THIS year marks exactly ten years since I graduated from High School. I went to Queen’s College (QC) from 2004 – 2009 and this school, incidentally, is celebrating its175th anniversary. I find it strange that this school is so old and has a long and storied history, with so little of it documented. This lack of proper documentation means that much of the legacy and lore of the school can only be passed on through oral traditions, from the alumni to the people, which in the 21st Century is a bit antiquated method. Of course, there are the sporadic bursts of publications here and there, but there is nothing comprehensive that tells the school’s story from the days of handsome Victorian scholars to the multicultural coed institution that now represents the best high schoolers in Guyana. This is particularly unfortunate because high schools are such a formative part of our lives, and it saddens me that so little information about my high school is not readily available. I mean, it was in high school that I discovered my great love of literature. It was in high school when I decided that science was not for me. High school was when I became starkly aware of class differences among students. I was in high school when I got my first kiss from a girl and it was in high school when I got my first kiss from a boy. My time at Queen’s College introduced me to some of the greatest people I know, and Queen’s College is also where I experienced a fair amount of bullying. The school, in both positive and negative ways, has influenced my life and has played a part in shaping me into who I am today. To think that mine is only one of the thousands of stories that have been affected by Queen’s College is a mind-blowing fact that I will probably never come to terms with, but such is the beauty of schools, I suppose.
As part of the 175th anniversary celebrations, I am working with the school and various alumni to commemorate this event. In these interactions, two things, regarding the duality of the past and the present, stand out to me the most. One has to do with the fervent love of the school that is expressed by the older generations and the other has to do with the many differences that I can pinpoint between my generation and the current generation at Queen’s College. Perhaps, this is a sign that I am growing into an old curmudgeon, despite my promises to myself to not do so.
My interactions with people over forty who have been to Queen’s College is staggering in that there is such a love for the school. I also love QC, but is it a space that I would label as one of my favourites in the whole world? Probably not. What is it, then, that results in the different ways in which love of school is manifested between various generations? Is it nostalgia? After reaching a certain age, do people feel an innate need to look back and remember fond memories isolated to younger days, when limbs were stronger, love was free, and times were different? I think it might be that – but also something more. I think that generally for older alumni, Queen’s College might represent an ideal time in their lives simply because it was exactly that: an ideal time. Young people today have the internet at their disposal, with easy access to friends, movies, games, and knowledge. Back in the day, I suppose, school was the only way of attaining all of those things. Therefore, the deep love and admiration for QC might be rooted in nostalgia, as well as in all of those elements that came together to make those five years fantastic to the point of being forever rooted in the memories of alumni from previous generations. I suppose one analogy for modern generations to understand this is to imagine a world without the internet – and everything that comes with it: Netflix, social media, etc. – and the blankness that would be experienced in such a world would be equivalent to how an older Queen’s College alumnus might feel about the school not existing at all.
The current batch of students is also quite different from myself (and my 11 – 17-year-old self) in that they are way more confident and outgoing than I ever was as a student. In fact, they might be more confident and outgoing than me as an adult. While I acknowledge that attending Queen’s College does give students a boost in terms of self-assurance and a privilege in being assured of how we will be perceived by the outside world, what other factors are there that could have shaped the students so differently from how I was moulded when I attended the school? Students not only have an increase in the number of hours in which they must be in school, but they also attend after-school lessons, as well as a range of extracurricular activities, including dance, athletics, gym, steelpan, modelling, etc. I get tired just thinking about it. My only theory about the evolution of the excess in the output of current Queen’s College students has to do with the fact that ambition and the need to achieve greatness and excellence (or greatness through excellence) has also evolved throughout the years. At some point, we surpass academics in terms of competition and eventually it is not enough to do well in academic work but also in the extracurricular.
Of course, none of this is bad. The deep-seated love for the school by the elders and the evolution of the current students are natural courses that have emerged, and they are interesting to observe and analyse. Coming back to the previous point about the lack of publications on Queen’s College, it can be said that none of these observations, none of the trends, none of the changes between the generations, can be really observed, studied and analysed without the data being recorded – and based on this juxtaposition between older alumnus and current students at Queen’s College, this lack of published information on the school is an unfortunate instance that causes us to lose information that we one day regard as valuable. Hopefully, by the time the 200th anniversary comes around, things will be different in this regard.