Boris Johnson: What top boarding schools can do for Britain’s future leaders revealed in Richard Beard’s Sad Little Men – Laura Waddell

The boarding school experience for Richard Beard’s generation was firmly in the past (Photo: John Pratt & Chris Ware/Keystone Features/Getty Images)

The experience, Beard argues, gives him insight into the formative years of British prime ministers, especially those of the same age, like Boris Johnson and David Cameron.

The reader gets a great insight into this exclusive and disturbing world with its outsized influence on Britain’s governance and national identity – and much more besides. It certainly got me thinking about some of the weird tweed characters I’ve come across in the publishing world.

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“We took our seats in an England theme park with near-accurate historical costumes (some idiots usually forgot to pull off a digital watch or its aviator specs.) Our collective recreation of an idea of ​​England featured the Big House with grounds and staff, the joy of Sten-killing a foreign intruder, and the unreality of life without cars.

Beard portrays these institutions as crumbling, frustrated by archaic rules and stuck in time – hey, that sounds like Westminster. In these often cold and damp but awe-inspiring environments, they forever relived the glory of Britain winning World War II, which loomed large in the boys’ imaginations, lessons and games.

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“We merged with the past, assiduously protected from modernity. Which, as a side effect, has safely isolated us from contemporary Britain. Tom Brown’s school days in 19th century rugby concerned us more than Tucker’s troubles at Grange Hill on television.

Beard describes psychological patterns in his peers: perpetual boyishness, joyful evasion of responsibility, expectation to stay only with one’s own “type”, distrustful of others, emotional distance wrought by being separated of mom and dad at a tender age and a hardened lack of sympathy for the boys who cried at night.

Today’s government frontbenchers like Rishi Sunak obviously have little information about the plight of the common man. For those who grew up with an elite upbringing, enshrining statues of old British leaders in their lessons every day to remind them of their place in history, this exclusion was part of the deal their parents paid a fee for exorbitant.

Maintaining the British class system, filtering boys into the best jobs, remains their role in society.


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Edward L. Robinett