This week sees our news broadcasts dominated by our history and our future.
Yesterday our schools and our nation fell silent in an act of remembrance for the fallen of war. With the Armistice, and the first Remembrance Day, being commemorated over a century ago the importance of society’s collective memory living on beyond those who bore witness to the events themselves becomes ever more important. We are well-served in our locality by the inspiring National Memorial Arboretum in Alrewas. Taking my late father, himself a former servicemen in the Royal Artillery, to the Arboretum a number of years ago was a wonderful experience for us both – giving a time and a place for him to remember his own service and that of his comrades. He was deeply moved to see the regimental motto of the Royal Artillery (“Ubique” – Latin for “everywhere”) writ large, and we sat on the bench with cannon motifs and spent some cherished time together. It is a day I will never forget.
Today marks the final day in the COP 26 global conference on climate change hosted in Glasgow. At the time of writing, we await the conclusion of the summit, and our news stories are focused on whether a binding and meaningful agreement between nations can be reached. Draped in the hyperbole of “eleventh hour”s and “last chance saloon”s, that provide an artificial sensationalism that the event really doesn’t require given its gravity, we all look to the world’s leaders to support changes that will make a positive impact on our world and all the species that inhabit it – now and into the future.
Our Trust’s involvement in a net zero carbon new school project, supporting community regeneration on the site of the former power station in Rugeley is, as with the National Memorial Arboretum, a local response to a global issue. We are hugely proud of our involvement as we see the school and wider site develop. It promises to be an amazing school and community resource for children and young people aged three to nineteen.
As educators, we have a sobering responsibility to the children in our schools to ensure they can look back into our collective history, to place their own lives into a wider and meaningful context and preserve our collective memory of our past. We also have a similar duty to ensure those same children can look forward, and contribute positively, to a better world that is as free from the smoke of a burning rainforest as it is from the smoke of a Flanders field. This is no minor undertaking, but it is something we must be resolute in our commitment to.
I am currently reading “Ravelstein” by the American novelist and commentator Saul Bellow. In it the main protagonist Abe Ravelstein, a university tutor of philosophy, quotes Friedrich Schiller: “Live with your century, but do not be its creature.” For our young people, who one day will be not so young, we should wish this. That they can see the horizons from which they come and the horizon to which they are heading. For those of us already not so young, we can reflect that with regard to COP 26, as was the case in the Europe of 1914, it is the children that always pay the price for the sins of the fathers.
As always, thanks for reading.