Progressing Wisdom – the preamble.

A reflection on intelligence, learning and knowledge.

Today’s essay has been prompted by a fascinating exchange of views and comments on a post recently published by Patrice Ayme.  More of that tomorrow.

Before getting to the heart of things, I feel compelled to offer a little background on my own educational journey. It is presented today as a preamble to tomorrow’s main essay.

By rights, I should have enjoyed a stunning academic journey as a young man.  My mother holds a double degree in French and German from Cambridge University.  My father was both a Chartered Architect and Chartered Surveyor and worked for Barclay Perkins & Co at their Anchor Brewery in Southwark, London all his working life.  My uncle, Christian Schiller, took up a mathematics scholarship at Sidney Sussex college at Cambridge University and ended up HM Inspector of Schools in the United Kingdom. Notably, he was a promoter of progressive ideas in primary education.

But it was not to be so.

My father died suddenly and with very little warning five days before Christmas in 1956.  I had turned 12-years-old some six weeks previously and just completed my first term at Preston Manor County Grammar School.  My secure, comfortable young life was thrown into emotional turmoil with one of the consequences being that instead of passing a clutch of GCE ‘O-Level’ exams, I barely managed to pass two subjects and was unable to continue on with a higher level of studying and the consequent sitting of GCE ‘A-Level’ exams, a pre-requisit for university.

Somehow, I then managed to win a place as a student at the Faraday House of Electrical Engineering, in those days based at Southampton Row, London.  It was to study for a Diploma in Electrical Engineering.  The requirement was that by the end of my first year at Faraday House I should pass two A-level examinations.

I was very happy as a college student.  That first year was spent entirely learning about engineering with much time ‘hands-on’ in the engineering workshop. Then came time for me to sit those two A-level exams. I failed both of them! There was no choice but for me to leave the college.

So that’s enough to demonstrate that academic prowess was not my speciality.

However, being unable to jump through the hoops needed for a degree or equivalent didn’t mean that I was a poor learner; far from it.

After my father’s death, my mother remarried and my ‘new’ Dad was very supportive.  He had a background in communications and quickly encouraged me to become a radio amateur.  I joined the nearby Radio Society of Harrow (still in existence!) and their encouragement enabled me to pass the full set of exams necessary to become a licensed radio amateur and a full member of the Radio Society of Great Britain.  My amateur call sign was (and still is) G3PUK. I was 17.


I can still whistle the alphabet in morse code, from A to Z, and the numbers 0 to 9!

Later on, when I was an apprentice at the British Aircraft Corporation’s site in Stevenage, Hertfordshire, one of the commercial staff, Jim Jenner, spent many hours preparing me for the Institute of Advanced Motorists examination. I passed that exam and became a full member of the IAM in May, 1966.

So there’s my background that, hopefully, will set the scene to a wonderful exchange of views and ideas that flowed from Patrice’s blog. Ideas that will be explored tomorrow.

For the reason, the powerful reason, that the intelligence and wisdom of humanity has always been important.  But now, in this time of the affairs of man, our collective intelligence and wisdom has never been more important.

4 thoughts on “Progressing Wisdom – the preamble.

  1. Wow.. now thats an interesting background Paul…. Having failed the 11 plus at school and being set to work in a factory aged 15… shows how different our upbringings were.. And yet here we are today in the blogging world…. Holding great respect for similar issues in the world… Wisdom it seems comes to those whose hearts respond to the Universal Truths ..

    Thank you Paul for your wisdom, your truths and the issues you bring to light within your post…


    1. Sue, once again you are so generous in your comments in this place. Thank you. Must admit, I would love to have your reactions to the main essay that is being published tomorrow! Assuming I complete it in time!


  2. Touching story, Paul. My compassion goes to you to have lost your father at 12. Something one can’t never truly overcome, I’m sure.

    This highly competitive, cruel, oligarchically minded school system in the UK is incomprehensible from a USA perspective… It feels like a basic violation of right to education.

    Although we are quickly heading that way here in the USA too, from a slightly different direction. And although it sounds a quite a bit like the French system too (which is also very competitive at a young age, a way to favor those already in the system parentally speaking).


    1. Yes, our lives are full of surprises, not all of them pleasant. But looking back, in a real sense, I am grateful. For the emotional rejection that was the psychological result of losing my father had a positive effect. It gave me a passion to avoid rejection all my life and allowed me to excel in my business life.

      That rejection only came into my consciousness as a result of working with Jon Lavin in recent times. This self-awareness allowed me to embrace my emotional insecurities. I couldn’t have had the loving relationship with Jean that we share without that knowledge!

      I feel very fortunate.


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