Inquiry Support

Discussion of the children's schools in the UK.
A friend

Inquiry Support

Postby A friend » Sat Nov 27, 2004 2:46 pm

My husband and I have known the St.James schools for a number of years. When all this talk about events at the school 20 or more years ago started we were amazed that we had never heard any of this. We talked to others, they too had never heard any of this. Over recent weeks I have started to wonder what the motives of many of the people on this message board are. At the beginning it looked like a genuine desire to have something from the past properly examined and dealt with. Now it looks as if that genuine thought is being overtaken by some kind of desire for revenge or hurt, especially to the current schools.
The St.James set up we know now is very different to the early days. If the people on the message board genuinely want to have the events of 20/30 years ago examined and answered we support you. This is why we are in favour of a proper inquiry. If the new mood of St.James is what we think it is then we would expect it to face up to things rightly and justly. If the wish however is to do serious harm to the present schools then we cannot support you in that,and we know there are others who feel the same. We are staying anonymous becase we have noticed that whenever anyone genuinely wants to put the opposite point of view, or whenever anyone speaks in favour of the present schools, they attract vitriol.I dont particularly want this to happen to my family, who are well known by the schools. It seems to us that it would be good advice to be moderate in speech.

leonm

Re: Inquiry Support

Postby leonm » Sat Nov 27, 2004 5:08 pm

A friend wrote:The St.James set up we know now is very different to the early days..
.


Thanks for your post guest. Could you please illustrate how St James of the past was different from the current schools?

While agreeing with your comments about how some people seem to wish ill to the current St James, and however unpalatable to you or I their their position may be, their stories must be considered no less valid or damning than those pursuing a more reconciliatory approach. Personally I wish no harm on the current school, despite being unsympathetic to it's
philosophy and despite spending the worst 7 years of my life at St James.

Regarding your point about being surprised you have not heard about these incidents before. I respectfully put it that to you that one will garner a far different picture conversing with pupils parents and teachers who belong to the SES faithfull than with those who were "outside" or subjected to violent abuse. It is the nature of cults to be self censoring non critical and blind to their own faults and excesses, and are also fairly adept at silencing "troublemakers".

best
leonm

TB

Postby TB » Sun Nov 28, 2004 12:19 am

Hi friend,
My husband and I have known the St.James schools for a number of years. When all this talk about events at the school 20 or more years ago started we were amazed that we had never heard any of this. We talked to others, they too had never heard any of this

Without compromising your anonymity can you clarify how much you actually know of the schools. These 'others' you speak of, are they SES members, past students, current students, teachers and are they based upon a handful of conversations to a detailed review. The comments made might be valid, however unqualified as they are they are unlikely to add to the overall picture.
I respectfully put it that to you that one will garner a far different picture conversing with pupils parents and teachers who belong to the SES faithfull than with those who were "outside" or subjected to violent abuse. It is the nature of cults to be self censoring non critical and blind to their own faults and excesses, and are also fairly adept at silencing "troublemakers".

I agree with the leonm comment above, however when the inquiry is set, democracy is likely to dominate. If leonm's "troublemakers" are a tiny minority and cannot somehow become a representative figurehead for part of the larger group, they will fail. If however, it can be shown that the majority of past pupils have been scarred by the school and this can be proven, then they will carry the day. At this stage these details are lacking. Noone seems to be able to get a handle on just how many, possibly silent, abused there are or how many out there, either were not abused, or have moved on and think little of the past.

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a different guest
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Postby a different guest » Sun Nov 28, 2004 11:08 am

The St.James set up we know now is very different to the early days


Is it? We've already had one concerned parent state how the kids of SES parents seem to "do better" than the local kids. I can only guess that YOUR kids are the kids of SES parents. Are they? Honest answer please.

The mindset of the SES may have been modified somewhat over the past 20 years (no doubt due to legal ramifications) but the underlying idealogy has not changed.

Irritated onlooker

Postby Irritated onlooker » Sun Nov 28, 2004 12:54 pm

a different guest wrote:
The St.James set up we know now is very different to the early days


Is it? We've already had one concerned parent state how the kids of SES parents seem to "do better" than the local kids.


Oh grow up. This is simply rubbish. Of the 6 students from the boys' school currently applying to Cambridge (if that is an indication of 'doing better' [Discuss]) 2 have an SES background, 4 have not. How you 'do' depends on a) innate capacity b) quality of teaching and c) how hard you work. It has absolutely NOTHING to do with who your parents are.

Do get real, people.

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adrasteia
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Postby adrasteia » Sun Nov 28, 2004 3:57 pm

Ok, here's my thoughts on it-
I believe/know that St. James is run by Ses.
I have shown on this site that there are efforts to rercuit new members of Ses through the day schools.
Does this effort somehow alienate pupils that are not 'ses material' or who do not take up the offer, in the same way that pupils who have not completed a St. James education can -in some circumstances- be excluded?
What of pupils that don't relate to the teachings of the Ses or seem to be spiritualy ambivilent? Are they lost causes? Problems? Do they need extra help?
I don't know about Head Boys, but about 99.9% of head girls have been in Ses 'Group'.
All a bit more subtle than implied above, but this is how I see it- the spiritual education is one of the most important things St. James offers, what of those pupils who don't make the grades there?

tamsinr

Understanding why things were different then

Postby tamsinr » Sun Nov 28, 2004 4:00 pm

In answer to the question raised by the motives of people who have posted on the site: I am not interested in revenge or trying to bring down some havoc on the school. I did leave the school a very angry person and it took several years to be able to move beyond this, and I am very grateful to subsequent teachers at a FE college that allowed me to gain the academic qualifications needed to go on to University where my politics tutors encouraged debate, argument and active questions. I have not thought of St James for many years and when it comes up in conversation it is to demonstrate the danger of conformity and uniform thinking.

But the realities of what went on need to be acknowledged, recognised and understood. Not least because a number of children were damaged and have had difficulty in their adult lives. This fact alone deserves proper attention, reflection and redress.

To understand how the school has changed we need to look at how it has evolved. It was set up in the 70' s, a time of great social change and education was a key area of experimentation. A number of alternative styles of schooling were being developed and implemented. The parents of many of the children at St James/St Vedast thought that they were giving the greatest possible gift - an opportunity to be introduced to and immersed in the philosophy and practices that had brought meaning and sense to their own lives.

The days schools were started on a shoe-string with few resources and barely financially sustainable. The classes took place in the same place as the evening courses and so few traces of the school could be visible. Now there are buildings designed for school use, evidence on the walls of the students work, modern facilities such as science labs etc. Back then there were no games, toys, charts and pictures on the wall. No elementary reading material, no library. Nowadays it would be unthinkable to attempt to establish a school without the most basic of equipment and resources.

The main element in the school - in fact the whole raison d' etre was the ideological themes brought in from the SES. So the fixed point in the curriculum were vedic philosophy, sanskrit, meditation, behaviour patterns - particularly gender roles - as prescribed by the SES. Everything else was a later addition, to be fitted around these fixed points. I imagine that the key principles used by the current teachers in developing the school timetable are the lessons and courses needed to meet exam requirements, national curriculum guidelines etc. I would hope that the SES elements are now the add-in parts and not the other way round.

Sociological and psychological studies shows us that almost every individual is capable of acts of petty abuse, cruelty, physical violence and torture. Most famously there were the experiments at Standord University but only this week a study was published in the New Scientist in reference to how the prisoner abuses at Abu Ghraib prison could take place. (see link below).

For such abberant behaviour to emerge, several core aspects are needed
A strongly cohesive social population (the overwhelming majority of parents and teachers were members of SES), social acceptability of small offences which can lead to de-sensitisation and establish the normality of more extreme behaviour. The influence of authority figures such as the head teachers and SES leaders as well as peer pressure will have contributed to the atmosphere and climate in the school and set the permissable boundaries. Another important factor is a sense of stress or threat from external factors. Within SES and the day schools there seemed to be a strong sense that the external world would not accept their philosophy and would seek to undermine it. There were also constant financial pressures. This contributed towards a fortress mentality inside the schools and led to the permanent suspicion of a conspiracy to undermine the system. It is laughable now, but teachers used to state - quite without irony - that a range of behaviours from 'gossip' (meant talking among the children), wearing trousers, spending time with children from other schools etc were ' evil' and deliberate and wilful acts designed to bring down the school.

I would argue that all of these elements were clearly in place in the environment of the early days of the school but are not the same now. The current children and teachers are more heterogenous and not just drawn from the SES community, corporal punishment has been outlawed and there is an understanding of children's rights and strong public debate about the appropriateness of smacking and discipline. The head teachers have changed, the schools are well established and face few external threats or stresses.

But individuals who disagreed with the process will, over the years, have been marginalised and excluded. It would be useful to hear if there were any protests lodged by teachers about what they saw going on and why some teachers left. Other people who were active in the abusive behaviour are still in post, but because the social context has changed... perhaps no longer act in this way.

http://uk.news.yahoo.com/041126/12/f7ea1.html

TB

Postby TB » Mon Nov 29, 2004 2:52 am

Hi Irritatated onlooker,
Oh grow up. This is simply rubbish. Of the 6 students from the boys' school currently applying to Cambridge (if that is an indication of 'doing better' [Discuss]) 2 have an SES background, 4 have not. How you 'do' depends on a) innate capacity b) quality of teaching and c) how hard you work. It has absolutely NOTHING to do with who your parents are.

Do get real, people

Are you applying your strongly worded statement just to this scenario or are you making the blanket statement that a parents positions does or has NEVER been an influence upon the success/achievement of their children? Do you also exclude random events as having influence on these outcomes?
Are you basing these views on a) your own direct experience, b) professional study in this area or c) observation or d) intuition?

guest

Postby guest » Mon Nov 29, 2004 9:34 am

Irritated onlooker wrote:
a different guest wrote:
The St.James set up we know now is very different to the early days


Is it? We've already had one concerned parent state how the kids of SES parents seem to "do better" than the local kids.


Oh grow up. This is simply rubbish. Of the 6 students from the boys' school currently applying to Cambridge (if that is an indication of 'doing better' [Discuss]) 2 have an SES background, 4 have not. How you 'do' depends on a) innate capacity b) quality of teaching and c) how hard you work. It has absolutely NOTHING to do with who your parents are.

Do get real, people.


"Oh grow up." Nice to see that St James people are as able as ever to argue rationally, without putting people down.

Harriet

St J's and SES

Postby Harriet » Mon Nov 29, 2004 4:05 pm

Just to say that I used to want to kill them all (SES and Teachers - I was a pupil 1981-1993 and in SES as a child in an adults group from about the age of 12-15) but now, PERSONALLY I will add and after nearly 12 years, I think I have better things to do.

I had a crap time from the age of 4 to 15 when they expelled (sorry - I correct, verbally supspended and asked me to leave and then invited me back a few months later but only if I said sorry..you can imagine my answer to that - and actually Miss Caldwell was not long for the chop following that incident..)

As you can tell from my tone, I am by no means happy with want went on and I know a lot of people, including people who are close to me and family who do not believe me when I tell some stories - but there you go.


I am lucky enough to have been and still be resourceful enough and resilient enough to have got through it all - I think that is what annoyed them the most - and I have a great life now.

Also my mum works there still in a non-teacher capacity and whilst I'm not condoning anything SES or St James's related I respect my mum's right to work and do what she wishes to so I am not going to open anything up that could upset her now and in the future.

I think it will be quite obvious by all what I have said to work out who I am and I don't mind that at all - Happy to talk to anyone who wants to talk to me but no wish to dwell on the matter.

There you go - I would go on but I've got work to do!
H
xxxxxx

St.Vedast Survivor

Re: Understanding why things were different then

Postby St.Vedast Survivor » Mon Nov 29, 2004 4:06 pm

Thank you for your fascinating post Tamsin.

tamsinr wrote:The days schools were started on a shoe-string with few resources and barely financially sustainable. The classes took place in the same place as the evening courses and so few traces of the school could be visible. Now there are buildings designed for school use, evidence on the walls of the students work, modern facilities such as science labs etc. Back then there were no games, toys, charts and pictures on the wall. No elementary reading material, no library. Nowadays it would be unthinkable to attempt to establish a school without the most basic of equipment and resources.


Yes, this certainly jogs a few memories. Like you say the whole place was in a bubble all of it's own, totally detached from reality and the outside world. I was at St Vedast for the first 3 years of it's existence, and I honestly can't remember a single text book being handed out in that entire time - let alone there being a library! As you say this is possibly because they couldn't afford text books, but probably also because no books existed that tied-in with their SES doctrine. The classrooms were sparse and intimidating places, the only thing on the walls welcoming us into the room was the threatening sight of the infamous black-mark board. What an inspiration to those tender young minds!

TB

Postby TB » Tue Nov 30, 2004 12:04 am

Hi Tamsinr,
Sociological and psychological studies shows us that almost every individual is capable of acts of petty abuse, cruelty, physical violence and torture. Most famously there were the experiments at Standord University but only this week a study was published in the New Scientist in reference to how the prisoner abuses at Abu Ghraib prison could take place. (see link below

Thankyou for an interesting post. You show a rare ability to put your own experience of the school in the perspective of human behaviour in general. You also showed that it is possible to explain the mechanisms without excusing the behaviour.

Given your reference to the Stanford experiments and Abu Ghraib, and if not already seen, you might find the Stanley Milgram experiments on obedience and Stockholm Syndrome of interest. Note that regardless of the results of the experiments and observations themselves, the reactions to them also told a story. Milgrams results were initially suppressed, presumably because it was too difficult to acknowledge that people were capable of such behaviour.

http://www.age-of-the-sage.org/psycholo ... iment.html

http://web2.iadfw.net/ktrig246/out_of_cave/sss.html


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