An SES member says: it's time for an SES apology

Discussion of the children's schools in the UK.
chittani
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An SES member says: it's time for an SES apology

Postby chittani » Fri Mar 10, 2006 11:59 am

As a member of SES in London for quite a few years, I have a lot of admiration for the approach taken by Merry in the main discussion thread. Over the coming months I will also do what I can to help move things forward. It's just unfortunate that this kind of individual action is not yet being matched at the top.

When the Secret Cult book came out in the 1980s the then leader of the School decided that he would not speak publicly about it. On balance, that was probably wise because although much of what it uncovered was true, there was a lot of innuendo in there as well, and questions remain about the book's political agenda.

Fortunately, this is a different situation. For sure, this web site is not exactly without an 'angle' of its own, and there's a hell of a lot of innuendo here as well as truth, but that?s now irrelevant: we have the Chairman?s Report. The Inquiry was conducted on the terms agreed by St James and the Report?s findings were accepted by the Governors. So, unless there is some radical difference of opinion between the SES and St James, it is admitted by all that serious mistakes were made.

The Inquiry was not set up to look at the SES, but the finger of blame points at us. Was it all the teachers' and Heads? fault? Well, some of it clearly was, but they were poorly selected, poorly supported, and poorly advised. Was it the Governors' fault? Yes, because they abdicated responsibility. Who to? To Leon MacLaren. They were, in the words of the report, "MacLaren's Men". The SES must therefore shoulder its share of the blame.

Leon MacLaren is honoured at St James on Founder's Day for the work he did in inspiring, setting up and guiding St James until his death in 1994. Well, if he is responsible for that and praiseworthy, then he is also responsible for its flaws and blameworthy. He didn't get everything right. Painful as this might be to those that knew and loved him, he made mistakes, and those mistakes had serious consequences. He cannot make reparation, but we can.

I say "we", but although individual members might wish for it, there is nothing much that we can do. Donald Lambie is the leader of the SES, and unless he speaks, or appoints a spokesman, then there will be no apology.

I?ve got a lot to thank the SES for, and I?ve gladly given it some of the best years of my life. I?ll continue to do so. But it?s time for us to move on from this weary old nonsense to better things. None of the bad stuff had to happen ? it wasn?t a case of breaking eggs to make an omelette (ugh). The atmosphere of fear, the pressure, the shouting and the hitting ? it didn?t come from the children, and it didn?t come from philosophy. It came from stupidity. We can?t be proud of that, but let?s do something we can be proud of. Tell the truth.

I won?t put a poll on here. There?s no need for a democratic vote on it. We got it wrong, people suffered. Humanity, let alone philosophy, demands that we tell it like it is.

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bella
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Postby bella » Fri Mar 10, 2006 12:04 pm

Nice post.

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bonsai
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Postby bonsai » Fri Mar 10, 2006 1:22 pm

Chittani,

Thank you for your post. I certainly do hope that an apology from the SES will be forthcoming for all the reasons you have mentioned. I am also grateful to merry for the posts he has written and the stance of true reconciliation that he is taking.

I agree that the likelyhood of an apology from the SES is slim unless Donald Lambie, as Senior Tutor, chooses to speak on the subject. However there is the possibility that the Trustees of the SES could also choose to issue the apology as they carry the legal responsibility for SES and Donald Lambie is not a trustee.

I also hope that there can continue to be investigations into other areas at St James and the SES where both ex-pupils and parents and ex-members have grievances or concerns and that where necessary both organisations can make appropriate changes and make apologies and offer reconciliation. As you have said, Mr Townend's inquiry was done on St James's terms and as many have already voiced here this still leaves a fair number of issues unresolved.

Bonsai

chittani
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Postby chittani » Fri Mar 10, 2006 1:25 pm

Thanks Bella.

I should say, for clarification, that I was not an SES member during the years the Inquiry relates to; and that I've never worked for St James / St Vedast.

chittani
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Postby chittani » Fri Mar 10, 2006 1:28 pm

Bonsai

Thank you also. I agree that the Trustees / Fellowship could indeed do something, but it would never happen unless they got the go-ahead from the top.

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Postby Alban » Fri Mar 10, 2006 7:56 pm

Hi Chittani.

Yes, you're right, but how strongly do you feel about it?

What will you do if no appology is forthcoming. Could you still attend evening classes while being aware of this underlying hypocracy? Would you lobby your tutor and your tutor's tutor - risking making yourself unpopular and possibly thwarting your upward journey through the levels?

I am interested as we have had a number of current members of the SES calling for appologies, but I do wonder how many there are in the organisation who feel this way, and what would happen if they all shouted with one voice.

Of course, they shouldn't have to...and none of this should be necessary...but..well, I'm not going over that ground again.

Alban

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Stanton
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Postby Stanton » Fri Mar 10, 2006 8:27 pm

Good to read your post, Chittani. There are not many of us SES members contributing to this board. For the life of me I can't see why apologies and governors' resignations are not forthcoming. Would clear the air quicker than anything. I can only suppose that the School leadership finds it difficult to fully take on board the implications of the Townend report.

Goblinboy
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Re: An SES member says: it's time for an SES apology

Postby Goblinboy » Fri Mar 10, 2006 10:56 pm

chittani wrote: None of the bad stuff had to happen ? it wasn?t a case of breaking eggs to make an omelette (ugh). The atmosphere of fear, the pressure, the shouting and the hitting ? it didn?t come from the children, and it didn?t come from philosophy. It came from stupidity. We can?t be proud of that, but let?s do something we can be proud of. Tell the truth.


Good post, Chittani. Thanks. I've heard a number of long-term SES people with whom I have contact say as much, but with less apparent clarity and sincerity.

Pity it had to come to this though.

Will be interested to see whether Lambie et al have the courage and insight to act appropriately, or will they continue with ineffectual half-measures and continue to harm their reputations within and beyond the SES?

Much of the reputational damage that has recently occurred (and which has been of such concern to current and recent St James pupils) could have been avoided with sensitive handling when Tom, Matthew and Dan first approached the current and retiring headmasters of St James.

I remain concerned that a lot of feedback from the SES is content to denounce MacLaren as the cause of much misery - see Katherine Watson's unfortunate response to Anita Woolf below from a 2005 thread - "the whole ghastly business was essentially his fault". The Nuremburg defence ("we were just following orders") is hollow - it takes two to tango.

Chittani, you seem to appreciate there's a bigger picture, which is refreshing.


Anita Woolf wrote:Is MacLaren's portrait still hanging in its place of honour in the School? Despite your realisation that "the whole ghastly business was essentially his fault"?


See the full post at http://www.whyaretheydead.net/phpBB2/viewtopic.php?p=3043&highlight=#3043[/url]

chittani
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Postby chittani » Sat Mar 11, 2006 8:55 am

Alban,

Thanks for your reply.

I feel very strongly about it and as I've said I'll do whatever I can. But I don't think you've fully understood the nature of the SES, or its problems, if you feel that ambition is the major issue in whether people speak up.

The reason people don't question things in the SES, overwhelmingly, is fear. The culture of fear that existed during your school days was a consequence of the culture of fear that prevailed in the SES. I don't equate your suffering with that of your teachers, of course - that would be insulting as well as meaningless. But they were scared and, whatever else may have been wrong with them, that's the common factor.

Even now, it persists. It's a classic case of what happens when a powerful, charismatic leader passes away. Everyone spends the next ten years not focusing on the situation at hand but on the question, "What would HE (or of course SHE) have done?" The organization moves in ever-decreasing circles until it eventually collapses or people start to think intelligently again.

What people don't realise is that MacLaren took the School as far as he could given his personal strengths and limitations. If he were alive and young today he wouldn't be meekly following in someone else's footsteps, but turning things upside down. Anyone who wants to honour his memory should bear that in mind.

Ambition plays a tiny part in the motivations of SES people. Of course it's there, they're only human beings like everyone else. But it takes such a lonnngg time to actually get anywhere in the organization, and the kudos when you get there (unless I suppose you're one of the 0.001 % that actually runs a branch) is so minor, that most ambitious people have, I suspect, taken their particular vice elsewhere.

Well, that's my personal view. Fellow SES members, both present and honoured Alumni: the first and most basic of the virtues according to both Socrates and the Bhagavad Gita is courage. Unless we have courage, spiritual work doesn't start.

chittani
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Postby chittani » Sat Mar 11, 2006 9:14 am

Goblinboy,

I think you've hit the nail on the head there. The problem isn't an old dead man, it's the dead people still walking around doing nothing.

I think all but the most negatively inspired (like that turn of phrase, Mr Townend, like it) recognise that the issues in question are very largely in the past. St James isn't perfect. I probably wouldn't send a boy there at the moment, but I would be happy to send a girl because the female teachers have got it right. The SES also isn't perfect. It's not yet entirely 'safe' as an environment for someone who is vulnerable and impressionable. But if they had always been like they are now, we wouldn't have this message board or the Inquiry. Well, maybe the message board, but it wouldn't be all that popular.

The issue isn't now large-scale cult-like manipulation, grooming child brides, breaking up families etc etc. The issue now is owning up to the past, and then doing what can be done to make reparation.

The Governors are clearly doing their best, as is David Boddy, but you can see their limitations in the statement they put out in response to the Inquiry. On the whole they would just prefer it all went away now. That phrase, "hardened activists" - it's redolent of decades of SES criticism of 'the world'. If they had any insight they would know the damage they do to the cause of reconciliation by using such terms. They could do with a lesson in the written word from the esteemed Chairman.

Justice
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An SES member says: its time for an SES apology

Postby Justice » Sat Mar 11, 2006 4:23 pm

Chitani said:

The issue isn't now large-scale cult-like manipulation, grooming child brides, breaking up families etc etc. The issue now is owning up to the past, and then doing what can be done to make reparation.


Not so!

I know of at least one family that has been totally devestated by RECENT involvement with the SES, and know from speaking to other people that their have been MANY other families destroyed in the past.

chittani
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Postby chittani » Sat Mar 11, 2006 9:31 pm

Justice,

I'm truly sorry to hear that.

But, would you like to re-read what you just wrote and explain to us why you feel it contradicts what I said?

One family break-up is a tragedy, but it's not a large-scale tragedy. Lots of families breaking up is a large-scale tragedy, but if it's in the past ... well, isn't acknowledging that the point of my post?

I don't really see where you're coming from. What's your interest anyway? What, for you, would be a happy ending to all this?[/quote]
Last edited by chittani on Sat Mar 11, 2006 11:01 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Alban
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Postby Alban » Sat Mar 11, 2006 11:01 pm

chittani wrote:I feel very strongly about it and as I've said I'll do whatever I can. But I don't think you've fully understood the nature of the SES, or its problems, if you feel that ambition is the major issue in whether people speak up.


You term it ambition, I term it fear of failure - actually we're talking about the same thing.

That asside, you say you feel very strongly, but would you care to qualify that - that was after all the main point of my post.

Alban

chittani
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Postby chittani » Sat Mar 11, 2006 11:12 pm

Alban,

Your question is a fair one and I didn't mean to evade it.

There are quite a few people now saying this kind of thing. Most people wanted to wait for the Report, I think. I know I did. There wasn't much point in doing anything until it was published, because it would be too easy for people to wriggle out. Also I suppose one would like to give the chance for people to do the right thing ...

There's nothing I'm saying here that I won't say within SES. In fact I've already told my tutor that we ought to apologise, and I've spoken to a couple of other people on the St James side about it.

It's useful to exchange views here with you, because it helps to get things clear before going into bat.

Justice
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An SES member says: Its time

Postby Justice » Sun Mar 12, 2006 12:47 am

Chitani said:

One family break-up is a tragedy, but it's not a large-scale tragedy. Lots of families breaking up is a large-scale tragedy, but if it's in the past ... well, isn't acknowledging that the point of my post?


Thanks Chitani......You are all heart!!

Chitani went on to say:

I don't really see where you're coming from. What's your interest anyway? What, for you, would be a happy ending to all this?


What would be a happy ending to all this?

If the SES and St. James told the WHOLE TRUTH about their REAL agenda then there wouldnt be a problem........ because they wouldnt have any takers!


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