Friday, 4th November 2016
Trump! The name that seems to dominate much discourse both internationally and in the school at the moment. I have been amazed by the number of times that boys have told me about their feelings for Trump. The main thing which seems to be known about Trump is that he’s going to build a wall and that the wall is going to be very high. Walls are always interesting; instinctively one always reacts negatively to the notion of walls; they divide people - they often keep people out and even more disturbingly, sometimes, they keep people in. But of course if we only think for a moment, they have very many advantages. They keep the roofs of our houses intact, they provide a home for creepers and vines, they provide us with well – deserved privacy, indeed, it could be argued that they allow us to live in harmony with our neighbours, as the great New England poet Robert Frost suggested in his beautifully observed poem “Mending Wall”, “Good fences make good neighbors." (how convinced Frost is of this is not entirely clear from the poem!) I have to admit that there is not much complimentary said about Trump by our pupils and I have been asked on so many occasions what I feel about him. There is much that I could say but I feel strongly that my role as a headmaster, though it demands that I talk about morality and rights and wrongs, prevents me from expressing my own opinions about political ideas and certainly about individual politicians. Instead I tend to find myself putting forward arguments both in their favour and against. This is an immensely enlightening process because one constantly finds oneself considering (and sometimes seeing the benefits of) the views of others and this has got to be a good thing. Rarely have I ever suffered from standing in the shoes of others. In the short time that I have been at Christ Church we have had an extraordinarily exciting political time. We have had a remarkable general election, we have had a referendum on Scottish independence, we have had a referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU and we are about to have one of the most fascinating American Presidential elections of modern times. About all of these things I have many thoughts, all of which have gone unexpressed. Fortunately, the pupils of the school, on the other hand, are making up for it by expressing their opinions very vocally. And what a joy it has been. So, my only contribution to the debate upon the American election will be to reflect upon the definitions of the word “trump” – the Oxford English dictionary tells us that in its archaic form it is a trumpet as in “The trump of Doom”; “trumpery” of course is defined as “worthless finery; rubbish or nonsense” but it’s also probably worth reflecting that the most common definition of Trump is “a card that beats all others….” We shall see. I know where I’ll be early on Wednesday morning…..
Last week we had a glorious theme day where the pupils enjoyed visiting many of the colleges of Oxford University. Groups went to Christ Church, Pembroke, Magdalen, New College, Corpus, LMH, Somerville and Balliol. In each case they were shown round by someone from the College. The pupils were, without exception, interested and polite and everyone gained hugely from the experience. Those in Form 8 were even fortunate enough to meet the President of Corpus, one of the world’s leading experts in Nuclear technology. There are few schools who have access to such remarkable opportunities and I am sure that the pupils benefitted immeasurably.
I was enjoying my lunch yesterday when my jovial fellow diner turned smiling towards me and asked the following existential question. “So when are you leaving the school sir?” “Well I’m not sure,” I responded carefully. “That depends on a number of things.” “What like getting old? How old are you now then? “Well how old do you think I am now?” “38.” The conversation was taking a turn for the better at this point. “Well if I retire at 65 how much longer will I be here for then?” “I’m not sure….” “Well if you’re right, I’ll be here for another 27 years.” “Well that’s Ok,” he responded, “but you might get a bit tired……” Well indeed. I have to say though that working at Christ Church is a great delight, particularly when one has the benefit of such penetrating lunchtime conversation. Given the number of years I’ve got left, I had better make the most of it.