Letters - 7 September 2018

From Quaker values to Friends and friends

Quaker values

How many of us know about Quaker values? This was the challenge put to the annual gathering of Nairobi Yearly Meeting on 18 August by Hezron Masitsa, who serves on the Executive Committee of the Friends World Committee for Consultation (FWCC) Africa Section. Few of those present showed their hands, indicating a level of uncertainty.

As Kenya is struggling with an unprecedented level of corruption, Quakers should be clear where they stand.

On reflection, I thought to look at how Quaker values are presented to the public. I was disappointed. For example, the statements ‘Quakers believe everyone is equal’ or ‘Love is at the centre of existence’, which can be found on the Quakers in Britain website, need a lot of clarification.

The lack of any reference to the life and teaching of Jesus as fundamental to the faith and practice of many Quakers, and the origin of Quakerism, is surprising.

However, I do appreciate how difficult it must be to prepare a statement that would be acceptable to all concerned.

Donald B Thomas

Equality in education

To suggest that ‘envy’ is the motive for criticism of Friends’ schools is to trivialise a serious issue.

Just seven per cent of children in England and Wales attend private schools. Yet, as we know, they are hugely over-represented in admissions to university and many senior positions in our society.

With some annual fees almost equal to the annual income of average families, private schools enable the wealthy to buy this privilege – their children having little awareness of others on free school meals or housing benefit.

Britain has become a very unequal society, and these schools perpetuate this division – with serious consequences for us all.

I have always worked in state education, as a teacher in comprehensive schools, then leader of a national curriculum project, which took me into many schools, state and private.

There was nothing special about the lessons I saw in private schools. I don’t know what Patricia Gosling (24 August) means by ‘proper teaching’, but the classrooms I visited – where children were stimulated, engaged, growing in their knowledge and understanding – were all in state schools.

I am now chair of governors in our local comprehensive. When the head and I stand at the door in the morning, we see happy, purposeful young people from the full range of backgrounds in our community.

If Friends wish to bring our values into education, I suggest that they become a governor of their local state school and forget private schools. They are, in my opinion, tiny enclaves and survivals from another era.

Chris Culpin

You need to login to read subscriber-only content and/or comment on articles.