Private schools


I went to a private school. In fact I went to two. I went to nothing but private schools. I don’t know whether this gave me an advantage in later life, but it was certainly supposed to. It felt like getting an advantage at the time.

Great things are predicted for you as a pupil at an expensive school, in my case Westminster in central London, and we saw great things achieved by the adults who were once in our shoes. I don’t know how well taught we were, but we learned to understand that for our rare lives there would be a higher pass mark. At any rate, that’s how it seemed to me.

Little of this was said explicitly. High expectations just seemed natural, as I’m sure low ones do for children growing up surrounded by suffering and failure. In this sense, I think that private school confers on you a faintly aristocratic state of mind, even if you have no aristocratic background, which no one at Westminster did, that I remember. It is certainly nice to begin life expecting to succeed, and some become determined to make the best use of their advantages. However it also encourages the thought that you are better than other people.

I am ashamed of having been to private school. It was not my choice of course, but I doubt I would renounce the benefits of it now, if I knew what they were, and if I could. In truth it is very hard to know how much of who I am was formed by the experience, and how much would have formed anyway, but there is some resentment that I think I deserve.

It would probably be better to abolish private schools, in my opinion, but the policy is never seriously suggested. I suppose they represent a form of aristocracy that at least puts membership on general sale, and thus within the aspiration of a few million people. Moreover, while private schools exist, I think it is fine to use them. Most parents already consider their own children better than others, after all.