Sunday, May 13, 2007

No Bully Beef

No Quad Wrangles In This Quadrangle

The quad at North Point, Darjeeling. Photograph copyright: AIJAZ QAIDAR

A couple of days ago, I saw a very interesting post on bullying at One From The Cuckoo's Nest and I promised that I would respond with a follow-up.

There is one inescapable fact about bullies - they always pick on people whom they can dominate. When was the last time you saw a bully throwing his or her weight around with a person who was physically stronger than them?

I was fortunate enough to attend boarding school at St Joseph's College, North Point, Darjeeling - and not once in my years there did I ever see an example of bullying. But like most teenagers, I simply took certain things for granted: a) that my personal space would not be invaded; b) that the Canadian, Belgian and Indian Jesuit priests who ran the school would function as the surrogate parents of every schoolboy, from the six-year-olds to the seventeen-year-olds; c) that bullies were ogres you only read about in fiction and d) even though all of us boarders were many hundreds of miles away from our parents, the priests who were entrusted with our safety never, ever, compromised it.

It was a couple of years after I left school that the wisdom of the Jesuits suddenly struck me. I was eighteen years old and had returned to the school for a short holiday. While I was there, the student editor of the schoolboy magazine, `Among Ourselves', interviewed me. His final question was: ``What would you say is the best thing about North Point?''

And that was when it hit me. It was all crystal clear, so lucidly and so suddenly. Father Henry Depelchin, the Belgian founder, had set up the school in three separate areas - what we would call ``exclusion zones'' today. There was the Primary Division, for boys from Grade One to Grade Five. The Lower Division was for kids in Grade Six to Grade Eight. And the Upper Division was for lads from Grade Nine to Grade Eleven. Each of the three Divisions was a separate wing of the school, yet an integral part of it. The PD kids had their own refectory, study hall, playground and classrooms. Likewise the LD and UD. You did not mix with kids from other divisions unless they were brothers or cousins.

But it did not stop there. Kids in Grade Five were prefects, looking after the needs of the younger ones. When they got to Grade Six, they were the small fry in the Lower Division. In Grade Eight, they were seniors once more, entrusted with responsibilities beyond their years. In Grade Nine, they were again small fish in a big pond. Result? No ego problems, no sudden need to impose their will on others less powerful than them.

Thank you, Fr Depelchin and all the Jesuits and lay teachers who followed your example at North Point. We thank you, with equal measures of love and humility. And we pledge to spread your message. We humbly acknowledge our greatest debt to you. Today, we are men at peace with ourselves because of your vision.


Shrink wrapped scream said...

This is written with such geniune love and happy recall, it is evident you hold warm memories of your time spent there.

The system of containing each different age block, aside but apart from each other, and appointing prefects at each three units, also exists in the school that three of my children attend. They are fortunate to live close by, so have no need to board. This does not prevent them from occassionally temporarilly sleeping over, so as not to miss out on any fun that may be happening.

I so hope they, like you, will one day look back on school life with the fondness that you do.

Papoosue said...

What an excellent system David, you were truly fortunate. Love that word 'quadrangle'.

david mcmahon said...

Hi Carol,

Thank you - you've hit the nail on the head. They were golden years in every sense of the word. We were very fortunate.

I'm very interested in the fact that the same system exists at the school where three of your munchkins go. Maybe a terific subject for a post from Shrink ...

I wish that all kids, not jut yours, could look back on their schooldays with as much fulfilment as I do.

I hope you have a wonderful Mother's Day, Carol.

Keep smiling


david mcmahon said...

Hi Papoosue,

It was a great system, instituted by educationists who were a century ahead of their time.

Yes, you don't hear the word `quadrangle' very often now.

Hope that doesn't make me sound like an old fuddy-duddy!

Take care


erickavari said...

Hi David:
Thanks for the very insightful comments. You may well be on to something there.

Cuckoo said...

Hi David,

Excellent system you had in your school. No wonder you are such a gentleman. :)

Nice post !

Cheers !

david mcmahon said...

Hi Nari,

Funny how we took it for granted when we were in school!



david mcmahon said...

Hi Cuckoo,

It was a great system, teaching us humility and responsibility in equal measures.

But I guess we took it all for granted while we were students!

Thank you for the ``gentleman'' label, too!



ozlady said...

David I think you might be on to something - the school I went to where my bullying occurred also had quadrangles - the central one affectionately known as 'the quad'.

I think the problem was the segregation, and in some cases the size of the area.

For example, the quadrangle in high school housed grades from 7 to 12, and there was a seniors area for those in years 11 & 12, but they were permitted to access the other areas where the younger grades played at recess and lunch.

Certainly your post is food for thought.

david mcmahon said...

Hi Ozlady,

Will check out your post. Interestingly, I have had a few emails and responses to the quadrangle concept.

I'm so glad my post was food for consideration.

Hope to see you back here soon.


Sandip Madan said...

No bullying in NP? Ah, David, how I wish that were true. You were perhaps too good and amiable a guy to notice it or have it happen to you. For me it was a very different story, and one that two of our common friends and fellow NP-ers know well.

It's too long to talk about it all here so I've dealt with it in my blog today:

david mcmahon said...

Hi Sandip,

My good friend, I'm going straight to your blog to check it out.



emcee said...

Hey David,
Great to hear something like that
and am also happy to tell you that the system continues and may be even better than before under the guidance of Fr.Kinley (the present rector)
I was in NP for 8 yrs and am now pursuing my +2 from ST.Xavier's Kolkata (also having links to Fr.Depelchin i think) yet i must say NP was,is and will always be one of the best schools I will ever see.How lucky we were.
Its been just more than a year since i left school and already miss it a lot.
Cheers to our "home in the mountains!"


emcee said...

I did read Sandip's post as well
Well he is right to an extent but can assure you things are better than it used to be though not perfect.Moreover I really have doubts whether a boarding school can be totally immune to bullying.

david mcmahon said...

Hi Emcee,

Great to hear from a fellow North Pointer.

Like you, I have very happy memories of my time there.

Hope to see you back here on the blog.

Sursum Corda


Kshitiz Anand said...

The Sheer joy of meeting another North Pointer in this big world wide web is inexplicable. Just happened to stumble upon your blog. I am a photographer myself, and hence I felt all the more joyous.

I agree to a lot what is said here and also to what Sandeep and others have said.

When I passed out in 1998, there was definitely some amount of bullying that prevailed. I would definitely blog about it someday myself.

I would definitely love to read more about you and get in touch.
Sursum Corda.