After having the Poet Laureate, Simon Armitage, at Wycliffe in 2020 and then Professor David Olusoga and Temi Akindele-Barker this time last year, on Monday evening of this week, we enjoyed a wide-ranging consideration of the topic of “Culture Wars” involving journalists and authors (Lord) Daniel Finkelstein and Polly Toynbee, plus our pupil Bella Owens (Y12, Haywardsend).
The event was attended by pupils, parents and staff and hosted by Sean Dunne, Deputy Head.
Bella encouraged us in her introductory address to “strive to be better at disagreeing”, and then our guests – rather neatly – managed to demonstrate and exemplify precisely that, offering a range of views (sometimes conflicting ones) but always doing so from the point of respect, inclusion and tolerance.
Polly Toynbee suggested to us that “history needs constant rewriting”, and Daniel Finkelstein asserted that what should drive us ought to be an aspiration for greater “civic equality” and that when dealing with the genuinely thorny social issues of contemporary life, we need to try to retain a sense of “proportionality” and show a “willingness to compromise”.
The pupils presented challenging questions to Polly and Daniel, such as; their views such as the ‘legal’ age of gender reassignment, the news that we are exposed to on mainstream social media, and young people being exposed to political views that they do not understand – and if and how we should combat this?
Polly suggested that there should be a compulsory exam in citizenship so that young people have a basic understanding of how things work in Government and how they navigate through life with politics.
All had a great evening, and we were delighted to host such wonderful guests on the stage.