The Official Blog Of Monarchy Wales
In order you might see more clearly something of the beauty of Eton. That you may know what a wonderful heritage comes to those who belong to Eton and to whom Eton belongs. That you may know what a glorious thing it is to be allowed to serve in a place like this. A place in which we sow all sorts of seeds in the minds and spirits of the boys. Some will blossom. Some won't. Yet even though the average boy in any school will claim no interest in it. Or may feel the pang of envy, resentment and hatred toward it. Eton is continually and eagerly renewed. By each and every generation.
On the riverbank at Eton on the fourth of June it might still be 1913. Where privilege is an article of faith and there is a common belief in the rightness of the social set up. Where the antics of the ruling class are still looked upon as a source of pride. For the ceremonies of the fourth of June are tribal and not directed outward. They serve to intensify a group feeling. A sentimental and nostalgic occasion whose message seems to be, not only what was always done at Eton still is done and always will be, but a hint that the confident world in which these river rituals once had a significance for the whole British tribe may not have gone forever. They may still save us yet from the consequences of comprehensive education and the threat from meritocracy. Anchored in tradition. These rituals of the past. Hierarchy. Rank. History. Duty. Ceremony. Service. And, of course, Class.
When I first learnt of Eton College at the age of about twelve I couldn't believe a small number of boys of my age were going to have such an education. I did not want to believe and I just could not believe such a school was going to continue for my generation too. Just as it had done so for countless generations of boys before us. I simply couldn't understand why all the parents and all the adults wanted it to continue. Couldn't they see how unfair and unjust this was? Couldn't they see how such schools were going to perpetuate inequality in society? Couldn't they see that the class system was going to continue if you allow some boys to have such an advantage and privilege within education? It is difficult to explain, and as a teenager I never thought I would say this, but as you become older you slowly begin to see for yourself the important role a school like Eton plays in education. You begin to understand and also to acknowledge the invaluable and incalculable role such a school plays in educating each generation. Above all else you begin to see how special it would be if it continued. Not only for the next generation but also for the future generations of boys who will follow after them. In perpetuity. Put simply the boys who attend Eton are just very lucky and also very fortunate so to do.
Eton is just a school like any other school. It just happens to have kept its traditions at a time when others are abandoning them. Traditions are important even as we pursue progress and modernisation. Some of your criticisms of Eton would have been valid before the year 2000. Although your generation Neil was mainly chosen by their class this has changed. The school has moved on quite a lot since then. For the modern Eton is certainly a different school to what most people would imagine it to be. It's constantly changing and modernising.
Eton is an example of everything that is wrong with the United Kingdom today. Where one group of boys born into privilege have such an advantage over other boys solely because of how much their parents earn. You only need to look at the number of Prime Ministers that have come from Eton and other equivalent schools to see this is not a true reflection of society. How would someone attending a school like this know how it feels to survive on the minimum wage and then make decisions based on this? As a teacher I have seen pupils fail to achieve their aspirations simply because of where they have come from. On a personal level I just have absolutely nothing against children who go to Eton and their parents who send them there. It is however a flawed system. Places like Eton provide a network or Old Boys Club that allow pupils into positions not necessarily on any merit but from where they have come from. The scholarships are out of reach for the vast majority from working class backgrounds regardless of their academic ability. Eton is an elite tier school within education and the pupils it takes are not representative of this country.
Eton is not elitist as the school now only recruits on merit and has an extensive bursary system which the school is doing its best to expand. More than 25% of the boys have massive discounts on their fees due to their inability to pay for them. Eighty have no fees at all. They don't stand out from the crowd and neither do those who come from posh families. It is great that Eton is moving with the times with social issues. It is making the school even more popular and attractive for parents. Even if it is elitist shouldn't you have the right to give your children an education that you want them to have? Arguably one of the greatest things you can do with the money that you've worked for is to give it to your children. Also where do you draw the line? If it is immoral to give your children a better education than other children then surely you should ban inheritance since this is also giving them an unfair advantage. If you think inheritance should be banned then surely you should think that you should be unable to give anything to your children as this can also seem unfair. It seems the only line you can draw on this is Communism. If you believe in Communism fair enough. I won't pretend I think your opinion is the correct one, but I hope you can see there aren't many options.
I don't think Eton is supposed to be a true reflection of the rest of the country. Although it is extreme in privilege I'm glad that there are children who can experience such good fortune. Some children are just lucky enough to be born into great privilege. There is nothing wrong with that and I aspire to this because the alternative is so much worse. Communism where everyone gets the same but no-one gets enough. I am also a teacher and pupils failing to thrive has a lot more to do with parenting than social and economic factors. The fact that underprivileged boys apply for Eton just proves this. The boys on scholarships have had to have been pushed and encouraged by their parents who want their children to succeed. The bottom line is that many people in Britain don't value education.
I would say that the main change from a few decades ago is that recruitment is done on merit. You used to be able to go to Eton if your Dad had gone there. And if you were from the "right" family. Now they actively try to accept boys from different backgrounds, but who show some kind of promise. Note many "positive discrimination" programmes tend to only help the very poor. Not in Eton's case. The strength of the system is that if you are middle class, but not rich enough to afford fees, this will not be a barrier to attending the School.
Neil, I'm pleased you changed your mind about Eton.
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