We have arrived, inexplicably, at the end of two weeks of the summer term, and many of us are conscious of not living very intentionally or mindfully as the year rushes on. I have been reminded at church recently that God in his great mercy has given us all the time we need to do the work we are called to, so living mindfully and intentionally is not a luxury, but proper Christian responsibility.
Amongst other things, we are expected to have enough energy to vote in a fortnight or so, so maybe teachers will shy away from that responsibility on the grounds of, well, marking, or just better things to do. But of course, it is imperative that we do vote, and encourage one another to vote. I am reading Tony Judt’s enormous Postwar, his history of Europe since 1945, and his account of how democracy was corrupted and then undone in Communist eastern Europe in 1945-1948 is a salutary lesson of the need for properly accountable government. In addition to that, the enormous dearth of willingness to vote by those under 25 is now reaching an epidemic, and we need both to vote and to talk about our voting so that those we influence can at least see that we take it seriously. Tom Gill on Channel 4 news on Friday night has done one of the best expositions of why young people should vote – if only to ensure a proper education for themselves and their siblings. This may not be around much as a clip unless somebody cleverer than me sticks it on Youtube. Search for Tom Gill Sound Clash. A quote I read this morning in one of the very best essays by Wendell Berry, writing in 1994, highlights the problem for the electorate at the moment:
If freedom is understood as merely the privilege of the unconcerned and the uncommitted to muddle about in error, then freedom will certainly destroy itself.
(Sex, Economy, Freedom and Community, p.146)
My problem, and the one I keep coming back to in conversations is – who is worthy of my vote? This is a hard-won right, won by people we do not know and who have faded from memory. To give it to just anyone, especially to people who spend their time slagging each other off in the broadcast and print media, seems as stupid as buying a lottery ticket. Nobody, it seems to me, is daring to look beyond the symptoms of the sick patient to the root of the problem – how we live, and how the industrial economy has destroyed that. Until we examine that (as Berry does, relentlessly), none of what we do will lead to health and harmony, but simply pander to our desires for more individual freedom (defined as the ability to do whatever we want without affecting anyone else – as though that is ever possible) and money. Could I just say right here, that I am in favour of higher taxes if we can ensure a more equitable country, a more compassionate approach to asylum-seekers, fairer and more locally accountable local authorities, schools, medical care, libraries and police? It is hard to find anyone who is saying that if we want certain things we will have to pay for them through the tax system. We have become so obsessed with disposable income that it is hard to think of how we created the modern state that cares (still, despite Thatcher and Blair and the sell-offs) well for most people here – and certainly well enough for people across the world to want to come and live here. If an earlier generation or two had not made the sacrifices through the tax system to create a state that cares so well for us, we would at least have dispensed with the problem of people wanting to come here. Immigration to Russia, by comparison, is hardly at an all time high.
None of this helps me know how to use the vote that is graciously given me as a citizen.
In the two weeks that have just gone, schools will have felt that they have lived a month. For us, it has been a good opening to the term, with the granting of a £200k sum to get on with our kitchen, a thorough review of the imaginative and child-centred curriculum we launched in September last year, a real desire and ability to give ourselves to one another in supporting learning, and the coming to fruition of much of our thinking over the year on curriculum and assessment. Governance feels progressive, democratic and open, and there is a level of respect there that is perhaps at a higher level than it has been before. We have come a long way, and our self-evaluation of our work seems both to be precise and heartening, whatever the problems we face. We have begun a new series of studies on the Fruit of the Holy Spirit. This is a deliberate way of showing children how if we take seriously the disciplines of living well and practising goodness, that God in his mercy and by his Spirit, will help us and do his work within us. The political party that affirms and strengthens this? Come and talk to me!