I’d like to start with a disclaimer: I spent my adolescent years at your run-of-the mill state school. You know the type – think asbestos, brutalist 1960s architecture, and occasional chair throwing. At this point you’d be forgiven for thinking, “he’s so going to rant about how he wishes he could’ve gone to a private school”.
But this isn’t one of those pieces. No matter what JCR social justice warriors tell us, people can’t help where they went to school. It’s like that line in the Alan Partridge episode, where he goes back to his old comprehensive: “I was going to send my kids here, but then I came into some money and sent them to a private school. When it’s your kids’ education, you can’t mess about”. Victimising someone for a decision they didn’t make is, in relation to a discussing elitism, as useful as having Stephen Hawking on your relay team. My beef lies with public school culture.
Yet I think it’s worth touching on the positive aspects of this culture. Kudos to you then, Dulwich, Winchester et al, for producing people who are top fun to be around. What I admire most is how you’re seemingly always up to get pissed. Who cares about a 10am tute the next day when the Bridge VIP section beckons? Some of the best, alcohol-fuelled amnesia-inducing nights I’ve known in Oxford have spent alongside a VK-chugging posse of the publicly educated. Indeed, the private-state ratio in my friendship group is about 70:30, which shows you simply can’t avoid the prevalence of the public schools. It is Oxford, after all – c’mon. If I refused to interact with anyone privately educated, my social life would be nowhere near as exciting.
My problem is this: university should be a leveller, yet the informal social links created by public education endure. We’ve all seen a public blazer or five en route to Park End. A word of friendly advice. When talking about what Gilly got up to in Monty’s chalet, listing monikers that sound as though they’ve been taken from the dynastic line of a decaying European monarchy won’t do anything to dispel the idea that to count (socially, at least) you need to have spent about 20k a year on your education.
Give state schoolers a chance, though. You secretly want to be like us – why else would you seek to appropriate the trackies and hoodie look? Yet now, when I rock up to my college library in these, my privately educated friend (Cheltenham Ladies, class of 2014) calls me “scruffy”. And yeah, we don’t know how to hunt grouse, or what the proper etiquette is when addressing an admiral, but we’re not too socially impaired. In fact, we’re innovative chat-wise, since it’s not primarily centred on which of Peru or India was the better gap yah destination. In short, we’re your route into the real world. A lot of us were friends with, and worked alongside people for whom hardship was wondering when if their EMA would be paid on time, rather than “only” getting a Fiat 500 for your 18th.
So this Trinity, stop reminiscing about your house’s Latin motto or name-dropping those in possession of as many surnames as French villas. It’s probably best to hold us state-schoolers close. When you end up as the Chancellor of the Exchequer, you might need us to give a quote or two for a national newspaper stressing your “normal” credentials.
Tags: elitism — Oxford — state school