Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Independent Thinking

Newsletter XV, the Summer 2010 edition from my other old school has as its theme 'Independent Thinking'. In the editorial, the writer reflects on whether the School has always nurtured independence of thought, if at all, and whether the School should take any credit for such independent thinking as might be manifested.

To be honest, I believe it should. The masters at the school were a weird and wonderful bunch. They were serious about education, and sometimes about things like homework, punctuality and discipline, where these were related to our education. However, they (and that includes our chaplain) were always looking out for interesting opportunities, and always ready with an interesting tale or two. It was in the Chemistry lab that I first saw the thermite reaction carried out at close range; in the Biology lab I saw a classmate on a bicycle being made to demonstrate how much oxygen was left in human breath after a bout of exercise.

The School has produced oddly dystopic and cynical authors like Christopher Hitchens (well, he's more dyspeptic than anything else) and J G Ballard. The House of Commons has only had two English Independent MPs; both are fellow alumni. The list goes on. People from the School are indeed a strange bunch.

There's this line quoted, though, which says, 'Unlike some other public schools [it] was a reasonably civilised place even in the 1950s and 1960s, and teenage boys were not battered into intellectual conformity.' Perhaps this was true to some extent in the 1970s and 1980s and continues to be true today. But it is more likely that impressionable young men learnt to model themselves after their eccentric, competent and interesting masters.

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