Dead right

By Clare Jarmy, Head of Religious Studies and Philosophy 

I went to the Mary Rose Museum a couple of weeks ago, and was blown away by the exhibits; the amazing things that have survived for 400 years under the sea. But when I got to the case with a human skeleton inside, I felt a bit odd, and on Monday in assembly, I took students through a philosophical journey, thinking about why that was. We started by asking ‘where’s the harm?’ After all, the person had no more need of their bones, and perhaps they could be an important part of an educational experience. More than this, why should we be precious about these cells? The cells in our body regenerate all the time – why should we be precious about the cells someone was composed of when they died? John Mazas, ably-supported by a skeleton from the Biology Department, did his Yorick routine, reading the passage from Hamlet (V.i) where he remarks that the ‘earth’ that once made Alexander the Great could now be bunging up a hole in the wall.

Next, we looked at objectification. Heidegger distinguished between beings that were aware they existed (Dasein) from objects of use. Perhaps what’s weird is that when we put a skeleton or a mummy, or any other human remains, in a museum, they are no longer human, they are an exhibit; an object of use.

But here’s where the Mary Rose got it so right, because they had gone to great pains to keep these stories humanised. There is the archer, who was found with a ridge in his finger from where he drew his bow. There was the Purser (Bursar), who was identified because of his disability; no other member of the crew could not have been fully able-bodied.

It’s not just this experience that is educative, in the broadest sense, though. Coming, quite literally, face-to-face with mortality acts as a memento mori, a remembrance of death. It is this that can jolt us back into realising what it means to exist.

Bedales Jaw: are human rights, liberal rights?

By Emily Seeber, Head of Chemistry

On Wednesday I presented a Jaw to students on the ‘problem of multiculturalism’ for liberal political philosophy, with a focus on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948). I began by introducing students to the key ideas of liberal thought, and focused on the ideas of John Rawls, whose theory has been hugely influential in contemporary political theory. I then suggested the challenge posed by multiculturalism for liberalism and gave three criteria for a liberal philosophy which was consistent with a pluralistic society, and in this case a global society.

Firstly, what constitutes human rights needs to be determined under conditions of fairness (behind Rawls’ veil of ignorance in which participants are unaware of their gender, religion, economic status, political views, etc). Secondly, any universal rights should represent values which deeply different cultures can accept and which do not contradict their own systems of value.

Thirdly, rights and restrictions given by the declaration should provide genuine opportunities for equality of human flourishing in culturally diverse societies. I demonstrated that, arguably, and in my opinion, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights fails to meet any of these criteria and, consequently, does not represent a multiculturalist form of liberalism.

Consequently, judging and measuring other societies using the Declaration is inherently illiberal. This does not mean that the values represented by the Declaration are not good values, or that the notion of human rights is conceptually flawed, but it does suggest that the Declaration needs to be reformulated into a document which is more tolerant and sensitive to other cultural values.

Why every student should complete the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award

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By Emily Seeber, Head of Chemistry

Having helped supervise the recent sixth form Gold DofE Expedition to Dartmoor, I spent some time reflecting on why the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award and the expedition in particular is such a valuable experience for every student.

  1. Sleeping in the wilderness

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There is something wonderful about sleeping in a camp you have made yourself: maybe no-one else has ever put their tent up exactly where yours is. Waking up and already being deep in nature gives you a new perspective on your relationship with the environment and packing up your stuff and seeing how little impact you can make on the ground underneath your tent is pretty inspiring.

  1. No technology

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An expedition means days without iMessage, Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter. This makes DofE one of the least narcissistic experiences students can have.

  1. Fresh air and a bit of cardio

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Everybody knows that when you’re feeling down, going outside for fresh air and exercise is one of the best things you can do. On DofE students don’t experience anything other than the freshest of air for five days straight – and climbing up hills with a heavy bag is not to be underestimated as a means of raising heart-rate; all of which gives students’ mood a real boost.

  1. Providing skills and opportunities for the future

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DofE empowers student to organise their own expeditions and travels for the future, which may involve carrying a tent, but could be kayaking the Amazon, for example. Students start to see new opportunities and have the skills, and confidence, to take advantage of them.

  1. A sense of satisfaction

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Hiking for four or five days with a heavy bag, setting up camp four times, staying positive and finding solutions to unanticipated problems: these are the challenges of an expedition and overcoming them is immensely satisfying.

  1. Removes traditional social barriers

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Students do DofE for a range of reasons, so they are thrown into a deep relationship of trust with a group of people that they may not usually hang about with. Students form friendships with students they would not have done without the experience. This broadening and strengthening of students’ real (as in, not virtual) social network is associated with improvements in their mental wellbeing.

All-in-all, it is extremely worthwhile for Bedales students to take advantage of these opportunities time and again, with an increasing level of independence through Bronze, Silver and Gold. Grab a backpack… and contact  Paul Turner, Head of Geography and Duke of Edinburgh Coordinator for Bedales.

Bedales Historians visit Russia

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By Nicholas Meigh, Teacher of History

The 6.2 History tour to Russia seems, on paper, a short visit of six days, but the content and variety of places visited means that the students experienced a huge amount.

A select group of 22 historians led by myself, Alison Mason (Professional Guidance) and Jane Shannon (Learning Support) set off for Moscow on 2 April. The focus of the visit was naturally historical and the group visited many of the sites of revolutionary Russia. Perhaps the highlight of this city was the extensive visit to the Kremlin; here the group not only trod the usual tourist trail but had the privilege of visiting parts of the Grand Palace that are usually off limits. We were treated to a private tour of the oldest surviving 15th Century parts of the original fortress and to the lavishly restored state rooms.

We travelled by overnight train to the imperial capital, St Petersburg, where we experienced the artistic riches of Russia in the State Hermitage Museum whilst also remembering the role of the city in the revolution with a visit to the Political History Museum. A favourite venue of St Petersburg is the sumptuous Yusopov Palace, infamous now for being the place in which Rasputin was murdered in a variety of ways.

The group experienced the full range of Russian culture in the evenings from watching the traditional folkshow – with special guest star, student Orlando Goffin – to attending a production of Tchaikovsky’s Sleeping Beauty in the Mikhailovsky Theatre in St Petersburg.

View the slide show below.

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Chris Grocock’s ‘My Heart Stood Still’ Big Thank You Walk a success

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By Chris Grocock, Head of Classics

On 3 November 2016, I nearly died – a long story that there isn’t room for here!… Read more.

We are tired and sore but thrilled to have achieved our goal of walking from Hindhead to the Royal Surrey County Hospital, Guildford on Easter Day.

When we got there we had a lovely meeting and photo opportunity with Elaine Creighton, aka ‘Sister Squirrel’, one of the wonderful folks whose CPR saved by life, and with Hannah, one of the ICU nurses on duty. We were helped by superb weather for walking – not too warm, but dry, so much so that places which were horribly boggy when we explored the route originally, were smooth and dry. This helped us keep to time quite remarkably (left 0900 – arrived 1700 – exactly on time). We also had enough time for 30 minutes for a lunchtime drink at the Stag on the River, Eashing, and 40 minutes for afternoon tea with china cups at the Watts Gallery!

We moved on to the Cathedral where we were treated to a musical extravaganza and a very moving processional service; then home to Grayshott and a fine meal in the Gurkha Durba. Best news of all is that our fundraising effort has just reached the £3,000 in total, but there is still plenty of time to add to this – just click on http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/team/ChrisGrocock and follow the simple instructions, or contact me if you want to donate in cash or by cheque.

Phew!

Spellbinding Evening for the John Badley Foundation

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By Veryan Vere Hodge, Head of Development

Old Bedalians, parents, students and friends came together on 21 March for a magical evening at the House of MinaLima in Soho, London.

Guests were treated to private tours of the enchanting four storey Victorian townhouse, which showcases graphic art of the Harry Potter films, created by founders of design studio MinaLima: Miraphora Mina (OB 1978-85) and her business partner, Eduardo Lima. Guests also had a chance to meet with Miraphora and Eduardo for Q&A sessions.

The House of MinaLima provides an illuminating insight into both the creative and technical aspects of graphic design, and the exhibition space, which is set over three floors and linked by a narrow, winding staircase has a distinctly Bedalian feel.  The lucky raffle winner of a limited edition ‘A Hum of Bees’ print, from MinaLima’s Collective Noun illustrations, was Adah Parris, a friend of Valerie Saint-Pierre (OB 1983-1990) and all guests went home with a wonderful goodie bag courtesy of MinaLima.

Huge thanks to Miraphora, Eduardo and their brilliant team for offering Bedales such a wonderful opportunity, to everyone who came to the event, and to parents Mariangela Franchetti, Philippa Page and Patrick Heneghan for their help on the night serving refreshments.

We are delighted to report that the evening raised over £1,500 for the John Badley Foundation which transforms lives through full bursaries.  If you would like to find out more about the Foundation’s work, or join the 1893 Club by committing a regular gift, please do get in touch.  Thank you.

View photos from the evening, here.

Big Dogs, Big Cats and the Power of Mice

By Rick Cross, Deputy Head, Staff and Co-curricular

There are more mobile phones on the planet than people. Facebook has 1.86 billion users. We can publish to billions of people. With such power at our fingertips, with the potential to use it for good or evil,  it is apt to consider the concept of ‘free speech’ and how this basic civil right has developed in our new ‘global city’. Who is in control? Do we need control? What are the consequences of ‘freedom’?

The assembly this week was inspired by reading the recently published book by Timothy Garton Ash on the subject, which breaks the world up into Big Dogs, Big Cats and Mice. The Big Dogs are nation states, who govern us and make the laws by which citizens exercise their rights. Some governments allow more freedom than others, and the biggest dog of all is the US, which has espoused its liberal ideals for much of the 20th Century. China, with a sixth of the world’s population, interprets ‘free speech’ in a very different way. As the number of users increases, each new dog adds their cultural imprint to the debate.

The Big Cats are the few corporations who can challenge nation states. Google is the online giant of advertising revenue, and their actions can either enable or limit our free speech, and crucially manipulate our view of the world.

Where does it leave the mice, the people, watching as the giants fight it out? Timothy Garton Ash suggests a number of fascinating routes still open to us all and his book is well worth a read. He reminds us of the age old advice, from Socrates to the Enlightenment, which I urged Bedales to hold true to…Think for yourself.