Friday, 21 August 2015

Public School – A Harrowing View...

I recall watching the excellent Lindsey Anderson film “If...” and thinking that aside from being surreal, whimsical and hugely engaging, it was based on a pretty absurd premise: that public school was an outdated anachronism, the structure and leadership of which was responsible for the widespread dysfunction of society. However, over the past few years, I have started to revise that option and the recent discovery of many of my school reports have led me to thinking that perhaps he was right.

It certainly seems to be the case that these institutions are very often badly led, based on a misplaced Corinthian ideal that gives leeway to bullying, intimidation and bad leadership, setting the tone for individuals to end up feeling repressed, inadequate and ensuing a complete lack of attention to the individual.

There were a great many cases where a small group of highly popular individuals in each year, who were athletic and skilful enough to represent the year rugby, football and cricket teams and bright enough to perform reasonably well (or better) across a range of subjects, were basically given free range to dictate proceedings. They became house captains, prefects, were treated with greater freedom by masters and were generally “farmed” in order to boost their ego. One could presumably assume that they were essentially being mentored to walk into a job in banking, finance or law and dictate their terms, disappearing up their own arseholes in the process.

For those who didn’t fall into this select category, there were other buckets...the pure academics – not great at sports and probably quite introverted... the pure sportsmen (invert the previous)... the outgoing populists...the geeks... etc...

I can honestly say that I didn’t belong to any of these categories. At best I had one foot in some of these camps, but would straddle and often slip from acceptance in each case. Academically I excelled in subjects that I was interested in (History, English), produced average-to-good work in subjects that were either of acceptable interest or that I saw the point in (Maths, Geography) and then failed miserably in areas that bored me or I saw no point in (Science, Languages). This was a constant puzzle to the teachers, but then I would point to a complete lack of effort on their part in making these subjects interesting and bringing them to life. One would expect this at a fee paying school, yet instead they treated their topics as if we were still in the days of straw boaters and forty lashes of the cane. Sporting –wise, I was talented at cricket and played rugby to a modest-ish level, but was fairly poor at football and hated athletics. This again was jarring when it came to placing me neatly into a social circle; typically if you were good at sports, you were good at sports – end of. I loved Lord of the Rings, but didn’t want to spend my free time visiting Games Workshop. I liked a joke but tended to avoid anything that would lead to detention. I loved rock and heavy metal music but didn’t want to sit in a corner drawing logos all over my bag. And so on.

Whichever way you look at it, I was an awkward customer. Always have been – probably always will be. If you try and pigeon hole me, I’ll kick and scream and will invariably become even more eclectic and miscellaneous in my approach to life than ever. If my wife struggles at times to understand this, then my teachers and peers had no chance.

Anyway, I digress. Let’s bring to life these dated institutions by examining some of my old school reports as they delivery some scary insights into the mindset of a public school teacher stuck in the ancient ways of fusty, poor quality communication...



Are you really concerned that I live in a world of my own? Because it's a better world than one in which grey-haired cane thrashers bark orders out and thrive off disparaging comments...



That's more like it. Always enjoyed writing a story :)



Okay Mr Sarcastic, I thought that was the point of engaging in a subject? Call me a method actor if it suits...


No. I really couldn't. See above views on the matter.



Don't know how to take this one. It could be a review of any English batsman of the past twenty years...


What ifs... How about what if my science teachers made some sort of effort to explain why chemistry is of any value in the big wide world? 


Imagine this sort of comment now? Unbelievable approach to written feedback. What's YOUR problem Mr Waller? (That's right, I'm naming and SHAMING the Latin department). Never going to use it, never going to use it...


Oh fuck you!!!

Anyway, you get the idea. And I cant really complain - it made me get on with things for myself. Self-taught, my own judge, self-driven, etc. It was a serious of hard lessons and yet I can honestly say that few of these teachers really did much for my development.

Might share a few more of these soon :)




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