Kingswood Week: A Prototype for a Meditation of “Meaningful Change” and “Change by Accident”

Kingswood-College-Kandy-CrestChange, says the philosopher, is inevitable. Change, therefore, must happen as much as it should be accepted. If the traditions and spirit of a community or a group of people gets forgotten after the lapse of years, one must accept that: that is a result of change. Other times, change is also forced into a system. This can be seen when new properties are introduced to a process that is being carried out in a certain way for a number of years. When one is to artificially introduce a change there is a merit in consulting the established practice; or, in other words, in checking the “agreement” of the intended change with the “tradition”. There are also two forms of “change”: meaningful change, where one is consciously aware of the change one is making, the reasons of making that change and as to why that change is necessary; and change by accident, largely caused by ignorance and ignominy. The first type of “change”, we believe, is more productive.

When the Kingswood Week was initiated over a century ago, there was no “Kingswood Sunday”. Blaze notes that the “Sunday” was attached to the Week’s programme several years later; when, the Administration found out that some of the Boys had the practice of holding a service at the Methodist Church on the Sunday of the Kingswood Week. In the initial years, the Sunday had been at the end of the Week, with an all-ethnic mass and service at the Methodist Church. Records and accounts of these are found under a separate chapter in L.E Blaze’s KFE: The Story of Kingswood.

With time, the Kingswood Week agenda changes. The Kingswood Sunday comes to the beginning of the week — maybe, with the feeling that religious observances (as per, Ceylonese / Lankan custom) come at the beginning of a festive occasion. Then, in Post-Independence times, the Sunday’s programme incorporates religious programmes at the Maligawa, the Meera Makkam Mosque and the Methodist Church, thus symbolizing the religious plurality of the school, within the meaning of being an independent nation. This, too, is a meaningful change. The Kingswood Week, from the earliest days, was the week in which Kingswood held its sports, prize giving, and day of fellowship. This week begins with the welcoming of “the guest” of the Week; a distinguished person who, mostly, has a close historical connection with the school.

In recent years, the sports meet was removed from the Kingswood Week. This is as per the renewed regulations of the Ministry of Education, where all schools are expected to hold their sports in a particular term of the year. Kingswood had abided by this rule without protest and that “change”, too, can be logically rationalized (and let us hope the Ministry doesn’t bring about further rules regarding prize givings and recitation of Prologues etc). A Colours Eve was introduced in the late 1980s: once again, a logical move, as Kingswood’s sports had gained yards in the 1970s and 1980s.

As we have shown through this blog space on at least two occasions in the past, a “change” we fail to fathom is the inclusion of a “Kala Ulela” and a “Scouts Day” to the Kingswood Week. This was an initiative taken 3-4 years back, during the tail-end of Principal Chandrasekara’s tenure. What reasons and what logic prompted these inclusions remain mysterious. We have used this blog space to discuss this “abnormality” in detail. We will not repeat ourselves here. It is sufficient to say that these inclusions cannot be rationalized and does not agree with the Week’s agenda.

During the Prize giving last week, July 2014, we saw a red colour cloth flex stretched across the cyclorama of the stage. It announced: “Annual Prize Giving, 2014”. In my 26 year association with the school, I do not remember of such a banner being drawn across the prize stage to indicate what event we were partaking in. Logically speaking, if those present there did not know it was indeed the prize giving, they wouldn’t be there in the first place. A sign always has to serve a purpose. A sign has to be a communication; not a decoration.

According to one of our co-blog team members, the first Senior Prefect of (at least) our generation to have rounded up the prize giving’s vote of thanks with a “KFE!” is Isuru Sirinimal (Senior Prefect 2000). I have personal disagreements with that, but my colleague’s memory is more reliable than mine for its depository of facts; but, over the past decade and a half, it has been quite customary for the vote of thanks to be rounded up with that customary salute. But, we see in recent years that every Kingswood boy who has a microphone under his nose make it his style to parrot “KFE!” after whatever it is he is doing there.

Thus, we hear “KFE” being used instead of a full stop at the end of a Prefects’ Day forum, a Colours Eve etc, as much as we hear it at the end of individual speeches, too. More relevant to our topic here, the Prologue Reciter, too, has cultivated the style of saying “KFE!” at the end of the traditional recital. This has been seen over a few years now (with exceptions), including this year’s Prologue Reciter. The Prologue Reciter’s function is to deliver the Prologue as it is given to him; as composed. He is the vehicle through which the sentiments scribed in the Prologue are channeled — and that’s it; nothing more, nothing less.

All in all, it looks ludicrous and unaesthetic when each person who comes under the mic — as if on cue — blabs a “KFE!”. On the Prize giving day held a week ago, altogether 6 people used the mic, on 7 occasions (including the compere; and twice by the Senior Prefect). Of these 7 occasions, in 4 instances the item concluded with a “KFE / Kingswood For Ever!”. The Prologue reciter used it upfront and it was used by Dr. Mahinda Katugaha who proposed the vote of thanks (on behalf of the Old Boys). The Senior Prefect used it twice in the interval of 5 minutes — at the end of his vote of thanks and when he proposed “three hearty cheers” to the floor. We wouldn’t have been too surprised that evening had the chief guest, Minister SB Dissanayake, concluded with “KFE” too: it was surely catching up.

The tradition has been that, at the conclusion of the prize ceremony, the Senior Prefect proposes “three hearty cheers” to (1) the Chief Guest, (2) the Principal and Staff, and the (3) Old Boys and Well Wishers. At least in the last two years this traditional cheer has been warped with the third cheer being changed to “three hearty cheers for the Prefects’ Court and the Gentlemen of Kingswood”. Once again, the illogical nature of this statement fouls its application. Here we have the Senior Prefect (representing the Prefects, who, in turn, represent the Boys) proposing a cheer for the prefects and the boys. In the age of Facebook and selfies this makes some sense, but, in Kingswood’s so-called tradition of being “none for himself but all for the school”, this newly fangled line supersedes the Old Boys and well wishers of the school. And, then, why propose a separate “cheer” for the Prefects’ Court? Why get the school community to cheer the Prefects? The Prefects volunteer to take up some responsibilities for the school. It is a volunteered post. No one is obliged to cheer them for that.

The prize list at the prize giving, too, should be carefully re-assessed. Some of the traditional prizes which have been consistently awarded through the 1990s and 2000s have suddenly disappeared. Maybe, these disappearances have happened over the years, but, still, a careful revision of these prizes can restore some pride and dignity — and sustain a tradition — in what we do. Prizes come and go, depending on the donors. But, some of the traditional prizes need to have a consistency. For example, in the 1990s and 2000s, three shields were awarded at the end of the prize distribution: the Luterz, Crowther and Randles shields. While the Luterz shield was given (for inter-House learning), the other two had simply been erased. The Randles Shield, in particular, was a magnificent shield with a  majestic appearance. We only hope that it is still somewhere around.

Nowadays, another dangerous tendency among those related to school is to take this blog too seriously. This blog is seen by some of the staff and students as an “enemy” of the school. Our views are not read properly, thought about or measured for validity; but, are simply taken as arrows of enmity, because our style is not to mollycoddle. In society, the plurality of views is of the greatest value for development — and we write from that stance. One of our (guest) correspondents was even threatened with assault following a post he channeled to us, following the Big Match this year. Some narrow-minded teachers (possibly unread in the school or its past) rebuke us sometimes. Our views, at the end of the day, are simply summarized: Kingswood is/was our school; and therefore, of Kingswood we will discourse. If our views are even of an iota of meaning , feel free to take us a bit seriously. If not, carry on with the good life. After all, history is an interpretation; and it is a story written by the one who stands last.

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