5 thoughts on “Old Money Quote

  1. Empty minds and open minds !

    There are also other things to occupy those minds when attending school.

    In an end of year speech a former headmaster of mine was thanking the office-bearers for upholding the discipline for which the school had become famous. He went on to say that enforced discipline was designed to give way to self- discipline, wherein “we might produce a ‘better’ and more rounded individual”.

    This same discipline he was referring to will likely underpin core values such as politeness and manners. Put another way, if one is a junior and one does not approach a senior with the appropriate politeness, one might find ‘enforced discipline’ the result. At the same time this does not mean being, or becoming, sycophantic. That would soon be bashed out of you. At the risk of sounding snobbish and it is not my intention to be so, a disciplined hierarchical structure teaches a growing adolescent who is above them, who is below them, who is on their level, and how to interact with all those people.

    No, the head prefect is not your chum ! Neither is the chairman of the company you’ve just joined.

    If there’s anything one might gain by attending a good school my money would be on discipline. I absolutely agree that there is a dark side to too much discipline and bullying would be top of my list. But, bullying can also be addressed by a good dose of the self-same ‘enforced discipline’. (I have heard that my old school still has what is known as ‘fagging’. Simply put, a junior boy running errands and being a sort of a servant to a senior boy. If it does still exist, I’m amazed. It terrified me. But I’ll tell you this – it teaches you your station in life. Quickly !)

    What other values could one learn in such a school ? I would say courage, honesty (the fear of more discipline looming), punctuality, ‘getting on with it’ as well as dress sense and a degree of neatness. I say this because the more traditional British-type schools, especially those of note, allow very little leeway in appearance. Perhaps shoes and hair -length for boys, but that’s about all. [Uniforms are anathema to the French and one only has to walk past a Parisian high school at lunch time or after classes to see thirteen year olds’ smoking with their tattoos and piercings on show.]

    These days educational results are heavily stressed. Good schools are highly competitive to get into and just as much when one is in them. It’s no longer enough to be so-and-so’s nephew and at the same time be a block-head. That ain’t gonna wash anymore ! At the famous Eton College, aspiring eleven year olds’ do not only need good results to get in. They are also interviewed by the headmaster. If one gets through that, the next step is an interview with a housemaster. That step might take more than one interview as a housemaster might feel a particular boy would not fit in that particular house and will recommend another house more suitable to his personality. Think about it, eleven years of age ! Once in, you’re in the pressure cooker. Not for the faint of heart, whatever they tell you and however they glamourise it in movies.

    Will one learn Old Money values as a whole ? I would say to an extent, but not entirely. It will depend on one’s friends and their values which inevitably rub off in some form. They will largely, in my view, be anchored by what one learned from one’s parents and one takes to school. Once there, it will be easier if one already has values in line with the school’s demands and ‘hell’ if they’re not.

    In a two-part YouTube documentary called ‘ Harrow, A Very British school’ the headmaster summed things up by saying ‘ When you come here, you are becoming part of something. Unavoidably’.

    For those who recall a movie from long ago called ‘When Eight Bells Toll’ with a very young Anthony Hopkins there is a scene in which Robert Morley was complaining about someone’s behaviour and he attributed the problem to:

    ‘ It all comes……..from not going to a proper school ! ‘

    I wonder what other readers might think ?

  2. Discipline is something my parents tried to instill in me, but I had drunk the Kool-Aid of bohemian self-expression and radical individualism in my youth. Now that I’m in my mid-life and raising young adults, I can appreciate some of the more traditional core values of restraint, commitment, discipline, and etiquette.

    I’ve never experienced a proper British-type school (quite frankly, I might have chaffed at the rigidity and bullying). Perhaps I missed out on something important. That is why I find myself here reading Byron’s grandfatherly advice and picking up pearls of wisdom from other readers.

    As for the quote, I will leave one from Prof. Walter Kotschnig who told Holyoke College students to keep their minds open—“but not so open that your brains fall out.”

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