Personal Reflections on Learning   - Chris Snuggs - November 2023  

We Old Boys talk a lot (and why not) about all kinds of things at WHS: sport, the arts, clubs, girls, masters, boyish pranks etc, but apart perhaps from the whole rugby thing (which I happened to be quite good at), what I most enjoyed at WHS was LEARNING STUFF. I found physics and biology in particular absolutely riveting. "Life" is astonishing: the assembly of millions of atoms to make a living cell (let alone something so biologically incredible as a human) - is just staggering - and the physical forces of the universe: light, gravity, magnetism, electricity, gases etc - the periodic table - the structure and function of a living cell, animal and plant etc .... are just sublimely awesome.

I was fortunate like so many of us to have had really good teachers in my WHS years. There were apparently some bad apples, but I was lucky to have avoided them. Those who taught me were:

Brian Middlebrook Jim Hyde Derek Thornbery Patrick Hutton
Fred Mudd Steve Corner Peter Cox Dick Woollett
Merlin Channon Barry Salmon Ben Turner Ernie Green
Malcolm Poole Ian Waters Igor Glyn Evans Michael Girling

... and I have very fond and dear memories of them all. Others such as Shakey I had a lot of contact with, but never in class.

I enjoyed all my lessons very much, though maths after year 3 was a strain. Nothing, however, ever was or ever will be as much fun and as inspiring as physics with Fred Mudd in years 1 & 2. Gases, electricity, chemical reactions, gravity, weights & pulleys, pendulums and so on - it was magical. I was very sad when Fred left in July 1961 - and have never been able to find out what happened to him after he went to the Prince Rupert School in Wilhelmshafen whence Smitherman had come.

Most of us take so much for granted these days - even something so basically astonishing as electricity. But just think: the wisest men in the history of mankind had NO IDEA of what COULD be possible: electricity, power generation, heating of all kinds, transport, (flight!), medicine - going to the moon! I wonder if Plato ever looked at the heavens and wondered if Man would one day travel there? Confucius, Plato, Aristotle and even Newton, the native Indians of he American continent and the tribes of Africa: they all lived without any of the basic things we take for granted now - or even the imagination that they could exist.

Frankly, in 1958 was it really possible to imagine what common everyday computers now would be able to do? I had comics where sci-fi stories had characters with magical gadgets, but what we DO have now was at that time for me at least inconceivable.

Whenever I turn on the tap to get fresh running water or the light to see my way downstairs in the middle of the night I marvel at the genius of inventors of the past - and wonder how such a gifted species could also be so utterly horrible to its own kind and destructive of the planet which sustains us. Habit is a wonderful and soothing tool but can be the main ingredient of the "take-it-for-granted" mindset.

I try to never take anything for granted. EVERYTHING WE USE had to be invented, developed and maintained.

BOTTOM LINE? Learning about the world we live in - and ourselves - is (or should be) the most magical and rewarding activity we ever do - apart perhaps from reproduction, but it does help to understand about that, too!