EXPERIENCES AT ST. VEDAST (now St. James) AND THE S.E.S

Discussion of the children's schools in the UK.
Matthew
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Re: Other books on the SES

Postby Matthew » Sun Jun 19, 2005 9:02 pm

Goblinboy wrote:Another very readable book which has a section devoted to the SES is Madame Blavatsky's Baboon: A History of the Mystics, Mediums, and Misfits Who Brought Spiritualism to America by Peter Washington (Schocken Books, New York, NY, 1995)

The book provides a lot of context for the emergence of the SES from its theosophical and Gurdjieff / Ouspensky origins.


An extract from the above book:

?There are flourishing branches in the United States, Australia and several European countries and the SES also runs children's schools and intensive training-courses for adults.

The School of Economic Science now has all the features of a cult. This became clear in 1983, when scandal erupted over the management of the children's schools. At first, most parents were impressed by the standards of order and politeness, their emphasis on hard work and obedience, and their comparatively low fees. Attitudes began to change when it transpired that what they had taken to be ordinary independent schools were, in fact, instructing children in the tenets of Economic Science according to MacLaren's rule of Measure. This entails interpreting all subjects - including physics and chemistry - in terms of Gurdjieffian cosmology; teaching even the youngest children Indian philosophy and Sanskrit; conducting an exceptionally rigorous regime of attendance, costume and homework, enforced by frequent corporal punishment; and effectively indoctrinating every child in the principles of the SES.

The scandal was prompted by a series of articles published in the London Evening Standard during 1982, reported in turn by other papers, which quoted parents complaining of savage punishments and bizarre homework assignments which seemed to consist largely of ideas from ?oriental? philosophy to be learnt by rote. They also remarked on the vegetarian meals served to pupils, in which the ingredients were strictly controlled by Hindu dietary law. Outraged Anglican clergymen weighed into the row, suggesting that the SES was a wicked Hindu cult plotting against Christianity. The Bishop of Woolwich called it evil and corrupt. Though many parents were agnostic or Jewish, some took the hint and withdrew their children. Others stayed on. The schools, which were not technically in breach of Department of Education and Science guidelines, have survived with substantial donations by SES members. Their supporters insist thai they are simply returning to old-fashioned values of discipline and hard work. Opponents accuse the SES of combining brainwashing, cruelly and the enforcement of conformity with the teaching of preposterous nonsense in place of the ordinary school curriculum.

At the heart of the row is the argument over Measure, the central feature of all SES teaching for children and adults alike. Measure is adapted from Ouspensky's systematic interpretation of Gurdjieffs doctrine, and consists of a complex, rigid and demanding set of rules governing every aspect of an SES member's life, from his diet and musical taste to his sexual behaviour. According to MacLaren, these rules correspond to the natural laws governing the universe: by observing them we thereby promote the good of the cosmos. In practice they are fiercely repressive, and at the same time conservative and eccentric, stressing the traditional roles of the sexes (down to the wearing of long skins for women), insisting on the central role of Sanskrit chanting in education, and rejecting contemporary culture in toto (especially television, dancing and 'modern', i.e. post-Shakespearian, literature).

The rules are administered by 'personal tutors' to whom members report and owe absolute obedience.7 The tutors are in turn organised by group leaders who have the authority to demand more or less anything from their charges. Group leaders take their instruction from MacLaren's assistants. Like the Work, the SES is obsessively hierarchical: the ruling elders submit absolutely to MacLaren, who supposedly submits himself to the teaching of the Shankaracharya. And like Gurdjieff, MacLaren alternates between the roles of stern teacher, mysterious power, loving father, charismatic leader and remote autocrat.

The need for Measure is founded on MacLaren's belief that men are put on earth to serve the Absolute, though they generally prove incapable of doing so. The Absolute is manifested throughout the cosmos by the natural laws identified by the SES, but it is all too often obscured by human ignorance and indifference, which are thus responsible for the evil which mars both our own lives and the evolution of creation. The function of the SES is to illuminate ignorance and dispel indifference. Observing the rules of Measure clarifies the role of natural laws in the universe and thus promotes the well-being of the Absolute - which in turn sustains the life of the righteous. Those who follow Measure hope to become part of the Inner Circle of Mankind - a group which clearly derives from the Theosophical Brotherhood of Masters.

HoHumBug
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Joining SES groups

Postby HoHumBug » Thu Jun 23, 2005 8:45 am

What happens in the so far little discussed twilight zone between St James and the SES Foundation or Lucca Groups is a classic grey area ostensibly safely outside the reach of the ToR. I would be very surprised if even very recent school leavers had not experienced some form of overt or covert pressure to join a group. I now realize how it connects with a longing to belong and thus penetrates your soul. If pressure to join is ?discipline? then perhaps the ToR DOES include them? If he has any sense Boddy will be careful to not deny that it used to happen before he became head whilst at the same time trying not to drop Noddy into it. Some slippery PR tightrope to be walked here but Boddy?s your man for that. I guess Mrs Hyde could try to do the same although it unquestionably happened during her tenure so she would be safer with the ?mistakes have been made in the past but all that has changed? line.

emmalu9
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foundation recruitment

Postby emmalu9 » Fri Jun 24, 2005 1:53 pm

I think recruitment for foundation groups starts at beginning of 6th form - am I right, anyone? I have the impression that sixth form life can be made pretty unpleasant if pupils, especially those from ses families, do not join.

Did anyone hear about the time when a sixth form boy, planning to spend his gap year teaching at Broadwith's school in NZ was told he was not allowed to because he was not intending to join the foundation group after school? This was about 1999-2000.

I heard rumours about Noddy having to answer some rather awkward questions from the boy's classmates, which contributed to Rasmussen and Capper's decision to leave. I'd love to hear more detail about this if anyone remembers it...

Gandalf
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Foundation groups

Postby Gandalf » Sat Jun 25, 2005 11:13 am

Matthew,

The substantive issue is that the exploitation of St James as a recruitment ground for new blood is clearly still very much ?policy? and this must get into the Inquiry.

In your meetings with them have you ever had the opportunity to question Boddy/Hyde on this policy?

Kind regards
Last edited by Gandalf on Sat Jun 25, 2005 12:36 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Matthew
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Postby Matthew » Sat Jun 25, 2005 12:16 pm

Gandalf,

Its a crucial point, but I don't have first-hand experience of this, so I never questioned Boddy on that particular policy. IMO the most pressing issue right now is this inquiry. Are you submitting on this and all the other important points you have previously raised? I would urge you, Ross, ADG, Freethinker, NYC, etc etc, to be channelling your energies into sending something in, rather than continuing with all the recent discourse on here. Its all very valid stuff, but there'll be plenty of time for that once the inquiry is over. Its running on into next week so you still have time. Ignore the ToR. So long as you've had any direct or indirect experience of SES/StJ/StV then submit it. I met the chairman yesterday. He was friendly and approachable and very much wants to hear from as many people as possible. He wants to know about not only what happened at the children's schools but also about the covert/overt SES influence over them. Even better, make an appointment to go and see him (this is actually his preference). Its in central London, opposite the Royal Courts of Justice!

bluelight
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Postby bluelight » Sat Jun 25, 2005 4:18 pm

Can I implore anyone who has any information to attend the inquiry. The terms of reference may not be what we wanted but its the best we can hope for at this time. I gave my statement yesterday and I strongly urge others to follow suit.

Sarah
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Postby Sarah » Sun Jun 26, 2005 5:46 pm

Wasn't sure what would be the best thread to join (there are so many........).

Logged onto this board for the first time last week. Never heard of it before but was not surprised to see it (a friend of my mother who is still part of the SES told her about it). Since leaving St Vedast in 1981 (was there from 1976), I have had very little to do with the schools, beyond attending a 10 year reunion 14 or so years back. Something tells me quite a few of those at that event have been communicating here. My experience at St Vedast was less damaging (I think) than for many others. Through luck more than anything else, I was good at science (at least in terms of St Vedast pupils). This was a complete no no for any female pupil of course, but one that meant I avoided a lot of the more worrying aspects of the school e.g. the Foundation group, encouragement of the older girls to marry very unsuitable men etc etc. Also was 'lucky' enough to be fairly seriously ill as a teenager, resulting in 2x 2 month spells out of school in hospital when I was 12 and 13. Combined with enjoying science, being really bad at English and drama and (for reasons of illness) sport, and I was probably viewed as damaged goods as far as the more 'SES' staff members were concerned and so was spared the stranger aspects of the school.

I did have a feeling of deja vue reading one post that referred to Chris Southwell telling a boy to 'run through the pain'. I remember well similar advice from the not so lovely Mr Southwell (he was never the most intelligient of men), not good when you suffer with rheumatoid arthritus and 'running through the pain' really isn't an option. Typical of the uninformed and amateur attitude of most of the teachers. For me, exceptions would include Barrington Barber (he just came across as having a clue), and Mrs Grimble (who wisely left the school but not before introducing me to biology therefore giving me a reason to rebel against the weird sexual politics. So I left at 16, determined never to wear a long dress (again, ever) or join any foundation group, or indeed to ever again have anything to do with the School.

Going to a good comprehensive was an eye opener though, and it probably took a good 5 or so years for me to catch up. It was quite challenging realising just how poor I was academically and suddenly finding myself bottom of the class. Stuck with it though, scrapped through A levels, and eventually quite good at my chosen field.

I did get some useful training out of the school, particularly meditation and some aspects of being self aware. I have a pretty objective view of myself, something that seems pretty rare in life, and a unusually wide knowledge of 'religions of the world':). Am a confirmed aetheist now, with respect for aspects of budhism and some general worries about anyone trying to transfer any aspects of ancient Indian religion into a western setting.....

A few random memories:

Mr Lacey - was lucky enough to never see him explode, but also have never seen anyone with anger management issues like his. Put me off physics for life.

Being stuck on a school holiday in Snowdonia and being the only person not to get ill (due to the fact that my arthritus meant I had to eat different food and was not allowed to climb the bleeding mountain). Saw rather more of Mrs West than I really needed however.

Being bullied by the other girls. Taught me to laugh in the face of extreme ignorance and adversity. Meeting up with the prime mover 14 years ago at the 10 year reunion showed me that she was one of the few relatively undamaged people there. Not sure what that means.

The Perfect Prayer. Sadly this is still lodged in my brain never to be forgotten. Brainwashed. Luckily I have no idea of how to write it.

Mrs Caldwell. God, a totally strange woman, luckily I had as little as possible to do with her.

Truly bad theatrical productions. How to murder the text and be very wooden. For a while there, my aunt was the drama teacher (I love my aunt but am not sure what she was teaching the girls). Strangely some really good actors have come out of the schools, e.g. Clara (I would guess from the posts).

Mr Russel being nice to me when I was ill. Possibly the only teacher who really was. Showed he had a human side.

Truly dodgy sexual politics. Being lucky enough to escape the worst of it, but I was aware enough to be surprised at the lack of posts from girls who found themselves married to much older men and seemingly with the requirement to be 'brood mares' for the school. Personally, am now a commited feminist of a sort, while also being happily married. I did get therapy for a short time though, seeing as I still have minor problems being open emotionally.

Last but not least, my proudest moment - dropping off asleep right in front of Leo Mclaren while he was lecturing us at a Waterperry week. Felt sooo good - the speach was so boring. Can't for the life of me remember what he was on about.

HoHumBug
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Foundation Group SES recruitment TODAY

Postby HoHumBug » Mon Jun 27, 2005 8:02 am

The present day St J schools are presumed to be exempt from the Townend Inquiry because they are regularly visited and rigorously vetted by independent inspectors and therefore are ?safe?.

Nothing could be further from the truth. The Debenham(Boddy)/Hyde/Lambie Foundation Group hard-sell is a form of psychological pressure aimed at recruiting SES disciples.

The overt and covert threats/promises of disapproval/approval for those who refuse/agree to join are a form of discipline to which 16/17 year olds at St J. are currently systematically subjected. Heads and teachers are all zealots for the SES cause and are unquestioningly of the opinion that the SES Foundation Groups are 'good'.

These ?meetings? are always carefully presented as ?voluntary?. The one-to-one meetings that the Heads and teachers conduct with individual pupils (targeting especially those seen as influential on their peers) after the regular Lambie SES sales pitch are all unrecorded and without independent witnesses.

Whilst these meetings are almost invariably on the school premises and in school hours they are completely outside the reach of any independent inspectors and never come to light.

This technique of never putting anything awkward or compromising down in writing, let alone formal minutes of meetings, is a systematic and long-standing practice of St James Governors and the SES Executive. It is the get out of jail free card for St James if this Inquiry does not pick it up.

A lower sixth former is in a very vulnerable, stressful and frightening situation with many unfamiliar pressures and expectations piling up. The last thing they need is to be subtly abused by those who have been given pastoral care of their charges and have significant power to influence their future careers.

If you had one of these meetings with Noddy, Hyde or any teacher you need to realize this pressure was and is a form of abuse and must be reported. It will never come to light unless you speak out.

The governors and heads were advised a decade ago to stop the practice of secret recruitment to the SES. That they brazenly continue this abuse is an outrage. One thing is certain: whatever the outcome of the Inquiry this practice will continue in some covert form as long as SES and St James are linked.

The SES grip on the St James set up is not going to slacken. It will just go further underground unless independent governors and inspections are introduced. Fat chance.

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ET
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Postby ET » Mon Jun 27, 2005 9:42 am

Hi Sarah, welcome to the board. It's interesting that you feel you were treated better at school because you were disabled/ill. My experience was the exact opposite.
I have a mild form of Cerebral Palsy, which made me bad at sport and very uncoordinated. It also makes me walk a bit strangely, with one foot sticking out. I was not only made to "run through the pain", but also taken out on private walks with a member of staff, where I was forced to turn my rogue foot in, so that it pointed forwards in a "normal" position. The fact that this forced my leg into a twisted position, with my knee pointing towards my other leg, was not seen as relevant. I should walk "normally" and the only reason I don't (according to SES philosophy) is because I am stubborn and allowing my body to rule my mind instead of the other way around.
I am quite a bit more disabled now than I was as a child (the twist in my spine which caused the foot thing having now given me a very bad back), and it has taken me a long time to accept that I am not a "weak" person for allowing it to stop me doing certain things, or accepting that I get tired easily. And it's only in the last few years that I have spoken to my parents about it and learned about how many other problems I had as a child, which I either don't remember, or didn't register at the time. I thought a lot of the problems I had were the same for everybody, and it was my own weakness that made me unable to cope with them as well as other people did. How cruel is that?!

I'm glad you've been able to move on with your life, it's interesting how many of us on this board have had to work on our inability to open up emotionally. I stopped being able to cry at about the age of 13, and it took me 4 years of therapy to finally be able to cry in front of anyone except very close family. It's amazing how important that is!

Keep posting, Sarah! Are you going to submit to the inquiry?

Liz

Matthew
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Re: Foundation Group SES recruitment TODAY

Postby Matthew » Mon Jun 27, 2005 10:29 am

HoHumBug wrote:The present day St J schools are presumed to be exempt from the Townend Inquiry because they are regularly visited and rigorously vetted by independent inspectors and therefore are ?safe?.
Nothing could be further from the truth. The Debenham(Boddy)/Hyde/Lambie Foundation Group hard-sell is a form of psychological pressure aimed at recruiting SES disciples.
The overt and covert threats/promises of disapproval/approval for those who refuse/agree to join are a form of discipline to which 16/17 year olds at St J. are currently systematically subjected. Heads and teachers are all zealots for the SES cause and are unquestioningly of the opinion that the SES Foundation Groups are 'good'.
These ?meetings? are always carefully presented as ?voluntary?. The one-to-one meetings that the Heads and teachers conduct with individual pupils (targeting especially those seen as influential on their peers) after the regular Lambie SES sales pitch are all unrecorded and without independent witnesses.
Whilst these meetings are almost invariably on the school premises and in school hours they are completely outside the reach of any independent inspectors and never come to light.
This technique of never putting anything awkward or compromising down in writing, let alone formal minutes of meetings, is a systematic and long-standing practice of St James Governors and the SES Executive. It is the get out of jail free card for St James if this Inquiry does not pick it up.
A lower sixth former is in a very vulnerable, stressful and frightening situation with many unfamiliar pressures and expectations piling up. The last thing they need is to be subtly abused by those who have been given pastoral care of their charges and have significant power to influence their future careers.
If you had one of these meetings with Noddy, Hyde or any teacher you need to realize this pressure was and is a form of abuse and must be reported. It will never come to light unless you speak out.
The governors and heads were advised a decade ago to stop the practice of secret recruitment to the SES. That they brazenly continue this abuse is an outrage. One thing is certain: whatever the outcome of the Inquiry this practice will continue in some covert form as long as SES and St James are linked.
The SES grip on the St James set up is not going to slacken. It will just go further underground unless independent governors and inspections are introduced. Fat chance.


Hello Hohumbug,
I would strongly urge you to recount all the above to Townend at the inquiry this week. You still have four more days. If you can't get there then post it in. At this crucial stage its Townend that needs to hear about this material!. Your post is more likely to achieve a long-term better result by submitting it to the inquiry rather than posting it on here. If you've already done so, all well and good, and apologies for not knowing. Right now its about submissions, submissions, and more submissions!!

Tom Grubb
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Postby Tom Grubb » Mon Jun 27, 2005 6:55 pm

Hi Liz,

The way you were treated is absolutely vile. This adds yet another dimension to the SES-led abuse at the schools. Can I ask if you have included (or are going to include) this complaint in a submission to the Inquiry?

Tom

ET wrote:Hi Sarah, welcome to the board. It's interesting that you feel you were treated better at school because you were disabled/ill. My experience was the exact opposite.
I have a mild form of Cerebral Palsy, which made me bad at sport and very uncoordinated. It also makes me walk a bit strangely, with one foot sticking out. I was not only made to "run through the pain", but also taken out on private walks with a member of staff, where I was forced to turn my rogue foot in, so that it pointed forwards in a "normal" position. The fact that this forced my leg into a twisted position, with my knee pointing towards my other leg, was not seen as relevant. I should walk "normally" and the only reason I don't (according to SES philosophy) is because I am stubborn and allowing my body to rule my mind instead of the other way around.
I am quite a bit more disabled now than I was as a child (the twist in my spine which caused the foot thing having now given me a very bad back), and it has taken me a long time to accept that I am not a "weak" person for allowing it to stop me doing certain things, or accepting that I get tired easily. And it's only in the last few years that I have spoken to my parents about it and learned about how many other problems I had as a child, which I either don't remember, or didn't register at the time. I thought a lot of the problems I had were the same for everybody, and it was my own weakness that made me unable to cope with them as well as other people did. How cruel is that?!

I'm glad you've been able to move on with your life, it's interesting how many of us on this board have had to work on our inability to open up emotionally. I stopped being able to cry at about the age of 13, and it took me 4 years of therapy to finally be able to cry in front of anyone except very close family. It's amazing how important that is!

Keep posting, Sarah! Are you going to submit to the inquiry?

Liz

Sarah
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Postby Sarah » Mon Jun 27, 2005 10:06 pm

Hi Liz,

Just to clear up any misapprehension, I never felt I was treated any better because I was ill, in fact far from it. I was left in no doubt that being ill in any way meant I was 'damaged goods'. Certainly there was no doubt that for many of the teachers, but not all, it was obviously my own fault that I was ill (that really used to piss me off).

Where I was lucky was that this in itself helped exclude me from what I view as equally damaging, i.e. the 'more senior level' aspects of the schools, e.g. the Foundation group etc, bizarre and unsuitable marriages etc. Also, I was a very bloody minded teenager and I dealt with a lot by withdrawing (see later issues opening up emotionally etc, plus I'm really quite the objective analytical scientist at times), plus my illness was less serious than your own. Knowing how they treated me, I really feel for what you would have had to have gone through and I do understand a little of it.

As far as the inquiry goes, I have no intention of submitting anything to the enquiry, at least not right now. I would need to find out more about it first - which I do intend to do, before making a decision. Just have to find time to spend more time on the website (easier said than done sometimes).

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ET
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Postby ET » Tue Jun 28, 2005 6:54 pm

Hi Tom and Sarah,

Thanks for your support. Sorry Sarah if I misread your comments about your illness, I know exactly what you mean about being told your illness was your own fault. I hope you are able to submit to the inquiry, but I can understand your wariness - we all share that on here, don't we guys and girls?!

Yes, Tom, I did include that particular story in my submission, along with many others. Interestingly though, it didn't even occur to me to mention my disability until my partner asked me why I hadn't included it - they really did make me feel it wasn't something I should talk about, it was something I had to overcome.

It's only in the last few years that I've begun to realise exactly how difficult things were for me then and are still when it comes to my physical disabilities. In a way, I thank them all (and I include my parents in this) for not allowing me to wallow in my disabilities, but I also blame them for the fact that I have always felt stupid for not being able to do things, or not having enough stamina. It would have been nice to have had some recognition of what I was going through as a child. Instead, as I said, I thought all children had the pain and difficulties I did, and it was my fault I couldn't keep up.

The more memories this site drags up, the more I hope and pray that the inquiry achieves something. We all deserve it.

RobMac
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Postby RobMac » Wed Jun 29, 2005 8:09 pm

As some of you may be aware there is a splinter school of St James.
It was set up and is being run by senior SES members and allures to links to St James and SES however there is nothing from the SES or St James side linking back to this school.

I do not believe that this will be the only school and I dare not imagine the motivation behind establishing other schools with these invisible links.

If anyone can provide any additional information I would be very grateful.

If you do not wish to respond in the forum please email me privately at robmacleod@hotmail.com.

For those that remember me maybe I should have choosen "Clod Hopper" as my nick name :-)

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Keir
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Postby Keir » Thu Jun 30, 2005 1:17 pm

Just to let anyone who is more than a little sceptical about submitting to the inquiry, I can thoroughly recommend it. The chairman James Townend is adamant that he will be totally independent in his conduct of the inquiry and whilst I was there took great pains to reassure me of his interest in all aspects of the link between SES and the day schools. He quizzed me at length on the SES and seems to be beginning to understand the depth of involvement that the organisation has on policy at the school. At the end of the hour interview he was genuinely grateful to me for the information I was able to provide and extended an invitation that if I remembered anything else to please get in touch with him.

I was a little surprised at my own reaction after the interview. I sat in the pub round the corner from his chambers and found that I was feeling deeply relieved that finally I had been listened to by someone who was genuinely shocked at the level of institutional suppression we all went through. It seems that the more people who I meet who seem genuinely shocked at our treatment, the more I allow myself to truly feel all those feelings that I buried at the time in order to survive. I was surprised not that there were feelings of relief, but that after years of work on myself to resolve them, that there were still areas I hadnt fully dealt with.

I think this goes to the heart of the matter for me. The institutional emotional supression that is practiced by the SES and its satellite organisations in the name of wisdom is not only not a route to wisdom in the way they practice it, but is in fact a dangerous policy that visits on children and adults alike a suppression that can only lead to mental or emotional imbalance.

I know of at least one teacher who 'lost it' on one of the teachers group residential weeks. Half way through the week he 'became the absolute'. Quite what a professional psychologist would call it I dont know - A psychotic episode? - but he left SES after that. He did later help out at the next school regatta on the old boys' boat and you couldnt have met a nicer more moderate, more human, human being. Suffice to say this was not advertised by the SES and I have no idea what explanation the school gave to its pupils for the maths teacher suddenly going AWOL. Answers on a postacrd please...

I think that his reaction was a more genuine response than the more slippery characters that are still there and still deluding themselves that they are doing 'the work'. The more I think about it the more I am convinced that there are quite a few senior members that use the SES as a staffed gentlemens club - a diversion from the tedious business of earning money. The staff are the poor deluded individuals who are still hoping for enlightenment after 15 years of telling themselves not to feel and allowing themselves to be told what to do. 'If it aint happened yet it aint likely to' - a very loose translation of what HH said to Leon Maclaren shortly before refusing to see him anymore. It begs the question, who is the guru now?!

With such an important opportunity to be heard, I would encourage you not to think that you have nothing drastic enough to submit, we were all there and all went through the institutional suppression. How you dealt with it is your own business, but the fact that you had to deal with it is entirely relevant to the terms of reference of this inquiry. If you are sceptical about the enquiry's power to change anything, just use the opportunity to be heard, and maybe in the process you will understand quite how you were convinced that the SES is an all powerfull organisation. Convincing St J and St V children that it could not be touched had a fundamental role in supressing dissent, and they are trying it again by setting narrow ToR and ridiculous deadlines for submissions, and putting that ridiculous appendix on the ToR.

It is only as powerful as you make it.

Now where did I put my two-fingered salute? Must have left it with all my other school stuff and punk memorabilia...let me see......


:2gunfire:


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