OUT TO LUNCH
According to a recent article in The Spectator there will soon be a choice of only three boy’s only boarding schools in the UK to choose from. Following Winchester College’s decision to accept girl’s in the sixth form and play safe by aiming for a politically correct 50:50 split that only leaves Eton, Harrow and Radley as single sex schools. Many other formerly boy’s only private schools (my own included) went ‘co-ed’ years ago.
The sixth form girls at Winchester will start as day pupils but there is a plan to accept female boarders by 2024. The modernists will argue that it’s high time the elite schools caught up with the 21st century but Wykehamists (as alumni of Winchester College like to be known) are almost certainly mourning the end of a 640-year-old tradition.
It would be interesting to know if any of the girl’s boarding schools in the UK are planning to accept boys. A quick check on Google reveals that there are plenty of girl’s private boarding schools on offer-significantly more than boy’s schools - and with no obvious pressure to change their outdated ways. So we don’t need to worry too much about Cheltenham Ladies College (reckoned to be the girly equivalent of Eton) morphing into Cheltenham Ladies and Laddies College.
I suspect financial necessity is part of the reason that many former boy’s only schools have been forced to widen their net and attract female pupils. This is a problem that has almost certainly been exacerbated by the COVID outbreak and the sudden lack of foreign students so maybe Winchester College is being smarter than we think.
Even when I was at boarding school in the mid 1960’s there were a high percentage of foreign students bringing in much needed pounds and giving me a good taste of ethnic diversity long before it became a woke compulsory study.
We had a liberal sprinkling of Persians, Saudis, Africans, Americans, Swedes, Canadians and even a white South African. The Saudis were all from immensely wealthy families with wide business interests. The recommended weekly pocket money in those pre decimal days was ten shillings which didn’t work for the Saudis who needed about 20 quid a week to sustain themselves at the school tuck-shop.
In their final year sixth form pupils were allowed to keep a car at the school. Not many of us could afford to do so but the Saudis just went out and bought gleaming new Alfa Romeos and parked them next to the housemaster’s ageing Rover. One of the Saudi pupils became a very good friend of mine and would often come for a crafty smoke behind the squash courts. He got so fed up with me fumbling around with matches that he pitched up in the Spring term and announced he had a present for me. It was a gold cigarette lighter with a Swiss watch embedded in the body of the lighter. He even remembered to bring a can of lighter fuel.
Every so often a foreign pupil would fail to re-appear at the beginning of term; a casualty of regime change back home. But on the whole the supply of foreign students to bolster the school’s bank balance was pretty reliable.
However, it’s not just financial considerations and the need to widen the net that is forcing boy’s private schools to take in girls. It’s also the trendy lefty theory that a boy’s only environment is likely to be ‘problematic’ in that it encourages misogyny, toxic masculinity, rape culture and all sorts of other male specific ailments that we now know to be at the root of the collapse of modern society.
Quite why this should suddenly be the case after centuries of male boarding school tradition I’m not sure but I think it must be something to do with the educational past of politicians, slave traders, colonialists and other male rotters who we have only recently discovered have wrecked the world.
In South Africa the pressure for private schools to go co-ed doesn’t seem to have caught on as much as it has in the UK. This is probably because the new elite have provided a steady stream of pupil fodder to pay the bills. Check the surnames of those at some of our top schools and you probably won’t be surprised to discover the offspring of many of our very left leaning leaders and their cronies who, despairing of the public education they have systematically destroyed over the past 27 years, have wisely opted to cough up for a private education for their own children. A strong case of all animals being equal but some being more equal than others.
Business Insider ran a story a few weeks back about the cost of private education. For example, if you want to send your lad as a boarder to Hilton College it’s going to cost you roughly R330 000 a year. Bishop’s comes in at a bargain R277 000 and Roedean (for girls) is around R290 000. This is all before you stump up for uniforms, extra-curricular activities, books, laptops and heaven knows what else. You can pretty much halve that amount for a day pupil.
This is a significant amount of after tax income to find every year but it wouldn’t do to speculate on how so many of those dedicated to the destruction of white monopoly capital and radical economic transformation manage to afford the fees or, indeed, why they feel it is money well spent.
Maybe it’s the ‘diversity training’ that has now infiltrated many of our elite schools that attracts them. Diversity training has been one of the major growth industries since the sainted George Floyd boosted the Black Lives Matter movement last year.
No white headmaster or headmistress would dare risk his or her reputation by turning down the opportunity for the teaching staff to be lectured (at great cost) about the evils of capitalism, the vulnerabilities of so many members of our society and told how a careless word or action can cause the EFF to be at your school gates and baying for blood within a few hours.
Calls for the ‘de-colonisation’ of the school syllabus are not simply because some of today’s pupils are unwilling to try and understand Shakespeare or simply don’t trust a white man’s theory on the laws of gravity. They are the result of centuries of colonial oppression and white privileged teachers must learn to understand that.
These days pupils at elite schools are encouraged to report teachers who don’t grasp these simple rules. This they are allowed to do anonymously and the charges are taken to be the gospel truth because why would a child lie? Why indeed. Then the hapless teacher, having been already judged and denied any opportunity of a defence, presumably has to apologise in writing to the aggrieved pupil or confess to the entire school at morning assembly.
Pupil ‘demands’ are now all the rage at some of our top schools (as I wrote last October about Bishop’s pupil’s demand for safe spaces for LGBTI+ students) and to not take them seriously is to invite a shaming on social media and an accusation of racism, homophobia and any other ‘isms or ‘obias they can think up on the spur of the moment.
The interesting question is why any sensible parent would want to squander a large amount of money on such a heavily diluted education? An even more interesting speculation is what sort of entitled individuals these schools will turn out if they give in to adolescent mob rule? Haven’t those in charge read ‘Lord of the Flies’?
Gareth van Onselen strikes me as a rather serious fellow who believes in telling it like it is and pulling no punches. He devoted an entire Business Day column to me last year post the SAIRR debacle and pointed out that in 26 years of knocking off columns I had never written anything memorable.
It’s good to be upbraided from time to time lest one should grow complacent and I’m forever indebted to young Gareth for taking the time with this “dying ember” of journalism to itemize my many failings, both personal and as a so called columnist.
His recent column “Joburg is Dying” was equally direct and obviously hit the spot (as P G Wodehouse might have said) because it attracted an enviable 144 comments at the last count.
It was a grim read for anyone who once loved Joburg and an even grimmer read for those who still live there. I may have commented previously, albeit much less eloquently, on the lack of paving and the accumulation of rubbish in my former home city but Gareth’s description of what appears to be the emergence of a ‘dying ember’ city suggests that any hope for the salvation of Joburg is in vain and the point of no return was passed long ago.
Which probably accounts for the number of Gautengers currently checking out property prices in the Western Cape. That’s assuming they can find buyers for their homes in Joburg. When even Nelson Mandela’s neglected former Houghton home deteriorates into a ramshackle ruin you must know you’re in real trouble.
So let me offer you some Western Cape cheer. Last week municipal staff were out mowing the grass verges near where I live. They then collect up the cuttings and take them away, usually on the same day. The road markings at the various intersections near us were repainted not long ago and a new kerb installed at one of the robots. The road from Somerset West to Stellenbosch has been re-tarred, widened in parts and the markings repainted all with the minimum of fuss and upheaval.
On Strand beach a team of cleaners arrive early in the morning and by 7.30am in summer the beach is immaculate. Our traffic lights only fail to work when there is load-shedding but our load-shedding only lasts two and half hours unlike Joburg. In fact, the power usually comes on after two hours.
And as far as potholes are concerned how about this? A few weeks ago a friend invited me to drive up to Paternoster for breakfast. It was a glorious January weekday morning and he wanted to give his brand new Audi R8 Spyder V10 an exhilarating top down drive. The drive took us from Franschhoek to Paarl to Malmesbury and thence to Paternoster on the R45 via Hopefield.
It was a round trip of around 360kms on rural roads and there was not a single pothole to be seen. Indeed, the road past Hopefield had just been re-surfaced and it was like driving on a silk ribbon. I wonder if this has anything to do with the fact that the Western Cape is a DA run province? Hopefully voters will keep this in mind at the forthcoming municipal elections.