I accept nearly all the points made put forward by Richard Beard in this condemnation of the English Public/Independent/Private school system. It is also a very timely book as the UK is currently led by a public school educated man-child who feels the rules don’t apply to him and refuses to accept responsibility for his actions.
On the other hand, while generally in agreement with him I felt that he has started from a biased and opinionated position and written a book that backs-up that position. The full title of the book is ‘Sad Little Men: Private Schools and the Ruin of England’ this should perhaps have been ’Sad Little Men: Private Boarding Schools and the Ruin of England’ to underline his central argument. He draws upon research by sociologist Irving Goffman into the Total Institution, where people are isolated and develop a unique culture that sustains life within the institution, and psychotherapist Joy Shaverian, author of Boarding School Syndrome. These studies consider the effects of fracturing families at a young age and transferring children to a new institution, encouraging the development of a “false self”.
I think the author has come to this book with such strongly-formed views that he does not acknowledge any benefits of the independent school system. I agree that the system does not produce ‘rounded’ individuals, but I have seen it produce materially successfully and confident individuals who would probably have failed by these measures within the state schools system.
In conclusion the book should have been pushing at an open door with me and , while I enjoyed it, it was insufficiently nuanced to be entirely credible.Posted on February 8, 2022 #Books