I recently had coffee here in Paris with “David”, a long time Member of the Tribe and contributor of frequent, eloquent comments here on the blog.
This conversation, like our previous ones, ran rampant from subject to subject: current events, culture, our respective work projects, the privileges (and pains) of flying on Air France (too) often, and of course, education. We just can’t stress the importance of it to each other enough. (Wink, nod.)
As we were leaving the cafe, I asked him if he’d share some quick thoughts about his experience with what Americans call a ‘private school’, and what is known in the UK (and perhaps elsewhere) as ‘public school’ or ‘prep school.’
He graciously agreed, and his thoughts appear below.
Merci, David. Enjoy, everyone.
From time to time there have been mentions of schools, prep schools (slightly different on the other side of the pond), colleges and suchlike, and what they do for one in later life.
I imagine opinions are as numerous as are attendees, scholars and experiences. Some revel the thought of them, others despise. According to his Wikipedia write-up Robert Morley, an old Wellingtonian, said that the only reason for him to visit his old school would be to burn it down.
I felt much the same way when I left my school. It has taken me many years to realise that many of the seeds they had sown had born fruit in my behaviours and mannerisms. The discipline, the understanding of hierarchy and never feeling ‘less than’.
Why do I still cringe at work when I see a more junior staff member addressing a more senior one in what (I) consider a less than respectful manner? Probably because I am subconsciously back at school.
Why do I follow rugby at certain schools but not others? Perhaps another subconscious association where I feel more ‘at home’ visiting them and where on making an enquiry a boy might address me as ‘Sir’, and actually mean it.
The ‘problem’ with such schools is that after one comes out of them one thinks that the whole world went to such a school and thinks the same way. The fact is, they didn’t and they don’t. And the shocks come daily.
These institutions have been called many things from ‘King-makers’ to the breeding grounds of bullying. Even the hydra-head of snobbery.
When I observe ‘things’ that I feel fall short of the mark of decent behavior I can’t help thinking of Robert Morley’s quip in the classic film, “When Eight Bells Toll”, when he surveyed a particularly messy situation left by someone else…
‘It all comes from not going to a proper school’.