(From The Oundelian, published June 2020)
In 1990 The Laxtonian published an article called ‘European Day’. It was published to celebrate closer European ties, a more united Europe and its effect on Oundle School. Now, is my interest in writing an article to lament or celebrate Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union? Not at all. I merely write this article to mark this salient moment, and to pose to the Oundle community a pressing question, thirty years on.
‘The star-spangled blue flag of the European Community flew from the Cloisters’, wrote The Laxtonian in 1990. Regardless of politics, this was an important day for Oundle School. Pupils undertook activities including a debate entitled: ‘This House looks forward to a Europe without frontiers’, as well as decorating the Great Hall with ‘European posters’. Pupils even got to meet Anthony Simpson, Oundle’s new MEP.
That lesson in 1990 taught people about acceptance, tolerance and cooperation, irrespective of race and nationality, for example. Surely this is at complete odds to what has happened in the past few years? Politics has become so divisive, tearing apart our community. Now it is time to move on.Charles Aldous, Grafton
Oundelians were taught about the value of closer European ties, and tolerance. Now, to avoid sounding too political, what can we learn, as members of the same body, about this lesson thirty years ago? Is it that we should all be nutcase Farage-loving Brexiteers or undemocratic Grievesupporting Remoaners? No. To us Oundelians, living in 2020, this lesson teaches us far, far more: a lesson of tolerance and accepting others.
For the past few years our country and School has been gripped in the same monotonous argument. Teachers and pupils in Cloisters have sounded each other out for their opinions. Friendships have been torn apart, thrown like rubbish into the bin. To be quite honest, little has come close to the anger, threats and squabbles that have come from this one topic, and it has polarised parts of the School community. That lesson in 1990 taught people about acceptance, tolerance and cooperation, irrespective of race and nationality, for example. Surely this is at complete odds to what has happened in the past few years? Politics has become so divisive, tearing apart our community. Now it is time to move on.
"To us Oundelians, living in 2020, this lesson teaches us far, far more: a lesson of tolerance and accepting others"Charles Aldous, Grafton
So how should we fix it? Well, I believe that Oundelians have a moral imperative to respect and tolerate others’ views. This is the very foundation of a liberal British democracy. Unfortunately, many of my friends and I would agree, to the dismay of certain staff and pupils, that this tolerance and respect has become sporadic. Let’s not judge people on what they say or for whom they vote; let’s judge them on the content of their character. Our School is only a small slice of the cake of the division in our nation but, as Greta Thunberg once said, “Everyone can make a difference”. This difference starts with Oundelians. So regardless of your view on Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union, let’s at least learn one thing from ‘European Day’ in 1990: the value of accepting others.