What it would take to achieve ?Truth and Reconciliation?

Discussion of the children's schools in the UK.
Anita
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What it would take to achieve ?Truth and Reconciliation?

Postby Anita » Mon Mar 27, 2006 4:46 pm

Janice wrote:Ben in your second post to Elizabeth you asked her How do we truly achieve reconciliation? Can this question have a thread of its own. We are all on a learning curve with this one.

Perhaps it was a mistake for Mr Boddy to refer to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. This idea was first mooted in a conversation between Mrs Hyde and my husband over three years ago as a way for the staff at St. Vedast to face up to their actions. (We were told all the problems existed at St Vedast, and that St James has always been a very happy school. After reading the BB it became clearly evident early on that this was yet another falsehood). We are South African and my husband?s parents, as we were, were deeply involved in the anti-Apartheid movement. Mr Boddy speaks in platitudes about Truth and Reconciliation, clearly without any comprehension of what that process actually entailed for victims and perpetrators alike, or the lengthy and agonising preparation period before Bishop Tutu was able to facilitate the confrontation. The white oppressors volunteered to come face to face with their victims, and in the process were brought by this confrontation to a full realisation of their own bestiality and of the system they were caught up in, and how their actions affected the lives of people they once considered their inferiors. They were thereby cleansed and experienced true remorse, and so forgiveness could take place. I watched the process on television and it was a most moving, salutary and uplifting experience. At last, I felt proud to be South African. Nowhere in the world had such a process been thought of, let alone enacted.

The lengthy and expensive investigation into the truth of the allegations found indeed that there had been ?criminal abuse? inflicted on the pupils. Despite this, many staff members including Mr Debenham have still not acknowledged that there was anything wrong with what they did. The sad truth about human nature is that in more men than we would care to acknowledge, the brute lies just below the surface and a word from on high will unleash it.

If the school is serious about ?Truth and Reconciliation?, so much about the SES would have to be questioned. The hope once nurtured that when the truth was established a genuine realisation of fundamentals would take place is perhaps asking too much. It would question the flaws in Leon MacLaren, the man whose photograph still hangs in an honoured position in the St James schools. It would take vision of a very high order to retain what is good and truly turn their backs on issues that have damaged the very concept of a spiritual education. There are many good and fine people in the SES who have devoted their lives to ?self-examination? and ?truth?. All that is needed is to drop the humbug and stop protecting the false that belies everything that they have devoted their lives to.

What was revealed to Mr Townend was the tip of the iceberg. There are many who could not attend the inquiry. The reasons being: a) They live in other countries, b) they are still unable to confront their parents who are now quite elderly and have devoted their lives to a belief structure, c) St James did nowhere near enough to inform all former pupils of it?s existence. Many only heard about it after it had taken place. The Terms of reference?s limited scope is also well documented.

I also wrote in the past on this BB about how important it has been for my husband and I to have gone through the painful process of acknowledging what we allowed to happen to our sons, both for them and us. And we have to witness one of our son?s ongoing emotional problems and how bravely he is doing all he can to help others who are too damaged to have gone anywhere near the inquiry. There are too many people in their thirties and forties to say ?mistakes were made by a few overzealous teachers? or to dismiss the vocal men and women as ?trouble-makers? or ?hardened activists?. They speak for those who cannot speak for themselves.

I?m sure there are many in the School who would want to go through a process of ?Truth and Reconciliation?, but a brave and unprecedented step would have to be taken by the current powers that be within the organisation. That surely is the battle humanity has always faced in the process of spiritual growth.

Anita Woolf
(Former SES member, and parent of former St Vedast pupils)

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Stanton
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Postby Stanton » Mon Mar 27, 2006 5:27 pm

A lovely post, Anita - thank you

Alban
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Re: What it would take to achieve ?Truth and Reconciliation?

Postby Alban » Mon Mar 27, 2006 7:18 pm

I agree Anita, there is a long long way to go before such a process could take place.

However, I would just like to highlight one thing you said, just so it doesn't get lost...

Anita wrote:...This idea was first mooted in a conversation between Mrs Hyde and my husband over three years ago as a way for the staff at St. Vedast to face up to their actions.


...which is yet another nail in David Boddy's coffin

Alban

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Ben W
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Thank you

Postby Ben W » Mon Mar 27, 2006 7:19 pm

Hi Anita,

Thank you for starting this thread.

Best wishes,
Ben
Child member of SES from around 1967 to around 1977; Strongly involved in Sunday Schools ; Five brothers and sisters went to ST V and St J in the worst years

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Ben W
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Points from "Questions for St James parents to ask...

Postby Ben W » Mon Mar 27, 2006 8:05 pm

The following quotes are lifted from ?Questions for St James parents to ask SES leadership. I think they sit better here.

Ben Wheaton wrote:The overall aim of such a meeting must be to bring people closer together [...] Or am I missing something? (serious question)


If I can clarify, I mean that if groups of people are polarised, then any movement will by definition bring them closer together. I?m not expecting everyone to join the ?Old Boys? club.

Keir wrote:a genuine apology given by the abusers to the abused should be the first movement of any non-confrontational debate/discussion.


daska wrote:do we really have to get 'closer'?

personally I believe an apology is enough!


I?m interested in further views here. Is a simple, heartfelt apology enough? Is it, in any event, a necessary first step?
Child member of SES from around 1967 to around 1977; Strongly involved in Sunday Schools ; Five brothers and sisters went to ST V and St J in the worst years

sugarloaf
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Postby sugarloaf » Mon Mar 27, 2006 8:49 pm

I?m sure there are many in the School who would want to go through a process of ?Truth and Reconciliation?, but a brave and unprecedented step would have to be taken by the current powers that be within the organisation. That surely is the battle humanity has always faced in the process of spiritual growth.


Thanks anita.

Sadly the signs dont look good. I feel sure there must be plenty of SES members who would be willing to really face up to the SES involvement in mistreatment - both of children and adults - but the current leadership obviously does not.

As is becoming abundantly clear - they have known about this for decades, and on numerous occassions have ignored it. The inquiry came about only through pressure, the change in scope and chairman came about through pressure, the letters to notify potential complainants only came after pressure, the statement on the status of current implicated teachers came about after pressure, the current meeting called with parents is only happening because the leadership feels under pressure.

If you have any doubt what the leaderships position is - watch their interviews on C4 again. Its 110% clear that the actions of the current leadership revolve solely around self interest.

What next? some dramatic new statement and announcements of sudden change/reform? For a leadership that has lied so consistently words no longer have any meaning. what is needed is action - in a transparent manner that can be verified by both those within and outside the org.

Time perhaps for genuine SES members (those that believe in truth, accountability, and a responsibility to others) to choose a new leadership?

Oops sorry I forgot - they are not elected, you are not consulted.

Time perhaps for some fundamental reform of your organisation - so that you can have a say?

After all its you who pay the subscription, who do the service, who maintain the properties, who give your time for free. Not a lot to ask for in return?

sparks
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Postby sparks » Mon Mar 27, 2006 11:18 pm

Apologies in advance for the long post!

Anita, thank you for your post starting this thread - What it would take to achieve ?Truth and Reconciliation?. Your posting is timely.

I wish to make three points ? which I will expand on below, on the topic of reconciliation.

First, that current reconciliation talk ignores the fact that the schools / SES have failed to act on the findings of the Townend report. Second that the reconciliation the Governors and Boddy talk of conveniently excludes St James and the SES ? placing the responsibility firmly on former pupils and teachers. Finally, what it would take to achieve ?Truth and Reconciliation? - that there may be a place for some form of reconciliation, but that it must be an inclusive process, it must include St James and the SES and that it must follow action (reconciliation is not a substitute for action).

This will require a real sea change in the way St James and SES are currently behaving.

As Anita said
?I?m sure there are many in the School who would want to go through a process of ?Truth and Reconciliation?, but a brave and unprecedented step would have to be taken by the current powers that be within the organisation.


Failure to act on the Inquiry
There is clearly a great deal of pressure at the moment on the current St James and particularly on the SES. This is hardly surprising given the findings of the inquiry as well as other issues raised on this board and elsewhere.

What has exacerbated this pressure is the complete failure of St James and the SES to respond to the issues of abuse, management failings, transparency etc. ?and let?s not forget this follows decades of burying their heads in the sand.

St James: ?we made mistakes in the past? and regret if any former pupils were unhappy 30 years ago. Oh yes, and 1 current teacher will get a written reprimand!

SES: Nothing! Complete silence?(I don?t count Skelcey?s 5 seconds on Channel 4 as a meaningful response by an instutution to at least a decade of abuse)


What?s wrong with the St James / SES focus on reconciliation?
The only thing St James and latterly the SES seem to be happy to talk about is reconciliation?reconciliation is being promoted as the solution to the problems former pupils have. They also give the impression there is well planned process for reconciliation which the schools are now working through (note that their website has now been re-edited?a little rewriting of history appears to be going on!)

The Governors have seen the reconciliation in several steps, and have written to all those complainants and teachers who were named in the Inquiry, offering help with facilitation if the reconciliation process is felt to require it.
See http://www.iirep.com/page10.htm

I will ignore that fact that it took 2 months to write and that there are still complainants who haven?t been contacted

And?.
?the Governors remain intent on pursuing the course of facilitating reconciliation between past pupils and teachers. A process to assist in this has been offered.
See http://www.iirep.com/page9.htm

And then of course there is David Boddy?s rather smug spin on Channel 4 news (sorry Anita, apparently the inspiration of the TRC came from Boddy not your husband!)

David Boddy (on Channel 4 News) wrote: ?There was the need to bring about some reconciliation with our former pupils and so we were really inspired I think by the book by Archbishop Desmond Tutu book ?No Future without Forgiveness? who speaks of ?establish the truth first as a lead up to reconciliation?


And as Anita says..
Mr Boddy speaks in platitudes about Truth and Reconciliation, clearly without any comprehension of what that process actually entailed for victims and perpetrators alike, or the lengthy and agonising preparation period before Bishop Tutu was able to facilitate the confrontation



What it would take to achieve ?Truth and Reconciliation?
I believe the rush to reconciliation AND the focus on reconciliation being between former pupils and teachers is motivated by a desire to:

1. focus attention away from the fact that St James / SES have failed to act on the inquiry
2. put the focus on individuals - (mainly former) teachers and former pupils and away
3. distract attention from the failings institutional responsibility of the SES and of the St James governing body

I have re-quoted parts of Chittani's and Bonsai?s recent post from another thread because of their relevance here. I wholly support the approaches you suggest - there must be a focus on internal reform of the SES and its management. I would extend this to St James of course. Then steps towards some form of reconciliation might begin make some sense.

chittani wrote:I believe that there has to be:
- a sincere apology from the School of Economic Science and St James, both public and private;
- new procedures and structures put in place to ensure full openness and accountability in the management of both organisations;
- face to face meetings with complainants by representatives of both organizations, in a mutually unthreatening environment;
- actions taken where possible to bring about reconciliation;

Having achieved that, I think that the new management structure, including trusted non-combatants (where are you Mr Townend?), should be asked to review the Inquiry Report again, with a view to establishing a just resolution which is known to be fair by all reasonable observers, whatever their affiliation. It is not right for the governors to be the only people privy to a Report that calls into question their own competence.

I see no reason not to involve complainants in the review, either as observers or even as participants, provided that they can demonstrate that their purposes are positive and constructive..


and
bonsai wrote:I also think a clear mechanism for dealing with complaints and grievances needs to be set up in both organisations. This is partly due to the fact that there may still be some, like myself, who were not sufficiently aware of the inquiry in time to participate. Also there are others whose grievances were not investigated due to the limitations in the inquiries terms of reference.

I think both organisations need to recognise that there are people that have attended them who's time in them have been very negative. I think both organisations would benefit from being open to listening to these complaints when they occur. This would certainly provide a framework for both organisations to learn lessons and evolve and not make the mistakes of the past. Bonsai


Maybe then reconciliation would serve a purpose?

What St James and the SES need now is courageous leadership not PR. Shooting the messengers is not the answer.

That is what I believe former pupils and their families, current parents, pupils and SES members ? and of course the many good teachers at the current St James deserve.

Are they up to it?

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Postby Free » Mon Mar 27, 2006 11:48 pm

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bonsai
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Postby bonsai » Tue Mar 28, 2006 2:02 pm

sparks wrote:What St James and the SES need now is courageous leadership not PR. Shooting the messengers is not the answer.


This more than anything is what I see as stopping the reconciliation process occuring. The governors in their statement following the Townend report have consistently tried to save the face of the current schools demonstrating that actually the process they are involved in is nothing more that a PR exercise.

To comment on the states of the current schools does nothing but belittle the experiences of those who have been treated badly in the past.

I can accept that the schools wish to do what they can to minimise the impact on pupil base of today. However I can only imagine that if they were to embrace the reconciliation process with a little more humility and respect that the benefit to the schools today would be far more significant.

Bonsai

CeliaR
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Re: What it would take to achieve &#8220;Truth and Recon

Postby CeliaR » Tue Mar 28, 2006 11:05 pm

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Anita
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Postby Anita » Fri Mar 31, 2006 12:17 pm

Apologies for the delay in responding. I am a one finger typist and spend most of my day covered in oil-paint. Your responses, particularly Sugarloaf & Sparks reveal the depth of your insights, the tenacity of your struggle, & the clarity of your vision. You have all created a blue-print for reconciliation. There have been so many brilliant posts over the years, this must be having an effect. Nobody gets away with any woolly thinking. No platitudes or empty nice sounding SES phrases. You are so right about keeping up the pressure. It is work of the highest order, for the sake of others. Not even earning yourselves a place in heaven, because you don?t believe in that. But I happen to think that all you guys (and that means females as well of course) will.

If the SES digs its heels in, pupil numbers will dwindle. St.James girls (the only present day school I know anything about) has too much good about it to see itself harmed. But change it must. I see Jamie Oliver came to art of hospitality (a good full bodied male) & one of the boys at least I know wants to be a chef. More boys I agree should be encouraged into those kitchens.

T.M. and some of its harmful effects has been well documented by Joyce Collin Smith in ?Call no man master?. Maharishi?s decline is exposed. I for one prefer a different meditation. TM puts me to sleep and numbs my brain. Some adults thrive on it, or so they say - but I am sure it is dangerous for children, who are generally in a good state anyway, as long as they are left to it and taught in a sensitive way. Anyway all you are pressing for is transparency.

I feel more hopeful in recent days that the slumbering giant is at last stirring. Please continue the good work, whoever you all are.

Much Love,
Anita Woolf
(Former SES member, and parent of former St Vedast pupils)

PS - During the 1960's one of Mr MacLaren?s more profound insights has remained with me. He said "No one should ever earn their living from the School - that would be its downfall". He was at the time a practising barrister. He of course later succumbed to the temptation of power & larger & larger properties. His defenders would say it was the only way to realise his dream of a worldwide renaissance. He was always drawn to men of wealth and power in the subsequent years. Mr Debenham was of course one of them. I believe he never drew a salary, and may indeed have supported the School. In a way the School has been caught in their own web - they have to support, protect, and eulogise Debenham now. As for the other abusers - they were following orders.

Janice
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Postby Janice » Sat Apr 01, 2006 12:15 pm

Anita thank you for starting this thread and for your interesting post.



Thanks

Janice

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Postby Free » Sun Apr 09, 2006 5:19 pm

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Postby CeliaR » Sun Apr 09, 2006 8:56 pm

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