It’s all public schools’ fault you know. No, really:

Why public schoolboys like me and Boris Johnson aren’t fit to run our country

All a bit much I am not worthy really. Then there’s this:

This wasn’t healthy. In her 2015 book, Boarding School Syndrome, psychoanalyst Joy Schaverien describes a condition now sufficiently recognised to merit therapy groups and an emergent academic literature. The symptoms are wide-ranging but include, ingrained from an early age, emotional detachment and dissociation, cynicism, exceptionalism, defensive arrogance, offensive arrogance, cliquism, compartmentalisation, guilt, grief, denial, strategic emotional misdirection and stiff-lipped stoicism. Fine fine fine. We’re all doing fine.

Don’t have a great deal of time for psychoanalysis, to be fair. And this bird seems to be describing men from the female perspective, not public schoolboys specifically.

The correct way to read this is to think of why this is all being said. That state school system hasn’t exactly covered itself with glory. Very few would argue that the academic results are better than that private sector. Or that it produces better life chances. So, we’ve therefore got to find some other reason why private schooling either must be denigrated or must cease to exist.

19 thoughts on “Hmm”

  1. I do think there’s a slight point. The privately educated are more networked in. You public schoolboys do talk about who you went to school with. Few from the state sector do. And being networked in can provide advantages. So the networked get preferenced over the best.
    The answer is, of course, to abolish the state sector. Then we could all get the benefits of networking.

  2. Incidentally, pretty all the “symptoms” she says need treating cab be derived from that networking factor. They’re the sort of characteristics displayed by people who feel secure in a peer group. Although I can’t see where guilt comes in. Going to the wrong school?

  3. The symptoms are wide-ranging but include, ingrained from an early age, emotional detachment and dissociation, cynicism, exceptionalism, defensive arrogance, offensive arrogance, cliquism, compartmentalisation, guilt, grief, denial, strategic emotional misdirection and stiff-lipped stoicism.

    What is wrong with emotional detachment (when called for), exceptionalism and stiff-lipped stoicism? Some of the rest (eg strategic emotional misdirection) just sounds like bullshit.

    Public schools do instil confidence or rather they don’t knock it out of you like comps. I went to public school, my sister did not. She is not radically less bright than me, (she would have done far better academically had she gone to public school or indeed a grammar school) but she lacks intellectual confidence.

    @BiS I don’t think the networking factor is that significant unless you go to Eton, Harrow etc.

  4. @ BiS
    Never once in 50+ years of work have I benefited from “networking”.
    The education *has* been a benefit.
    The Grauniad makes stuff up habitually, so why believe this article any more than any other?
    The idea that a local swimming club would want to use a pool in Radley College grounds is ludicrous – why travel there and where would they change?

  5. psychoanalyst Joy Schaverien

    Just like Jordan Peterson she’s a Jungian, so presumably they’ll be lauding his work at the Guardian now?

    … in the documentary Public School the boys casually refer to “the lower orders”, as if to a species difference, reptiles considering insects. In our isolation we learned that we were special. Everyone else was less special and often stupid – school was where we went, aged eight, to learn to despise other people.

    Sounds like the left when referring to Brexiteers.

    In his book The Old Boys, David Turner has the statistics for the “highly disproportionate share” of public school alumni in the top jobs of the UK.

    It’s funny how, when ‘top jobs’ go to White, Public School types it’s because of a pernicious conspiracy against the people, but when they go to anyone who’s a member of an approved ‘minority’, it’s due solely to merit and questioning it is racist/ sexist/ homophobic.

  6. Networking… Used to have a young lad worked alongside me who received a call out the blue from an old school friend. “My Father’s retiring as Chairman of the company and there is no obvious successor. I told him you were a good lad and knew a bit about the business.” One heavy-duty lunch later young lad is installed as new Chairman.

    Conversely… Young niece has recently changed jobs (Banking…City). She had to negotiate no less than five interviews with increasingly senior ranks before landing the post.

    I guess both routes are valid, depending on your approach to recruitment.

  7. What’s wrong with stoicism? Especially in a postChristian world, it beats emotional incontinence and Marxism.

  8. “That state school system hasn’t exactly covered itself with glory. Very few would argue that the academic results are better than that private sector. ”

    (raises hand)

    The academic results are better but nearly all of that is correlation: people who can afford to send their kids to private school tend to be “better” people and produce “better” children.

    There’s a similar effect in the state sector. Many “good” state schools that parents chase after are not actually much cop, they just have better raw material walking in the door. The kids get some good A levels but they should have done better.

  9. How does it go? The brightest son to the military, the next to the church and the runt to politics?

  10. “In his book The Old Boys, David Turner has the statistics for the “highly disproportionate share” of public school alumni in the top jobs of the UK.”

    But his list isn’t top jobs. It’s journalists, barristers, pop stars, senior civil servants, cabinet ministers. These were top jobs a generation ago. They aren’t today. Top jobs are in fields like banking, software and fintech.

  11. Bloke in North Dorset

    RlJ,

    I thought it was the 2nd son that went off to war so he wouldn’t think too much about the title he wasn’t going to inherit and be tempted to give the grim reaper a helping hand, as it were?

  12. The Fool of the family goes into the Church.

    (cf Kind Hearts and Coronets and any number of PG Wodehouse stories).

    Most public school educated Army officers that I’ve encountered are pretty dim, they’re just really well trained.

  13. “The brightest son to the military”: I suspect that’s never been true in all our history. Navy, maybe, but not the bloody army, except for a poor boy looking for a way up.

  14. It was always the third son to the military, wasn’t it? Keep the spare at home but the third’s expendable

  15. “…but not the bloody army, except for a poor boy looking for a way up.”

    And it worked for a fair number of us.

  16. @ BoM4
    No, it isn’t *just* because the kids are brighter, although that is part of it (see below).
    Even when we had grammar schools the quality of teaching was higher in Prep and Public Schools (which is why I was sent to one) and the time we spent studying, including homework, was greater. The introduction of Comprehensives, copying the already known-to-have-failed US practice of “neighbourhood schools” (do you remember the fuss about “bussing”) has handicapped clever poor boys and made them targets for anti-intellectual thugs. Gender discrimination by part of the overwhelmingly female teaching workforce in state schools has blatantly obvious results – the only subject in which boys outperform is Maths which is also the only one where performance is solely judged by exam performance and not by coursework judged by teachers.
    I got a scholarship (actually the same scholarship as my father) to Public School, my sisters (who were, on average, cleverer than I) went to Direct Grant and Grammar Schools (he couldn’t afford three lots of school fees even net of scholarships and the economic sense at the time meant that he funded the boy): I took ‘A’ levels at 17 [I also took (and got) two Maths ‘A’ levels at 16 but that wasn’t to be taken seriously] they did at 18; I went to Oxford, they went to London. Public School education does not win solely on the higher quality of intake.
    But, as you said, Public School kids are brighter – two reasons: one is that intelligence has, like all other human attributes, a hereditary component and that more intelligent parents will be more likely to be able, and more willing, to afford Public School fees; the second is scholarships. The brightest boys and girls across all social classes are offered scholarships and brightest children among the lower income groups are offered bursaries (I can remember an exceptional case where a War Widow was financially better off because her highly intelligent son attended a Public School on a Bursary instead of the local Grammar School). So children of the rich tend to be cleverer and some of the cleverest children of the poor go to Public Schools.

  17. I was riffing off a Father Ted gag.

    Parishioner: You remember when families would put the smart son in the army and the ejit in the church father?
    Ted: Oh yes, they did that right enough.
    (pause)
    Dougal: You’ve a brother in the army haven’t you Ted?

    What we were hoping for was stiff upper lip, death before dishonour, into the valley of death rode the 600. What we get is Flashman and Billy Bunter.

  18. “The symptoms are wide-ranging but include”, followed by a list of thirteen things, which includes, curiously, both “offensive arrogance” and “defensive arrogance”.

    So, any old thing the author can continue to pull out of her arse is a symptom.

    Do fuck off love.

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