To err is to learn

I apologise for the lack of links in this post: WordPress appears not to be allowing them this evening.

When I am advising a student who appears set on going down an inadvisable route, I always try to spell out the considerations – and then allow time for second thoughts. Mistakes are sometimes made anyway, but there is no point in allowing errors to happen that a little reflection might avoid. When it comes to Brexit, we are now in an infinitely wiser place than we were just a few days ago: the general mood of the nation is known and some of the consequences have been seen, so it is no longer just conjecture.

John Tomsett’s post earlier today was eminently sensible, in claiming the campaign was not honest. In the broadest possible sense of the word, this is an educative moment for a nation that has perhaps taken both its democracy and the status quo for granted for too long. Unlike many other European nations, we have never really had to have the kind of national debate that they had following the Second World War. It has been all too easy to sit smugly on our supposed laurels.

While the media will always alight on novelty, there have been quite a few accounts today of people having second thoughts about their Leave votes, of seeing the back-pedalling that is already going on, of saying they did not take the enormity of the consequences seriously enough.

It is entirely correct to say that the will of the people should be respected; in that sense there can be no going back until the ‘right’ result is achieved. Hopefully, that is an abuse of democracy that this country is still above.

But on the other hand, would it not be reasonable to ask the nation to confirm its decision in a second vote, to reaffirm that this is its will, now that the balance of opinion is more clearly known, and now that the nation has in effect looked into the abyss? It would need to be done soon, and on the same terms as the original vote. But is not the ability to learn from one’s mistakes not a key part of the educative process?

We would not write a student off for their folly without a chance to reflect. It is not (quite) too late for informed second thoughts.


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