So George didn\’t enjoy Stowe then?

In a paper published last year in the British Journal of Psychotherapy, Dr Joy Schaverien identifies a set of symptoms common among early boarders that she calls boarding school syndrome. Her research suggests that the act of separation, regardless of what might follow it, \”can cause profound developmental damage\”, as \”early rupture with home has a lasting influence on attachment patterns\”.

When a child is brought up at home, the family adapts to accommodate it: growing up involves a constant negotiation between parents and children. But an institution cannot rebuild itself around one child. Instead, the child must adapt to the system. Combined with the sudden and repeated loss of parents, siblings, pets and toys, this causes the child to shut itself off from the need for intimacy. This can cause major problems in adulthood: depression, an inability to talk about or understand emotions, the urge to escape from or to destroy intimate relationships. These symptoms mostly affect early boarders: those who start when they are older are less likely to be harmed.

It should be obvious that this system could also inflict wider damage. A repressed, traumatised elite, unable to connect emotionally with others, is a danger to society: look at the men who started the first world war.

51 comments on “So George didn\’t enjoy Stowe then?

  1. Seems like a valid comment, but I would go a lot further and argue that insitutional education in general is a psychological catastrophe we have inflicted on ourselves. It is a central bastion of the “institutionalised society” constructed since the 1820s. The primary purpose of it is to de-individualise its victims by force. Hence, the increasing numbers of citizens who expect the whole of society, and the workplace, and so on, to be like a school.

    I’ve been arguing for a long while that we need to stop talking about how to pay for schooling, and whether to privatise it, or give out vouchers, or something, and just abolish the whole system. It was always evil, and largely unnecessary. It’s now both evil and entirely unnecessary.

    That is not to say that there should not be places where people can learn, or that there should not be tutors. It is to say that the adoption of a system of violence developed by the Prussians to feed youngsters into their military/bureaucratic machine must be abolished.

  2. I’d take the Left seriously on this if they did in fact support the family unit, instead of loathing it and preferring the State as a surrogate parent.

    It is the private nature of these schools, and the ethos they promote, that is the issue for the Left; crocodile tears about damaged children are a cynical distraction.

  3. Damn it.

    When I learnt history we were told the most unbelievable guff about the causes of the first world war. Finally someone is prepared to identify the real cause – boarding.

  4. If you going to do non sequiturs, do it big. The last paragraph Tim quotes comes completely out of nowhere, and then disappears into the ether, having presumably left its impression in the more receptive kind of mind.

    Ian B

    I keep trying to articulate a reinvention of learning, but never quite manage it. What you say, however, is a pretty good summary.

  5. First World War caused by early boarding ?

    Surely the ruling elites of pre-1914 were all educated at home by governesses and tutors.

    Could argue that WWI was caused by likes of Kaiser & Tsar NOT going to public school and having to learn to get on with their peers.

  6. Ian B,

    I’ve been arguing for a long while that we need to stop talking about how to pay for schooling, and whether to privatise it, or give out vouchers, or something, and just abolish the whole system. It was always evil, and largely unnecessary. It’s now both evil and entirely unnecessary.

    I think that primary education basically works: teaching kids to read, write and add up. You need teachers to teach that. Beyond that, I’m not too sure.

    There’s an experimental program happening in the US which is more about children learning in the way that suits them best. If they want to do things at home on a PC, they can. If they want to go to class, they can. They’re still assessed on progress.

    The kids perform better under this system than traditional schooling. They now just have to fight the US teaching unions who aren’t going to like the results one little bit.

  7. “I think that primary education basically works: teaching kids to read, write and add up. You need teachers to teach that.”

    No, you don’t. I knew how to do all of that before I went to school.

    My parents made sure of it.

  8. Tim Almond

    Have you got more details of that, or a link to somewhere?

    No, the unions aren’t going to like it. They’re one of the (many) obstacles to revolutionising education.

  9. Not sure about a home schooling route to education. With some of our more Guardianistic parents that could imply late teenagers who’d never been exposed to the rigours of reality at all.
    On the other hand, one supposes it could, overall, reduce the influence of socialism. The vote is still denied to the clinically insane, isn’t it?

  10. Yet Monbiot says that only 38 schools take kids as young as 8 to board. So a handful of schools.

    And how many actual 8 year olds are at these schools ? He doesn’t say. But 100 ? 200 ? Out of one million 8 year olds in the UK.

    And how many of these 8 year olds are at boarding school because their parents have died, or physically or mentally incapable of looking after their children.

    Talk about an article about a non-issue.

  11. Just done a quick wiki check and there is no mention of any of the main leaders of WW1 being boarders. The closest is George V being sent to Brittania at 12 to learn become a naval officer. The monarchs were tutored at home, as you would expect. Of the political leaders the only one that has any mention of his schooling is Lloyd George who went to his local school with no mention of him boarding. There is no mention of Gavrilo Princip boarding either, and it is unlikely that his parents could afford it. Basically the boarding caused WW1 thing is completely unsupported by fact, but it does make a good rant.

  12. Asquith, the PM in 1914, went to a boarding school for a couple of years as a 10/11 year old. His father had died when he was seven.

    Asquith then went to live with his uncle in London and went to the City of London school. A day school.

  13. A repressed, traumatised elite, unable to connect emotionally with others, is a danger to society

    More like a group of blokes who’ve grown up realising that in a place with nowhere to hide acting like a twat gets your head flushed down the toilet have little time for lefty navel gazers who were mollycoddled by cooing aunties.

  14. @Tim Newman – I couldn’t have put it better.

    These silly women crop up every now and again saying, in effect, that boys who’ve been to boarding schools aren’t very girly.

    It’s always women and they’re always talking about boys.

    One must just learn to ignore them, as one learned to ignore and avoid the unpleasant, the tedious, the monomaniacs, and the threatening, when one was oneself at boarding school.

    Those were lessons worth learning…

  15. “A repressed, traumatised elite, unable to connect emotionally with others, is a danger to society”

    Sounds like the staff of the Guardian.

  16. Attending a bog standard primary and comp, I was always rather jealous (and ignorant) of boarding school. It seemed like it would be so much fun to spend all that time with people my own age rather than my (perfectly nice, but boring) family. I guess it was rather more like prison in actuality.

  17. I went away to boarding school at eight. That was the age one entered Prep School.

    To be honest, I think it probably did fuck me up pretty badly, but local State schools were so abysmal it was probably the lesser of two evils.

  18. And there was I thinking you meant George Melly, being buggered by all and sundry at Stowe, rather than the Moonbat, learning bugger-all at Stowe.

  19. Adam Smith was opposed to boarding schools, wasn’t he? On the basis that it weakened family ties, IIRC.

  20. ” This can cause major problems in adulthood: depression, an inability to talk about or understand emotions”

    I thought that was just the natural behaviour of an English male.

  21. Has Monbiot ever come across a problem that he didn’t think could be solved by banning something? I’m genuinely curious.

  22. “This can cause major problems in adulthood: depression, an inability to talk about or understand emotions, the urge to escape from or to destroy intimate relationships.”

    But so can many things beside early boarding. Arguably, being brought up in a underclass home with drug and alcohol addicted parents would have similar, if not worse, effects.

    A repressed, traumatised underclass, unable to connect emotionally with others, is a danger to society: look at those who started the riots in 2011.

  23. I would look to see if this is all objectively wrong like everything else Moonbat comes out with but for some reason Google Scholar is being really slow. If you type “boarding school” into GS you get a lot of articles explaining the horrors of State education in America for the Amerindians. I wonder if this would cause Moonbat to look inwards at his desire to have the State educate everyone? Probably not.

  24. Even being put in a large institional organisation at age 17/18 has an effect on many males – see military service.

  25. What a load of cobblers! Boarding school, for the most part, results in mature well balanced individuals who function well in society and contribute to it.

    Or is that only for those with a good dose of Yorkshire common sense and gumption?

  26. I;m amazed at the superficialty of comments on this website. Dr Joy Scheaverien’s work is very interesting and George Monbiot’s article was a good expression of it. I actually went to boarding school at 8 and I think there’s a lot of truth in her ideas – some of these themes are the same a those which have been echoed in my own therapy. Or perhaps I’ve misunderstood where I am (IE this blog) and we weren’t meant to be having an intelligent discussion. Hey ho, my mistake.

  27. Nick (27) you should be aware that many of the comments on this blog are flippant. (Mine nearly always are.) If you want po faced discussion of how the world done you wrong go to CiF.
    That said, we all have setbacks. If you don’t marry, get divorced, become self-employed, earn less than that twat from 4B Remove, or any number of things that happen in life it is natural to think it might be because of boarding school, or day school, or not eating one’s greens or whatever.
    But guess what? Adulthood is acknowledging that out fuck-ups are OUR fuck-ups.
    (BTW, if I may be allowed to parse Tim’s post, I think he was suggesting that there are worse things than boarding school. And that he wouldn’t mind if Monbiot experienced them.)

  28. When I went to university, the most striking difference between those who’d gone to boarding schools and those who’d gone to local schools – or, at least, among the subsets of each who indulged in common room chit-chat – was that the locally schooled were rather obviously better educated on average. I doubt if that’s true today.

  29. Nick H – ” I think there’s a lot of truth in her ideas – some of these themes are the same a those which have been echoed in my own therapy.”

    So she is right because she agrees with you? Or just because every tool and their doctor spouts such cliches? Well you have elevated the discourse so much I am totally convinced.

  30. Rob – “I’d take the Left seriously on this if they did in fact support the family unit, instead of loathing it and preferring the State as a surrogate parent.”

    God knows what our wars will be like when the Guardianistas have their way and all children are raised in boarding homes from the moment of birth.

    6Tim Almond – “I think that primary education basically works: teaching kids to read, write and add up. You need teachers to teach that. Beyond that, I’m not too sure.”

    And yet they fail even at that.

    “There’s an experimental program happening in the US which is more about children learning in the way that suits them best. If they want to do things at home on a PC, they can. If they want to go to class, they can. They’re still assessed on progress.”

    Which is nice for nice middle class children who have parents who will make them learn. It is less useful for the children of the underclass who could benefit from education but will never be sufficiently motivated on their own to use this method. Schools must exist for those children who do not have a house full of books and need teachers to push them.

    “The kids perform better under this system than traditional schooling. They now just have to fight the US teaching unions who aren’t going to like the results one little bit.”

    Try it in the Washington school system. I doubt they will be performing better. Learning is by its nature boring and unrewarding in the short term. That is why children have to be forced to do it. They won’t do it on their own.

  31. Dearieme,

    I found the same thing having been to both a boarding school and a comprehensive. The reason is that providing an education is not high on the list of priorities in many boarding schools.

  32. A repressed, traumatised underclass, unable to connect emotionally with others, is a danger to society: look at those who started the riots in 2011.

    They were about as repressed and traumatised as a well-loved kitten.

  33. “They were about as repressed and traumatised as a well-loved kitten.”

    Or someone who went to boarding school. All this psychobabble is tripe.

  34. I’m surprised to see Blokw in Spain come out with the line that school life is somehow more real than home life. Schools are highly artuficial environments which attempt to oppose homigeneity, and waste a great deal of time doing it. A homeschooled child is likely to have a mucher realer experience of the world than a one who spwnds their youth in a school.

  35. Shit happens. Man up, for fucks sake. It’s another example of the weirdness of the Left, specifically the upper-middle class part of it – the endless search to explain their weirdness as the fault of something/someone else.

  36. Aha!
    Judging by the spelling & use of novel word usage, @35 the home schooled by Guardianistas comes along to prove my point.
    Thankyou sir/madam.

    And, just in passing:
    “Learning is by its nature boring and unrewarding in the short term. That is why children have to be forced to do it. They won’t do it on their own.”

    This is a feature not a bug of the system & constant attempts to make education more entertaining & enjoyable are eroding it.

    Regrettably, the world outside of school is boring & tedious. Few scholars move straight from school to be CEO of a major company or are instantly promoted to the top of their chosen career. Formal education is not the climax of the learning experience. It’s the prelude. The new employee at office or factory is the lowest of the low, expected to do the filing or sweep the floor. Make the coffee or empty the trash. Their first day they don’t even know where the toilet is. Now there’s a lengthy period before them while they learn how everything works, who to ask for what, where this & that are kept….. In most work environments newcomers don’t do much that’s exciting or enjoyable because those tend to be the things that, if they fuck up, there’s a hefty price to pay. Depending on the complexity of the job, that period of learning can take day’s weeks, months or years. Maybe, even, their chosen career is never going to be exciting & stimulating. It’ll be just something they do every day to bring in money.
    Learning to cope with boredom & tedium is a worthwhile attribute & is as much a necessity of the educational experience as mathematics & literacy. As any employer knows, that the subject has largely been removed from the school curriculum is not something to celebrate.

  37. BIS-

    If you think people need to be brainwashed into doing purposive work by a decade of purposeless drudgery, I think that’s a terrible outlook. To be anecdotal, when I started my working life, in theatre, all my tasks were “dull”, from sweeping the stage to the indescribable tedium of pushing a follow spot to follow an actor. But those were tolerable because they were clearly purposive. Somebody has to sweep the stage. Somebody has to push a follow spot. Somebody has to carry fifty cast iron luminaires up the fire escape to the upper circle.

    The problem with your “feature not a bug” of schoolwork is that it is largely quite clearly purposeless to the students, and if they learn anything from this it is that working is a waste of time, performed only due to the whims of their rulers, not for a purposive end.

    I did not particularly like or dislike school myslef- it was a tedious duty at best. But one thing I can remember thinking so many times was that there was no real reason for this particular class or activity. It was completely pointless makework.

    The Calvinist-derived “work for its own sake” ethic is a curse on our society. We need to shift to a “production ethic” if we need an ethic at all, and ditch singing the praises of work as an end.

    People don’t need training to survive boring work. Humanity has been doing boring work for our entire history- hunting, gathering, ploughing fields, reaping, building this and that. The knowledge that the work has a recognisable purpose is all that is required. You sweep the stage because the stage needs sweeping. It’s not that hard to understand.

  38. Oh dear, the hyper-libertarian dingbats are out in force on this thread…eg IB @ 1 @ 15 and perhaps TA @ 6

    Let’s be clear: being in favour of economic and civil liberty does not equal being in favour of ‘deinstitutionalisation’ (whatever that means) or even a radical interpretation of children’s rights.

    Socialisation – ie integration into social institutions, of which formal education is a part – into a particular society is a pre-condition of (and not antithetical to) liberty, because liberty requires a framework of knowledge of rights and of culture.

    Absolute liberty for the individual is impossible. Think of freedom as a triadic relation: freedom of the agent, freedom to…, freedom from….. That is, freedom of x to do p while free from q.

    The philosophical assumption here is that of Rousseau – that freedom consists of being free of all and any human institutions. Numerous French ‘intellectuals’ have been seduced by this nonsense

    Without institutions, we would be less than human. So leaving children to learn for themselves is pure CiF nonsense. It does not work … not unsurprisingly! See BiS above and SMFS @ 31

  39. Paul ilc

    Unfortunately I wasn’t peddling a “libertarian” line, I was peddling my own dislike of institutionalisation.

    Your belief that humans need to be forcibly “socialised” by hammering their unwilling flesh into moulds designed by other people is commonplace, unfortunately. It is one of those things that is hard to debunk because it is so daft (like the Erich Von Daniken) other than by repeating that there is no evidence for it and that it is total cobblers. It is worth remembering that it is generally peddled by those who have some particular institution in mind that they want to hammer everyone else into, be it the State (left wing) or the Church (right wing) or some other Damned Thing. It is inevitably driven by a terror that people who are really free won’t do the things they want, and live in the way they want.

    “Without institutions, we would be less than human”.

    Yep, Hegel’s codswallop has a lot to answer for, yes indeedy.

    The modern institutional structure of our society is a recent invention, which suddenly bursts into ghastly life from around the 1820s onwards and has expanded like a plague ever since. We did fine without it before. There is no reason to think we won’t do fine without it again.

    Maybe it’s just that I’m in favour of actual liberty, in particular the right to select one’s personal and “cultural” values, rather than the narrower “economic and civil liberty” which is the figleaf of the authoritarian with a smiley face.

  40. IB @ 40:

    ” wasn’t peddling a “libertarian” line, I was peddling my own dislike of institutionalisation.”

    What’s the difference?

    “Your belief that humans need to be forcibly “socialised” by hammering…”

    No. Tranmission of cultural values is not an example of coercion: it’s a pre-condition of freedom.

  41. No. Tranmission of cultural values is not an example of coercion: it’s a pre-condition of freedom.

    I’d be intrigued as to how you’d go about proving that, rather than merely stating it, as is the usual approach.

    I’m also wondering what particular things you count as “cultural values”. Are not young individuals capable of simply joining in with the culture to which they are born?

    Or is that a euphemism for some particular set of moral values you prefer, and want everyone indoctrinated with by your institutional system?

    Can you give me an example of the particular cultural values you need this institutional system to ensure the transmission of?

  42. Re IanB @38

    “If you think people need to be brainwashed into doing purposive work by a decade of purposeless drudgery, I think that’s a terrible outlook. To be anecdotal, when I started my working life, in theatre……..”
    Yes well…..
    At odd intervals over the last couple of weeks I’ve been watching some guys painting an apartment block. 9 apartments a floor, 10 floors. 90 sets of railings, 270 walls, 90 ceilings & that’s just the terraces. Two coats of paint on everything. Today I walked past the other side. Identical with this side but they’d already painted it.
    I’ve done shit like that. It’s mindblowingly, unutterably boring. But how else does an apartment block get painted?

  43. BIS-

    Same as any other work; because it needs doing, and somebody is paying you to do it. We all do boring thigns all the time. I laid a carpet yesterday, boring as hell. I did it because I wanted a carpet in the bathroom. I’ll be washing up shortly. That’s boring too.

    People do boring things because they need doing, not because they were forced through ten years of something boring and useless as children.

    This helps explain why I spent thousands of hours in my teens doing the incomprhensibly boring task of programming an 8 bit microcomputer in hand assembled machine code. I wanted the final result, that’s why.

  44. bloke in spain – “Learning to cope with boredom & tedium is a worthwhile attribute & is as much a necessity of the educational experience as mathematics & literacy.”

    I am not sure I agree with this. Boredom should not be part of the school curriculum – because the little bastards should be working so hard they don’t have time to be bored. That is what PE is for. But I would say they need to learn to work to achieve something. They need to know that worthwhile things do not come instantly, but require hard work and effort. So they need to learn to go to the library and look things up, not just ask Wikipedia. They need to read dull looking text for nuggets of information, not just have some cool interactive Audio-Visual display tell them what they need to know.

    38Ian B – “People don’t need training to survive boring work. Humanity has been doing boring work for our entire history- hunting, gathering, ploughing fields, reaping, building this and that.”

    There is quite a lot of evidence that people do need to be educated to work in factories and offices. The first generation of farmers is used to hard work, but they are used to hard work on their own terms. They decide when they will sow and when they will reap. In a factory they need to re-learn that the foreman will tell them when to start and when to stop as well as what to do. Which is why factories usually start out with more biddable women and children. It is schooling that teaches peasants to be factory workers. That or the Army.

    “You sweep the stage because the stage needs sweeping. It’s not that hard to understand.”

    It is also not true. Most people may know the stage needs sweeping but they will not do it because they can do it later, or it is not that important, or someone else might do it. Most people live in filth – unless they are taught not to. Look at any farm in the Third World. Or any city for that matter. Look at Britain’s underclass. If you don’t teach people to sweep up immediately, they won’t. They will die in their own filth. Those Puritans really did make life better for the rest of us.

  45. ^^^And that, boys and girls, is what strangled capitalism in the cradle.

    I was going to write another long comment, but what’s the point? You won’t get it. If you can’t understand something as simple and clear as the profit motive, you’re not going to understand anything else.

    They will die in their own filth.

    That. Right there. The reason for the death of Western liberal civilisation in seven words.

  46. IanB,
    Just because I think being taught to cope with boredom is an important part of schooling doesn’t mean I’m advocating the whole of schooling should be boring.
    I will say,however, that if I’d been pushed a bit harder to memorise Latin verbs then maybe I wouldn’t now have my difficulties in learning Spanish. It’s tedious, I don’t enjoy it & I’m too tempted to go down the bar.

    And anecdotally.
    Because I’ve never had the slightest desire to father kids I do tend to see the whole process as a disinterested outsider.
    A girlfriend once got me to attend her 7 year old’s school* open evening on her behalf. Instead of the serried rows of desks I remembered from my school days, the kids all sat round tables. Attempting to have a conversation with the teacher was punctuated by children running up & demanding her attention. Quite honestly it was havoc. I thought at the time; if you couldn’t get biddable 7 year olds to absorb the rudiments of discipline how the hell are you going to do it when they’re older?
    Time moved on & the sprog moved through the school system. By 9 he’d got serious problems. ADD isn’t it? At early teens he still wasn’t literate & was well behind expected levels. Like far too many of his contemporaries. He left school with zilch qualifications & is now a general pain in the ass.
    He didn’t learn that behaviour at home. His mother wouldn’t stand for it. He used to improve dramatically during the school holidays but once he returned he’d be coming home all hyped up & unruly.
    Sorry, but that’s what you get trying to make education an ‘entertainment’. If secondary teachers have problems with their classes they should blame their colleagues in the junior schools. If you can’t teach kiddies to sit quietly & behave what do you expect when they’re lumping great teenagers? Doesn’t mean it has to be uniformly tedious & boring but you do need some greens as well as pudding.

    *I’m not sure, but I think this may have been the Islington seat of learning declared UDI back in Grocer Ted’s days & was run on strict socialist idealistic principles till it all collapsed in mayhem. But this was later on.

  47. BIS, all your anecdote seems to do is support my assertion that schools are bad for children.

    “He used to improve dramatically during the school holidays”

    What does that tell you?

  48. Beg to differ.
    *That* school was disastrous for children.

    Probably because a lot of the kids were coming from homes where, unlike the g/f’s lad, they weren’t learning the rudiments of good behaviour at home, the teachers opted for the ‘keep ’em entertained & they’re less trouble’ option. Result was the g/f’s sprog acquired all the bad kids’ habits.
    And, no doubt, particularly harmful for him because now he’s between 2 stools isn’t he? At school he’s intimidated. At home he’s in bad odour because of his behaviour.
    The point of the discipline is that it protects the kids from each other.
    Sitting in neat little rows & reciting the times table doesn’t just teach multiplication. It teaches application.

    Out of interest, what do you see the purpose of education in the first place. I’ve always thought of it, not as a method of imparting learning but as instruction how to learn. Once you’ve learnt that you can learn anything. I’ve always thought that was why we were taught Latin. For a youngster it’s a boring, tedious, essentially useless subject.* Ditto a lot of maths.** Excellent practice for all the other boring, tedious things you have to master later.

    *Yes I know. And apart from its legal & medical uses it’s infinitely valuable to understanding how our & other European languages work. Means I could read a fair bit of Spanish from the go. But I didn’t know that at twelve.

    **I’ve never once needed calculus. Have you?

  49. Bloke in Spain

    Guardianista, moi! You must be joking. Not home-schooled either, and I can usually spell properly when I’m not using the little keyboard on the phone.

    I don’t think we’ve understood each other’s comments. It’s a standard leftwing position that any form of private education is evil (except for their own children, that is), and that children cannot learn unless they are enclosed several hours a day with representatives of all groups of society and told to sink or swim. The world outside schools is more complete and more natural than what is within them, and, although it’s not possible for most people to directly educate their children themselves, there are very good reasons for completing changing the way in which children are educated.

  50. My apologies,
    Broadly I agree with you. You’ll see from my comment above that I’m far from over the moon with the current system.

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