Sharing some of the facilities of private schools may salve liberal consciences, but it's difficult to dispel an uncomfortable aura of forelock- tugging
Monday 01 December 1997
Of course, sharing some of the facilities may salve a few liberal consciences, but it's difficult to dispel an uncomfortable aura of forelock-tugging. Particularly offensive is the unspoken notion that teaching, rather than facilities and financing - is necessarily superior in private schools. Of course, there are bad teachers in both sectors, but I suspect the really inspired and devoted teachers are to be found in the state system. There are certainly plenty of mediocre teachers in private schools who know they couldn't hack it in the local comprehensive because they don't have the skills to deal with a range of abilities and behaviour.
Nevertheless, there must be mileage in bringing in some old boys to lead a few lessons. Eton could offer Lord Spencer for personal and social development, and Darius Guppy on business ethics ...
The Rugby schoolboy who ran off to Barbados is hardly a role model for the public school system, yet he has been championed by the right-wing press. Suspicions that he was a complete prat were confirmed not only by his choice of shirts but also by the fact that, when he finally agreed to speak to the press, he insisted it could only be to The Daily Telegraph. So he was right about one thing - he did need to broaden his outlook on life.
It's common knowledge that pupils from some of the most pressured, academically successful schools crack up when they get to university, and find there's nobody there to turn the pages of their textbooks for them. But if you survive that hurdle there's still the parental trauma of school quiz nights to overcome. This is where all the deepest insecurities emerge. I was told by one parent that she wasn't coming because she had heard I was snooty about people who did well in the soap operas round. Absolutely not true. This was the only subject on which I might have made a decent show, but they had dropped it this year in favour of "emotions on the Net". The question-setter - who failed the 11-plus but is clearly massively more intelligent and better educated than any of us who went to private school - was obviously trying to prove something. The staff table were happy, though, to come a respectable third. Mr Brooker was gloating the next day about their performance in the poetry and literature round - though you can bet it was his wife, not him, who knew that all the women in The Love Song of Alfred J Prufrock were talking about Michelangelo.
I put down sex as the answer, but this is what happens when you read too many women's magazines.
Flu is particularly dangerous in our household - not that we have old people to worry about, it's the 11-year old hypochondriac who's vulnerable. Some idiot - me, I think - had told him that if your temperature reaches 105 you die, so he lay in bed on Saturday taking his temperature every five minutes instead of sleeping it off. 102 degrees confirmed his self- diagnosis of meningitis, and when it hit 103.8 his wails could be heard all down the street: "only 12 more points and I'm dead."
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