Rugby School. Wikimedia Commons
Artillery Row

Saving Rugby from BLM Marxism

Governors of boarding schools are supposed to be custodians, not political activists

As an alumnus of Rugby School, I sometimes take a look at its website to receive updates and news. The kind of thing that piques my interest is seeing which members of staff have left or retired, or reading a news update about plans to construct a new facility.

Yet on my most recent visit I was dismayed to see a “Statement from the Board on Black Lives Matter” emblazoned on the front page. After expressing their “deep sadness” over the death of George Floyd, the Governors wax lyrical about widespread racial injustice before promising to launch a “significant research project into the relationship between our own institutional history and race, including re-assessing the role of [Old Rugbeans] in Britain’s complex history.”

Last month I wrote to Headmaster Peter Green and other senior managers at the school to express my concern at such political pandering. I explained my belief that Black Lives Matter is a “violent Marxist cabal whose values are largely antithetical” to those of the school. If BLM had even a whiff of power, institutions such as Rugby would likely be bulldozed and replaced with some kind of reeducation camp.

The following day, I received a short message from Mr. Green referring me to an interview with the school’s “Head of Staff and Student Formation,” Dr. Justin Muston, with the school magazine. He added that if I wished to contribute to the school’s diversity policy I should take it up with him.

I read the interview and to his credit Dr. Muston refrained from mentioning the words “Black Lives Matter” at any point. When asked by the “interviewer” (whom I suspect was Muston himself) whether Rugby would commit to appointing either a black or female headmaster, he declined to do so, explaining that “quality” is the most important factor in making any such decision. He also promised not to try to force change on the institution, even though this is clearly the long-term objective.

Should he say something even slightly out of line, he could find himself out of a job and on the front page of The Guardian

Despite these concessions, the interview is laced with apologia for the school’s history that serves predominantly the white middle and upper classes. He began by explaining that “significant numbers of our ‘BAME’ community past and present, including parents, voiced respectful but heartfelt concern at the treatment they have endured both within Rugby’s society and more widely”.

Over the course of the interview, Dr. Muston pushes questionable narratives such as the claim that Floyd’s death was the “straw that broke the back of the institutionally racist camel” and that “British society continues to support iniquities in its treatment of black and other minority ethnicities”. He also boasted of how bursaries will be offered to “support post-doctoral researchers interested in exploring the historical intersection between schools, class, and colonialism”, and added that the school now has its very own Feminist Society.

Realising his hands may well be tied, I limited my challenge Dr. Muston to two main points. Firstly, what precisely does the death of George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter movement have to do with Rugby School? And secondly, what exactly is it about the school’s history – beyond presumably trashing the reputations of its greatest alumni – that they intend to “re-examine?”

Dr. Muston, who I remember as a man of serious intellect with a dry sense of humour, didn’t respond. Maybe he was otherwise occupied, but I suspect the main reason was fear. Should he say something even slightly out of line, he could find himself out of a job and on the front page of The Guardian, similar to Will Knowland, the teacher who was fired from Eton for urging his students to question radical feminist orthodoxy.

As it happens, Rugby School has for years done commendable work with underprivileged kids, including BAME children, from some of the most deprived parts of London. This is done through the Arnold Foundation, a charity that gives scholarships to children they believe have unfulfilled potential. One of the beneficiaries of this scheme was the photographer Khadija Saye, who tragically died in the Grenfell Fire of 2017 and whose work was exhibited at the Venice Biennale.

Should we apply to the government of Denmark for compensation for the looting and pillaging of the Vikings?

Speaking from personal experience, I remember Rugby as one of the most naturally diverse and nurturing places imaginable. It was certainly a far friendlier environment than Bristol University, a hotbed of “diversity” and left-wing activism. I made friends from all corners of the world and we are forever bound by the time we spent together. I cannot comment on the experience of black students at Rugby, but I never witnessed any racial discrimination of any kind. It makes me shudder to think of how such relationships would fare today, given the school’s wholesale embrace of BLM’s divisive propaganda.

The school has absolutely nothing to apologise for. Modern Germans have no need to apologise for the Nazi era and contemporary white Britons don’t need to apologise for slavery. What are we supposed to do? Beat our breasts and bewail our shortcomings? If we are going to nurse historic wrongs, where does it stop? Should we apply to the government of Denmark for compensation for the looting and pillaging of the Vikings?

The tragedy is that modern-day slavery may well exist in the town of Rugby itself and certainly in big cities where trafficked refugees are forced to sell sex and drugs. It is estimated that there are 40 million slaves in the world today, many more than in past centuries. Future historians will marvel at this hypocrisy. Perhaps a better idea would be for Rugby to fund a research project into modern slavery. 

Ultimately, the Governors and staff at Rugby and all of Britain’s other great boarding schools are custodians of their respective histories and traditions and duty bound to pass them down to future generations. Their role is neither to operate as political activists nor to apologise for the past. As Edmund Burke wrote in his 1790 Reflections on the Revolution in France, in preserving the best of the past for the future, society is a sacred contract, “a partnership not only between those who are living, but between those who are living, those who are dead, and those who are yet to be born.”

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