Prince Philip: What his life can teach our students

Whether you love the Royal Family or loathe them - there is much students can learn from the life and legacy of the Duke of Edinburgh, writes Mel Tropman

Mel Tropman

There is much students can learn from the life and legacy of the Duke of Edinburgh, writes Mel Tropman

As pupils and students, we learned about iconic and inspirational figures who shaped our history and existence. As teachers, no matter our subject or age group, we continue to teach our charges who these individuals are and the enlightening role they had in creating the life we know today.

Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, deserves to be one of these individuals for generations to come.

This was a man whose childhood was complex and yet he built his own identity and success. A man who, in a period when he was expected to be the breadwinner, had to remain one physical step behind his wife, who was considered to be one of the most powerful individuals in the world.  A man who married into a lifetime of service – he carried out more than 22,000 public engagements – and who, when most of his generation were relishing retirement, persevered in community work, personal and leisurely activities, and continued to learn and drive change both nationally and internationally. 

Yes, he could be controversial. But that was also endearing, in a way – it showed his humanity.

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Prince Philip’s legacy can be brought into the classroom. He demonstrated a strong work ethic, guided by loyalty for his wife, dedication and patriotism to his country, and determination to provide opportunities for young people. He respected the different strengths and capabilities of others, he encouraged and modelled becoming the best version of yourself. He understood and encountered the challenges of being a UK citizen, without it being his birth right.  British Values have now become established in Ofsted’s repertoire and he embodied these. The Duke of Edinburgh's Award scheme, which provides so many young people with treasured experiences, supports our work as schools and colleges in preparing our students for their future. It shares our values as educators – by association, he shared our values.

In a world where the role of women is consistently seen as inferior to men, he lived a life in opposite. And lo and behold, society has survived! Schools and colleges have been, and will continue to be, required to promote a more balanced and respectful attitude towards the status of men and women. Prince Philip demonstrated, with considerable grace, that he absolutely believed in and trusted his wife in her position as Queen. I’m sure there were arguments behind the doors of the palace, but it is testimony to the strength of their relationship that he never left her side. At her Diamond Jubilee, the Queen made a very rare personal reference to how he had been “her strength and stay” all these years. He is a role model for demonstrating to our male and female students alike that gender roles and stereotypes are archaic and unjustified, relationships are a partnership and built on mutual respect for each other’s strengths, responsibilities and drive.

Whether you love or loathe the Royal Family, Prince Philip was a gentleman. He was utterly devoted to his wife as an individual, her role as the Queen, his children and family life. Various quips made about wives were made in humour – he clearly adored her. He took on the role of fatherhood to a much greater extent than was expected of his generation at the time. When he stepped back from public duties at the remarkable age of 96, he challenged the negative stereotypes of what older people can accomplish. Young and old, he broke down barriers. We can teach our children and young people so much because of him.

He was in an influential position to promote positive change in society and he made the most of every moment of that. His legacy can live on through our work.

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Mel Tropman

Mel Tropman is a health and social care teacher in a college in the East of England

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