we make sense of it? We grasp at rationality. The perpetual child shaking its fist at the world is not enough, even if it is an outlet to the raging torment within. What is the focus today? Gaza, trans, climate change, violence against women. It feels like a fad or a trend, a sticking plaster over a wound that does not heal but festers.

It was while doing an Experiment with Light that I connected to a deep fear. And it wasn’t enough to see over it with the Light. With the Light I had to engage that fear.

During Covid we have experienced much loss. Dear ones have left us. We have been challenged out of the familiar. As old masks have crumbled, the space is open for new vision. Could it be a return to simplicity? What really matters? The old patterns don’t work anymore. We can see through them.

We need the inner vision.

What crosses all borders? What fundamentally makes us human? What is authentic?

What will we find in the silence? It may be different for each one of us. There is wealth in bringing it together.

Margaret Roy

Boarding schools

I am aware of the damage done to many by traditional boarding schools, and especially boarding prep schools. I’m also aware of the issue of divisiveness that the high cost presents, and consequent danger of a narrow social focus of those who attend them.

However, in my experience, that is not the whole picture. My late wife went to boarding schools from the age of seven and loved the experience. She was an only child, with asthma and a tendency to bronchial pneumonia. Distance from her anxious mother gave her an independence of spirit which stood her in good stead throughout her life.

I went to Bootham at thirteen. It wasn’t a particularly happy experience, and the period I was there has been acknowledged by others as something of a low spot for the school. But I don’t think it did me any positive harm, in spite of being bullied and something of a social misfit, though it is possible I would have done better academically in the direct grant day school I had attended previously.

However, beside the family pattern up to then of attendance at Quaker schools, it was a practical solution to family circumstances. My father was sixty when I went to Bootham, in the final five years of an extraordinarily demanding post (he was head of Friends Service Council throughout the turbulent years spanning world war two) and his health was failing. My mother was also busy with Quaker and Women’s International League activities. I think family relations might have been strained by my presence.

So, how do I square that circle? I regret the dependence on boarding schools among certain sectors of society, especially the most wealthy and powerful, and I welcome the steps towards removal of the tax privilege of independent schools.

On the other hand there is a case for boarding schools, especially as they become more humane places. And in the end it depends on the needs and circumstances of the individual child. Perhaps fewer boarding schools, focussing on boarding need, but even that solution is not without its own problems.

Roger Sturge

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