The Importance of Exchange
THE IMPORTANCE OF EXCHANGE
Written by Trevor Cooper (MA Education 1990-92)
In the Second World War, the city of Coventry was heavily bombed. Twenty years later, during the final stages of rebuilding the city, the staff of the New Coventry Cathedral joined churches from West Berlin in a seminar on reconciliation. One of the practical consequences of this partnership was the instigation of exchange visits and educational programmes for young people working in industry and commerce. Trevor Cooper, who was ordained at Coventry Cathedral and later awarded an MA from the University of Warwick, argues that now travelling abroad is cheaper and easier, we forget what foreign travel teaches about "what we share as a human race".
In an age when going abroad is much cheaper and easier than it was, it is easy to forget that foreign travel provides a unique opportunity to think critically about what we share as a human race. Observed differences often challenge the way we do things. Sometimes they even threaten the way we think - sometimes, perhaps, enough to expose personal prejudices and maybe even to reflect more philosophically on the nature of the value judgements we customarily make. Hence trips abroad and language exchanges provide a promising introduction and potentially valuable input to the education of many children today.
So it was that early in the 60s, after the trauma and destruction of the Second World War, when the rebuilding of their respective cities was well underway, the combined churches of West Berlin took the initiative in inviting the staff of the New Coventry Cathedral to a seminar. Reconciliation was the theme intended by those custodians of what might be termed ultimate humanitarian values. It was time to rebuild relationships between the survivors of both sides; to develop attitudes towards each other based on mutual forgiveness and respect and to dispel the international and personal prejudices that had been an inevitable consequence of the ravages of war.
It was time to rebuild relationships between the survivors of both sides; to develop attitudes towards each other based on mutual forgiveness and respect...
Among the practical experiments that ensued, those chaplains on both sides who were developing their work predominantly along with people working in industry and commerce made contact. They agreed on the importance of exchange visits and planned to put into effect educational programmes, in particular for young workers. However, it was not until 1969 that this aim was achieved. A return visit to Coventry by Horst Czock, who was to become my partner in the enterprise, clinched it.
The challenge facing us both was how to gain the trust of those within the public and private sectors of commercial organisations to sponsor the project. How were we to encourage the pragmatists of industry and commerce, steeped in the various disciplines of their trades, responsible to the demands of market forces on the one hand and the representation of humanitarian needs of the workers on the other, to say nothing of social justice, to respond favourably?
They agreed on the importance of exchange visits and planned to put into effect educational programmes, in particular for young workers.
We approached a broad base of people including industrial and commercial training executives, educationalists from secondary, further and higher education and representatives of the trades unions. We arranged an exchange between similar groups from both cities. Their selection was designed to encourage a balance of informed expertise and influence.
The immediate aim was to stimulate interest in continuing such exchange programmes for a cross-section of apprentices and young workers, drawn from and sponsored by the organisations they represented. The response was very positive.
Annual exchanges were established and continued during the 1970’s and 80’s for both young workers and others throughout a time of political division in Berlin, until the Wall came down. For many participants, regardless of age, the experience of a group programme which exposed them to a foreign culture and different social and economic practices, as well as overriding political differences, was quite unnerving. Occasionally some found this quite difficult to handle and to share in the group process.
Trevor Cooper has recorded his reflections on the project in his book “Who Goes There?” A Challenge to Humanity published by AuthorHouse (2009).
Trevor Cooper published Who Goes There? A Challenge to Humanity in 2009. He was educated at Nottingham High School, trained with a firm of chartered accountants, commissioned in the Royal Artillery during National Service, then worked in commercial management before training at Lincoln Theological College. Following ordination at Coventry Cathedral he continued with Coventry Industrial Mission before taking early retirement in 1992, after first submitting the findings of his research into vocational development of young workers to the Centre for Education and Industry, University of Warwick, for which he was awarded an MA.
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