My regular reader will know my strong, irrational and profoundly hypocritical views on private education, because she’s married to me. Others may be on less firm footing, so let’s try and demonstrate by taking a look at something written by Ralph Lucas, editor of The “Good” Schools Guide. His charming prose appears in the latest edition of Living South, which is one of those magazines which pops through your front door and lets you imagine a world where you need stone flooring, a glass-and-steel conservatory, and a new house with a 90 foot garden.
I don’t know Mr Lucas, but his photo is best described as generic overprivileged and somewhat-overfed white man. He is introducing a special supplement feature in Living South, which is essentially a dozen pages of adverts for local schools in my area. Most of these are private schools, as they’re the only ones who need to advertise.
He starts off in a friendly if vaguely disconcerting fashion:
“After, I hope, a relaxing holiday free of academic strees, it’s back to the autumn term and, for me at least, thoughts turning to ‘which school next?'”
What is this “academic stress” he speaks of? Is is stress which is caused by studying? Or stress which is made pointless by external events? And what does he mean by ‘which school next’? Is he planning some kind of bombing?
No, of course he’s not. He’s talking about choosing the next school for your loved ones. As he says:
“You need to give yourself a good, long run up – three years seems ideal to me – to dig out parents to chat to, read prospectuses, take advice, visit and discuss, and all in good time to make the grade for entrance: whether this means tutoring or moving home.”
I had to read that sentence a few times to let the full middle-class existential horror of it wash over me. Yes, folks, if you haven’t worried about your child’s next school for a good three years, you’re not working hard enough. And what’s this about “making the grade”? Tutoring is presumably about improving your useless offspring to the level required by these awesome seats of learning. But moving home? Does that mean moving out of an area if you’re not good enough for it? Or vice versa?
“Most London senior schools are ridiculously selective. The cause of this is the shortage of independent secondary schools in central London, caused in turn by the shortage of good state secondary schools: not something that shows signs of being speedily remedied.”
Ah, Mr Lucas is on firmer ground now. This is recognisably Daily Mail territory. Not only is state education, ipso facto, shit, but its essential shitness is also dragging down the fine purveyors of private education. And with a sweep of his Mont Blanc, Mr Lucas writes off the thousands of men and women who remain dedicated to state education in London. Nice going, Mr Lucas.
So Mr Lucas recommends looking further afield, to something he calls “country schools”. Not, as you might think, named for the kind of people they grow on the trees in these schools (think about it), but for their essential Non-Londonness. The phrase is redolent of cord trousers, restaurants which close at 10pm and an inherent assumption of superiority. Mr Lucas mentions Eton and Wycombe Abbey, and describes such schools as having a “delight in educating the average child and bringing out the best in them.”
Ah, the average child! God bless the average child! Fear not if your child is average, because these charitable institutions, these “country schools”, will take them on. As Mr Lucas says, they will take on the “shy, the dyslexic, the sporty, the theatrical, the entrepreneurial, the rebellious – and still have a shot at getting him or her into Oxbridge if that’s how they turn out.” And all for free! Although I might have got that bit wrong.
God bless Mr Lucas and his kind. With their sage advice and warm humanity, we can share in the common endeavour of educating all children, or equipping the next generation with the social skills, the love of learning and the sense of fellowship which this country needs. For otherwise, what is there? A country where the rich educate their children to a sense of entitlement, of special distinctiveness which marks them out from the common crowd, and where the rich encourage their children to avoid the common herd at all costs and choose private education for their own children when the time comes because all state schools are, axiomatically, completely and utterly shit.
Thanks Mr Lucas! And by the way, the person who build your website obviously went to state school, because it doesn’t work! Stupid state school idiot.