David Gribble

My Secondary Education

I was at Eton seventy years ago. Here are some of the lessons I learnt there.

I learnt that I was an eccentric outsider.
I learnt that achievement in sport and lessons won respect, and useful activities like cooking, cleaning and delivering coal were the work of inferiors.
I learnt that the right clothes and the right accent authorise you to behave with extreme arrogance.
I learnt that my personal interests were not important.
I learnt that family and friendship were private matters, and unimportant in relation to the regular business of the day.
I learnt that affection, enjoyment and laughter were no more than decorations on the surface of life.
I learnt that it was essential to disguise my true feelings.
I learnt that what happened at school and what happened outside school were entirely separate. It was necessary to develop two personalities.
I learnt that status was highly important, and that I didn't have it.
I learnt that I must often submit to unreasonable demands.
I learnt that I must try to hide my disagreements with authority, and to accept physical punishment when I failed to do so.
I learnt that there were two dominant orders of morality that of the staff and that of the boys: the second carried the greater sanctions. Neither corresponded to my personal morality.
I learnt it was safer to behave badly than to behave too well.
I learnt that a position of authority gives you the right to be wrong.
I learnt that power matters more than principle.
I learnt that we are all prisoners of society, and that those who reach the highest positions are those who co-operate with the warders.
I learnt that a combination of boredom, humiliation, suppressed rebellion and continual fear is an inevitable background to anything enjoyable that may happen.
I learnt that some of the time it is possible to accept such an environment and carry on with your own life in spite of it, but at other times it swamps you.
I learnt that there is no escape.

It was years before I managed to draw any different conclusions.

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#1 Hussein Lucas 2018-10-05 17:01
Excellent list. Above all else I learnt hatred, cynicism and despair. In fact I learnt nothing that has ever been of the slightest use to me. I particularly like Bob Geldof's comment on his schooling, "The biggest irrelevance of my life."

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