Politics at WHS - Chris Snuggs : Berners/Halls 58-64

I can only speak for the period from 1958 to 1964 of course.

The ONLY politics at WHS that I remember (I never got involved in The Debating Society) is that there was a society formed in 1962 called the "CEWC" (Council for Education in World Citizenship"). Significantly, its President was Jim Atkinson, who later went on to become a diplomat and British Ambassador. I didn't know him well at school but I met up with him and Peter Brown in 2003 to go sailing on the Orwell, and during that weekend we planned an Orwell barge cruise for the following year, an event that went on more or less annually for a decade.
Cruelly, Jim contracted MND soon after our first meeting (just after he had retired aged 60) and only made it to the second cruise. He was a lovely guy and his death hit us hard. He wrote an article about WHS which you can read here:


To sum up:

  • I think I was fairly typical in not being interested or engaged in any kind of politics at school.
  • There were no lessons about politics, or even "civics", which I take to be mostly about how politics worked in a democracy.
  • I never remember any master ever talking about politics and I had no idea how any of them voted. My impression then and now was that they thought that any personal expression of a political opinion on their part would be inappropriate.

Having said that, there is one anecdote I recall. In the fourth form when some of us decided to form a "Fourth Form Union". I cannot remember why; I think the principal aim was to get a toaster and make toast while we discussed something - what, I cannot now imagine. I believe we met once and actually DID make some toast in Brian Middlebrook's Nissen hut. He was the master whom we had approached about forming our "union", and I remember him being very sniffy about the word "union". None of us could understand why, but he asked us to change the name to "society". The role of unions in British life was a complete unknown to us at that time.Later I realized he was afraid we would issue a set of demands and threaten to go on strike if they weren't met! In truth, that was a bit paranoid and unrealistic! If only he had realized how ignorant we were!

(I had Brian for latin for five years. he was a really lovely guy and in all that time I never had a crossed word with or from him.)

However, despite the lack of teaching about politics per se, WHS it seems to me nevertheless turned out tough, independent-minded, informed and educated boys, and we did I am sure all make up our own minds about politics without any "guidance" from masters. I am not sure the same can be said today. This is really hard to quantify, but I do not know of any OBs who turned out to be hysterical, ranting, wokey snowflakes without a clue who went around smashing up statues; even the undergrads of Oxford University have succumbed to the general hysteria.

I am fully aware of the danger of looking at this through rose-tinted, holier-than-thou glasses; "It was better in my day." sort of thing, but the thing is, it just MIGHT have been better. I recently taught a few hours English a week to French business students. In the ten years that have passed since I last did this I was staggered at the decline in level of maturity, awareness and application of this latest class. I told them at the start I would not treat them as "students" but as "young professionals", but, boy was that wishful thinking.

Teachers should of course NEVER try to influence their pupils politically; only teach them the FACTS and give them the ability to make their own sound judgements - which is why I feel the teaching of logic and linguistic interpretation are essential in any curriculum - but largely missing as far as I know.

I look, read and listen to what is going on and wonder what is being taught in schools; in many cases it surely is not reason and judgement - or respect for democracy, which is an INCREDIBLY lucky thing to have. Those who take it for granted would be horrified at what life is like without it under many regimes, but sadly, we often take for granted what seems "free" - the air we breathe is just one more example.

And IN this democracy, IF it is right to remove statues then there should be a public debate about it and even VOTE on it - not a hysterical mob toppling them without regard to anyone else's opinion. This is not the aftermath of the Chinese Maoist revolution - just the lunatic reaction to the murder of a habitual criminal and drug addict in another country - whose killer has rightly been charged with murder.

PS There was also a DEBATING SOCIETY over the years, where those boys interested in politics DID discuss it and other matters. You may not have seen this summary I made of the topics debate. Interesting to see the topics debated in 1962!!
Debates held at WHS and recorded in "Janus" . Where no "Janus" edition is quoted left or where there is a GREY cell, this means I could find no information.
"Boarding-school education is beneficial and should be extended." Ben Onwukwe   LOST
"This House believes that the Monarchy is outdated."   Rolfe Kentish & Charles Cowap LOST
"Modern forms of entertainment are decadent." 'Wilde' Geller & 'Lesley' Franklin John Bryan & Robert Mitchell NARROWLY LOST
This House believes that Scrooge was right." John Cox & John Mitchell Robert Munson & Guy Taylor LOST 24-38 (9 abst.)
"Appearance is the man." Jonathan Dynevor & Peter Franklin Sean Collins & Christopher Elliot WON
"Religious faith hurts more than it heals." Michael Pierce & Rolfe Kentish John Morris & Adrian Pinnington WON
"This House believes that mad dogs and Englishmen should be put down." Michael Walling & John Robinson Simon Geller & Robert '9.95' Bryan LOST
"This House believes that politics should not interfere with sport." David Hudson & John Shannon John Martin & Richard Ayres NARROWLY LOST
"This House believes that TV and popular culture are leading towards decadence." Michael Richards & Nick Collins Michael Pierce & Terry O'Halloran TIED 10-10 (8 abst.)
"This House believes that the proper business of the student is to study."     LOST 8-15 (4 abst.)
"This House believes that words are more important than numbers."      
"This House believes that life is a serious business." Stephen Hodgson & Murray Prendergast Stephen L. Parperis & C. Ferris WON 8-7 (18 abst.)
"This House believes that it is high time that dramatic art moved away from the kitchen-sink and the angy-young-man image." Jock Cromarty & Chris Morris Anthony Mitton & Stephen Boyce LOST 12-19 (3 abst.)
"The spinelessness & decadence of Modern British Youth forecasts Britain's downfall as a major power."      
"Universal Suffrage is ridiculous." Paul Finch Anthony Pye NOT VOTED ON
"Television is a menace to society." Gabriel Barty & Terry Cleverly Graham Hoad & Hugh Hawkins LOST 10-23 (4 abst.)
"Death is a poor substitute for life." Mark Wing-Davey & Ian McEwan Gabriel Barty & Victor Boddy WON 26-10 )4 abst.)
"Advertising is immoral." Norman Inness & Hans Soltys Roy Clouter & Peter Daish  
"This House believes that the Catholic standpoint on birth-control is unrealistic." Victor Boddy & Eric Dury Hugh Hawkins & Graham Hoad WON 22-20 (2 abst.)
"The public schools do not justify their existence." Keith Young and Ian Daye Gabriel Barta & Mark Wing-Davey HEAVILY LOST
"A woman's place is in the home." John Hamilton & Victor Boddy 2 girls from "Bransom's" TIED
"This House deplores euthanasia." Jeremy Sullivan & Hugh Hawkins Patrick Sullivan & Robinson WON 14-10 (14 abst.)
"Every young person has the right to make his own mistakes." Derek Thornbery & Chris Webb Jock Cromarty & Terry Stancliffe WON
"Socialism is outdated" Geraint Howell & Alan Bartlett Paul Finch & Young WON
"Modern youth is more decadent than ever." David Laughton & Barry Clark Larry Howes & Eric Dury HEAVILY LOST
Winter 1963
"This House thinks that the Elelven-Plus examination should be abolished."     LOST
Summer 1963
"Modern Education is not revolutionary enough."      
"This House deplores superstition." Roger Goldring & Stephen Moon James Dickson & David Prendergast  
"Commercial advertising should be censored." Keith Rowe & Rhodri Howell Gerald A. Donaldson & Jim Frost WON
"This House would like to rebuild Offa's Dyke & Hadrian's Wall." Lawrence Young & Richard Mackenzie Graham Rowles & John (Tim) Crosby WON 8-6 (16 abst.)
"This House believes that punishment should fit the crime." Peter Hudson & Terry Brant Paul Gait & Gerald Donaldson LOST
"This House considers that immigration into Britain should be stopped." Denis Alexander & Jim Frost John Miles & John Mackie NARROWLY LOST
"This House considers that Britain should not join the Common Market." David T. S. Poolman & Brian Cooper Gerald A. Donaldson & Jim Frost LOST 18-22
"This House considers that Tory rule is best for Britain."     LOST 8-12 (4 abst.)
"Individual liberties should always be subject to the needs of the state."     LOST 4-9 (13 abst.)
"This House deplores Capital Punishment for murder." Nigel Fletcher   WON 25-13
"A boy without a sister is to be pitied." ? Mott Robin Russell WON 20-18 (8 abst.)
"There is no future for the Royal Air Force." Michael Chapman & Colin Gordon John Dracass & Tom Carter LOST 9-22 (5 abst)
"Television is a menace to civilisation." Roger Jefferson & Mark Grenyer James Dickson & David Hyrons LOST 3-17 (7 abst.)