The comprehensive system was designed to be a far reaching and all-embracing method of teaching that focused attention away from the regular discipline supplied by Christian schooling, and toward a more understanding culture where children had a voice, and of course those of us who went to a comprehensive school used it to gain whatever we could. This was hardly guidance from our elders, but more an offering of friendly advice that amounted to secular choices rather than discipline and direction. Here we had, and still have, another area in society that has taken away any potential spiritual ingredient in hope to gain the same results by reinventing the humanist spiritual newness Christianity offered in the first place. Jesus alone made all things new, which could not be replicated by a comprehensive school system no matter how many so called humanist professionals were involved in its creation….
I loved my comprehensive secondary school back then because we did absolutely nothing throughout my 5 years attendance. Everything it seemed was thought provoking and nothing else, ‘you can be this you can do that’ was the premise of the flimsy reed offered by the so called humanistic system. Many words without good hearted discipline amounted to nothing at all.
Only recently I anticipated furthering my limited research regarding the life span of those who attended comprehensive schooling, compared to those who went to the local grammar school.
Within the town where I live it is quite frightening how many people I knew from school that have died from one addiction or another. Walking home from work only a few years ago I received a phone call concerning Tony, my best friend from school, who had been found dead with a half empty bottle of vodka beside his body. We rarely kept in touch on leaving school. We would nevertheless bump into each other every so often where I could see the development of his addictive illness getting a slow but firm grip on him, as it was on me. Another very close friend David died homeless and full of drugs after two failed marriages and a disastrous life. From our first year at school it was clear that both David and Tony never stood a chance and were clearly ill equipped when up against the trials and tribulations that life has for us all. Our comprehensive school lacked the necessary disciplinary tools that could guide youngsters like my friends through any decision making process. They never stood a chance and David was dead at 38 and Tony at 42.
A close friend of mine recently suggested that maybe the same would have happened regardless of what school they had attended, and perhaps it’s true that their lives were mapped out irrespective of their education. Having said this it would be a good idea to look at addiction in relation to schooling and see where the patterns lay. All I know is neither had any discipline or spirituality instilled in them and both are now dead.
Due to the lack of discipline there were far too many options open to us and like children in a sweet shop we spent hours drooling over what we could become without making any firm resolutions. Discipline had left the building. Knowledge in itself did nothing for us comprehensive youngsters. The teachers attempted to free up our egos in hope that their particular brand of freedom would define us into free, opinionated and cultured young men and woman. Our ego’s unfortunately were extremely limited when facing discipline and focus, which is a prerequisite for learning to take place. The spiritual discipline and depth that was evident in the Christian assembly and daily prayer that the grammar schools had was clearly missing in our lives. Prayer would certainly have put some of our behaviour in reverse and at the very least given my two friends a chance. Regardless of our youthful rebellious behaviour some prayer would have entered into our young souls which would have undoubtedly changed our thinking patterns, if only slightly, would have made a difference between life and death. Prayer is an extremely powerful tool, and can be such a directive force in a young person’s life, even when they disagree.
The comprehensive system was the first Godless school arena in the UK that insisted on avoiding Christian principles. We were the first generation (I was born in 1960) that went through school with ideas that had been built from a single generations post 2nd World War socialist ideology that ultimately ignored Christianity due to its supposed failures, which was replaced by teachers who were part of the 1960’s hippy revolution. What could they offer, and based on who’s foundation? In essence they offered us freedom from having real substance in our lives.
Having our education system, in part, set on such a limited history and human intellectual foundation is hardly cultural and can only represent limited growth, because there was nowhere for the pupils to grow from. It appeared that we were part of a new breed that was being experimented on, as a cultural social science perhaps, a kind of social architecture?
To remove God from the curriculum leaves such an incredible void in the soul of so many individuals there is little wonder we wanted to fill it with something or other to make us feel alive. The seven deadly sins are quite a good place to start when searching human and earthy desires, and the vast majority of us did just that in abundance. The language and connotations spoken by my school friends was so fundamentally different from our Christian contemporaries, it is quite surreal that we really believed we were the ones who were rebellious and free, when all along it was them that held the keys to liberty and freedom. We were the ones being forced fed a modern system when they were being guided by solid Christian example. It was them, the Christians, that rebelled against certain economical belief systems that have failed humanity time and time again when the comprehensive system did nothing more than argue between the varying political opinions, and sided with socialism. The political and intellectual narrative that governed this type of schooling, it must be said, was far too limited for a young mind to sustain a wholesome life.
The new breed of young teachers within the comprehensive system clearly thought that they were doing the right thing in ignoring previous generations, and believed wholeheartedly that they were bringing us youngsters through on the right road with good ethical guidance. They believed that their own concept of so called humanisms was enough, when it was far from what was necessary, and carried limited depth in its message. The comprehensive teachers, I suppose, simply had little concern for previous education systems, which appeared old and stayed. The old school teachers on the other hand were bound up with experience that had been set in faith, generally anyway. The truth was lost in the new breed and failed to carry depth and weight.
Those who were so closely tied up within the comprehensive system never really saw the potential damage that became so evident in later years.
As a collective force it is almost impossible for a group of intellectuals to stand aside and see the future harms caused. As human beings we do not have the visual distance that only God has to see the impending damage that inexperience can cause in a so called morally sound community. Only an honest architect looking over a scale model of a well designed community housing project can see where the problems are. Another architect that has perhaps a political agenda may see them, but deny that they are there. Ground level intellect is far too close to allow clear vision and true understanding to develop an objective viewpoint. God’s great distance near and far equals an ultimate knowledge, and is essential to transcribe an honest conclusion. It makes me wonder what type of higher energy forces other than Marxist intellect was actually at work to invent such a system. No doubt each individual involved never saw the whole picture and the part that they were playing to help such a sporadic and negative system evolve.
Jesus said He was making all things new and through His simple ideals both political and school systems have been built. The comprehensive alternative here was put together by a group of intellectuals deriving an apparent socialist political creed that suggested they knew best, who also believed that they were creating a system for the better? The energy given off by those involved in the comprehensive system was, and still is, insufficient when up against a vibrant youthful generation that needed guidance, direction, discipline and above all else, love. What was on offer by the humanists lacked the depth only Christ can deliver, who ironically still is the greatest humanist of all.
On my first day at senior school my friend Tony and I (we were friends from our junior school also) were sent to the dinner hall early to help put out the dining chairs. We walked by the chairs that we were supposed to move because they were large cushioned chairs that appeared more suitable for the teachers. On walking by we were called back and moved approximately 40 large sofa type soft chairs that were set around a large semi-circle on a carpeted open plan area, which was designed for the pupils to sit during breaks, or while waiting for dinner. We helped straighten them out and put each one in its place. Tony and I looked at each other and smiled knowing that we had arrived at a school that offered the easier softer option.
Most of the chairs were ripped in the first month. We drilled holes in the seams with our fingers to hide our empty crisp packets, which was not part of the design idea of this new Cultural Revolution. Nevertheless, those soft chairs represented my school life from beginning to end, all I seemed to do was sit back in them and relax.
Thinking back it was evidently clear that this new breed of teachers were thinking on their feet and had little depth in their methods of educating, unlike their contemporaries who had experience and wisdom in their teaching, but these were old school type dinosaur Christians ready for retirement. The new breed’s cultural boundaries ignored previous peer groups making their new ideas quite sporadic at best. They appeared to have faith in a new so called social revolution but lacked faith in many other areas. It was clear that they put their personalities first before any earlier generations teaching principles, hoping perhaps to be a likeable teacher who would make a difference to our vulnerable young lives without the need for any assistance from their contemporaries.
Saint Paul explains in his letter to the Corinthian church;
“If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal”. (1 Corinthians 13: 1)
I am not suggesting that all the teachers were clanging gongs that stood in front of the class shouting about nothing, only that the philosophical system they assailed to made them that way. They read out loud the wrong words. Nevertheless, we still had to contend with humanistic science teachers who tried to teach us how to manipulate certain materials to benefit mankind, geologists detailing how the earths crust could be penetrated to show the world beneath our feet and historians who challenged historical thought that went before. Having all this thrown at us by a system that celebrated an overall view that we had escaped the horrors of religion, when without Jesus holding the spiritual thought processes together, the knowledge thrown at us had nothing to grip on to and just fell off due to the high levels of youthful ego that assailed this modern social science. Peer groups essentially tried to attach our emotional state to the world around us where everything focused on man-kinds debauched past and a potentially positive future. Some teachers unfortunately over stepped the mark fracturing the foundations set by previous generations by delivering short emotional out pouring speeches that was supposed to stir us into agreement. The attitude concerning drugs for example, particularly cannabis, was absolutely no amongst the elder teachers who still had a certain amount of discipline that just about held the school together, in comparison to the new breeds compromised and diverse attitude that had yes and no division at its center. Such a serious issue being discussed amongst young learners where adult actions and opinions were taken on board by our young susceptible minds. The primary purpose of these discussions had very little to do with the drugs issue, or education, and were ultimately about setting a precedent against the management structures and attitude of previous generations. They appeared to put social urbanite view points before teaching, when they only thought they were doing the reverse. The drug debate was simply a tool used to shake the old school foundation, which was in fact implemented in the wrong environment. Their concept of right or wrong could perhaps hold weight when amongst intellectuals, but had little meaning when confronting a youthful generation who failed to understand.
Scripture is clear on “keeping a sound mind” (2 Timothy: 7). To assume, however subtly, that cannabis can play a positive role in society or help a person keep a sound mind, is without argument. The bible explains yes is yes and no is no. These discussions under the gaze of Jesus have no grey areas at all. Only in the comprehensive postmodern world wordy discussions on drugs opened all kinds of intellectual persuasions that ended in someone having found themselves with an unstable mind becoming a victim, when the intellectuals who applied the peer pressure carried on with their lives continuing the same old argument over and over again and again without really seeing the damage caused to individuals like my two friends who died far too young. It seems to me nowadays that those involved in the comprehensive system back in the day fail to look back at the wave of subtle destruction caused by their smooth edged discourse.
“one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind” (James 1: 6)
When lacking in spiritual discipline many pupils became quite vulnerable due to the indecisive process that was created by those with intellect, affecting those without. The process of denial was saying yes we understand when we didn’t, or nodding yes when no was on our minds. We were young adults who had limited skills to debate such matters. Our egos were bellowed with smart words and no substance.
Thanks for reading, my first book “Words Make Flesh” is out on 29th October 2016. It will be on sale in paper back and Kindle, speak soon, Graham Hevey