English “public school boys” save the day for a British sport and British education.
This is a story about cricket and government schools. You may not care much about cricket, but what it tells us about the latest developments in England’s state funded schools may be of interest to all.
My source for the following is an old friend called John Graham. He went to Eton and St. Paul’s (private schools) and was once a promising young cricketer himself. We went to university at the same time. Then he worked as a correspondent for the Financial Times. He still lives in London, and he follows the international cricket news as keenly as he ever did. If something unusual happens, he is likely to send me an email.
Readers should know that the leading international cricket contest, going back to the 19th century, is between England and Australia. Recently the English cricket team, touring down under in the winter months (their summer), decisively beat the Australians and won the “test” series. As the Australian team has done well in recent years this English victory was considered noteworthy and John Graham duly emailed me. But he also sent me some far more unusual news.
Half the victorious English team consisted of former “public school boys,” he wrote. That’s confusing terminology, I know. In England, “public school” refers to a private, fee-paying school, such as Eton or Harrow, St. Paul’s or Winchester.
Half the team! I used to be a big cricket fan in the England of the 1950s, and when I think back to the English team of that time, there might have been but one player who had received a private-school education.
In football terms, it’s about like hearing that the New England Patriots are nowadays drawing some of their most promising talent from the Harvard and Yale football teams.
So what happened in England? What about the other school boys, the vast majority, who go to state schools and then, if they show promise, are hired by county cricket teams and may then with luck be selected to play for England.
Here is John Graham’s reply:
Cricket is not favoured in state schools (which educate 94% of the nation’s schoolchildren) for various reasons. The game takes too long; there aren’t teachers to teach it or to umpire the games; all governments — Tory and Labour — have spent the past 30 years selling off school playing fields in order for more shops or houses to be built and thus create profits for private entrepreneurs (a development both good and bad). Also, cricket is competitive and therefore by definition bad because someone might lose.
This last point is not a joke. Exams are now being made easier, in case students find them too difficult. Public exams may be taken at school or in some congenial surroundings in case students are upset by having to sit them in a strange place. Competitive sports are BANNED by many teachers. Until the age of about 15, children who are lucky enough to be able to play cricket are not allowed to use a hard cricket ball in case it hurts them — they use some softer ball instead. I am told fast bowlers are told to bowl more slowly.
A cricket ball, incidentally, is about the same size and weight as a baseball. It is red rather than white, but they are about the same in hardness.
So what’s happening in state schools is that not just cricket but the whole notion of competition is being undermined, to conform with political correctness. Meanwhile in the private, fee-paying schools the ethos of competition is alive and well. That’s not surprising because parents have to fork over as much as 30,000 pounds a year — about $50,000 — to send their children to these schools. They want their children to do well in life and they know that protecting them from the realities of competition is not the route to advancement.
In the 1950s the advocates of government schooling often loathed private schools as bastions of wealth and privilege — which to some extent they were. But their enemies also thought that private schools would not be able to hold out for long against the competition. After all the state schools were free. Why pay $50,000 a year when a decent education could be had for nothing? Parents were already paying plenty in taxes.
In those days the state schools were still good. It was often said that grammar schools in the 1950s could educate children at least as well as most private schools. Then two things happened. Many of the (state funded) grammar schools were abolished by political decision. Why? Because they too preserved a system of inequality. Access to them was determined by competitive exams. So many students were excluded. Better to level down than to permit such blatant inequality to flourish.
John Graham again:
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?