England’s ruling pathology; Boarding School Syndrome

by Maria on November 7, 2019

George Monbiot writes movingly about how the habit of Britain’s (well, mostly England’s) upper middle and upper classes of sending their children to boarding school from the age of seven onward causes profound emotional damage and has created a damaged ruling class. He’s not the first to notice this. Virginia Woolf drew a very clear line between the brutalisation of little boys in a loveless environment and their assumption as adults into the brutal institutions of colonialism. It’s long been clear to many that the UK is ruled by many people who think their damage is a strength, and who seek to perpetuate it.

I was at a talk last week about psychoanalysis and The Lord of the Flies. The speaker convincingly argued that much of what happens in that story happens because most of the boys have been wrenched from solid daily love before they were old enough to recreate it. It’s a pretty compelling lens to see that novel through and it reminded me of a teaching experience from a couple of years ago.

I was teaching a post-grad course on politics and cybersecurity and did a lecture on the Leviathan and how its conception of the conditions that give rise to order embed some pretty strong assumptions about the necessity of coercion. Basically how if you’re the state and in your mind you’re fighting against the return of a persistent warre of all against all, your conception of human behaviour can lead you to over-react. Also some stuff about English history around the time of Hobbes. I may have included some stills from Game of Thrones. During the class discussion, one person from, uh, a certain agency, said that yes, he could see the downside, but that Hobbes was essentially how he viewed the world.

Listening again to the tale of sensible centrist Ralph, poor, benighted (but actually very much loved by his Aunty and from a solid emotional background) Piggy, the little uns, and the utter depravity of it all – and also having forgotten the chilling final scene where the naval officer basically tells Ralph he’s let himself down – something occurred to me.

Lord of the Flies is many people’s touchstone for what would happen if order goes away, even though we have some good social science and other studies about how, at least in the short to medium term, people are generally quite altruistic and reciprocally helpful in the aftermath of disaster. Lord of the Flies is assumed by many to be a cautionary tale about order and the state of nature, when in reality it’s the agonised working out of the unbearable fears of a group of systematically traumatised and loveless children.

Lord of the Flies isn’t an origin story about the human condition and the need for ‘strong’ states, though we treat it as such, but rather is a horror story about the specific, brutalised pathology of the English ruling class.

{ 89 comments… read them below or add one }

1

Matt 11.07.19 at 9:27 am

How common is boarding school for the upper middle/upper class in England these days? (that’s a real question, not rhetorical – I have no idea.)

I checked out Hobbes’s childhood, because I couldn’t remember it well, other than that he was born prematurely because of the Spanish Armada (his mother famously “giving birth to twins, him and fear”.) It turns out his mother died when he was young, he was semi-abandoned to a relative who sent him (I think) a boarding school, and then to Oxford at 15. So, the theory fits him, I guess.

Henry Sidgwick and (I think) Matthew Arnold wrote about the evils inflicted by such schools even before Woolf, no doubt from first-hand experience.

2

Saurs 11.07.19 at 9:40 am

They, or some of them, are “rescued” by a walking, talking symbol of an imperial army who justified its genocide and colonization as a “civilizing” force. Yet here are our lovely white sons, murdering one another under the shadow of a mighty military vessel their government built for the domination of isles like this and to enable the exploitation of its inhabitants, nod nod wink wink. It is at this point the naval officer gets his Alanis Morissette moment.

3

Jim Buck 11.07.19 at 9:54 am

I recall that as the trial of the Winchester Three was in progress (1988) Christopher Booker (then writing the Telegraph column: Peter Simple) cunningly avowed sub judice by publishing ‘without comment’ a statement of one of the young Irish defendants. The latter had been arrested on a campsite that was within rocket launch distance of the home of the Mnister for Ulster, Tom King. One of the three claimed to have never met the other two, before being invited to share a tent with them. Booker was incredulous of that last detail, and believed, obviously, that his readers found it equally absurd that a couple would invite a complete stranger to share their tent for the night.

4

Jim Buck 11.07.19 at 9:55 am

Avoided— not avowed

5

Z 11.07.19 at 10:18 am

@Maria Lord of the Flies isn’t an origin story about the human condition and the need for ‘strong’ states, though we treat it as such, but rather is a horror story about the specific, brutalised pathology of the English ruling class.

Yes! (For my pre-adolescent self, oblivious of the peculiarities of any national ruling class, it appeared to be the projection of the brutality of the social system, not a depiction of what happens when it disappears, and so were planted the first seeds of anarchism, I guess.)

6

SusanC 11.07.19 at 12:43 pm

The horror movie The Lesson (directed by Ruth Platt) is an interesting commentary on Lord of the Flies: two schoolboys are imprisoned and tortured by a crazy teacher. (In the tradition of Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Wolf Creek II, etc.)

As with many horror movies, you can tell how its going to end right from the start (especially given the Lord of the Flies references), but that doesnt detract from it.

7

Alison 11.07.19 at 1:01 pm

I think Golding believed he was saying something eternal about the human soul. But he wasn’t.

8

librl 11.07.19 at 1:12 pm

It is or has been an essential feature of several social systems (Sparta comes to mind obviously) that the children of the ruling class are treated brutally so they would reproduce that brutality towards the lower classes and other enemies.

9

Donald 11.07.19 at 2:05 pm

C.S. Lewis despised the cruelty of his boarding school. As a conservative Christian of his era he thought homosexuality was a sin but in “ Surprised by Joy” he says ( in homophobic language) that the affection people found in homosexual relationships was one of the few bright spots in what was otherwise a horrible experience. He thought the pride and cruelty and backstabbing and lust for power were much worse than what he saw as the fleshly sin of gay sex.

He also has some harsh satirical takes on colonialism in his first space novel, so there might be a connection there as well.

10

Harry 11.07.19 at 2:37 pm

“How common is boarding school for the upper middle/upper class in England these days? (that’s a real question, not rhetorical – I have no idea.)”

I don’t have actual data to hand, but I do know boarding schools went into rapid decline in the 1990s and 2000s, as the children of people who grew up in the 60s and 70s reached the age. There are very few boarding-only schools, but a lot with a few boarders and plenty of non-boarders. Private school attendance has remained pretty constant though.

Eton College is about a 5 minute walk from Windsor Castle, but I imagine William and Harry boarded (probably to avoid the bloody security involved in getting into the Castle).

11

dh 11.07.19 at 3:57 pm

Lindsey Anderson’s brilliant, ignored “If . . . ” would be the visual/fantasy template.

12

PatinIowa 11.07.19 at 4:30 pm

This assumes, of course, that the family automatically provides a more nurturing environment. As feminism is teaching us, bit by bit, that’s a huge assumption.

I assume we wouldn’t have to work too hard to generate a list of tyrants and authoritarians who grew up stable families, where one or both parents were abusive, and even where both parents were, as they say, “good enough.”

Ayn Rand grew up in a fairly stable-looking family, at least from on-line bios. Of course there was a revolution during her teens, so who knows?

13

steven t johnson 11.07.19 at 5:47 pm

Some other literary comments? Matthew Arnold’s father, Thomas, was a figure in Tom Brown’s School Days, as he was headmaster when Hughes, the author, actually attended Rugby. One of the characters in that, Flashman, was the Flashman of the Fraser series of novels. The British school novel is back with us with the Harry Potter series of course.

It seems highly unlikely The Lord of the Flies was not intended to express the eternal human condition, especially since it is about the rotten souls even of schoolboys who were privileged to be etc. But as to Monbiot, it’s not entirely clear to me that actually being wealthy or aristocratic, especially landed wealth, isn’t a way of life that has quite as much to do with the psychology of the English ruling classes as child hood rearing practices.

14

Chris Bertram 11.07.19 at 6:20 pm

I was sent to a prep school in the Peak District at the age of 8 in 1967. It was ferociously cold and we were expected to play outdoor sports wearing only 1 layer. The headmaster was replaced by his 27-year-old son after a sexual indiscretion with a matron within a few months of his arrival (it was a family business) and the new headmaster used corporal punishment a great deal. I think I received over 100 strokes of the gym shoe from him between 67 and 72. On one occasion in winter, when I accidentally hit a teacher with a snowball, I was knocked to the ground and kicked repeatedly on the floor by him and efforts were made to prevent me informing my parents. The very worst occasion was when a cleaner discovered that someone had shat in a bucket and the whole school was assembled so that the headmaster could demand that the culprit confess. No confession was forthcoming so we were all made to stand motionless in lines in the car park in the hot sun. Anyone who moved was taken from the line, beaten, and returned to it. All these children were aged 7-13.

The boarding school I moved to in 1972 was much better for me at least. I was never beaten (though others were), though the general appearance and ambiance was not unlike Lindsay Anderson’s If … Needless to say, in both schools there was a good deal of bullying among the boys and a fair amount of violence and torture. In the latter school, several teachers later went to prison for sexual offences against children and it was well known at the time I was there that some of them had a penchant for attractive boys. Fortunately, I wasn’t.

15

ADAM ROBERTS 11.07.19 at 6:33 pm

Futher to Chris’s (horrible!) experiences, I could add my own also from the 1970s (and into the very early 80s), although I didn’t go a boarding school but a state grammar day-school. There wasn’t a culture of violence, and caning was not school policy; but there was quite a lot of verbal and physical violence nonetheless. One day, during class, I was chatting with friends at the back of Chemistry one day and the teacher threw a board-rubber (thick wooden handle with a felt pad attached) at my head to shut me up. It hit me over my right eye and cut me quiet deeply: I still have the scar. There were also lots of cuffs, slaps, and so on, plenty of wounding sarcasm, several sexually dodgy teachers. My take, looking back, was that it wasn’t boarding as such that was behind all this, but the fact that many of the older teachers (the Chemistry teacher for instance) were of the generation to have fought in WW2, and that this experience had damaged them in some quite deep, lasting way; and had certainly casualised them where aggression and violence was concerned.

16

oldster 11.07.19 at 7:08 pm

The pathology is larger than the boarding schools, which never trained more than a small fraction of the population. The other factor is: how did their pathology ramify throughout the ranks?

If Waterloo was won on the playing fields of Eton, then Trafalgar was won in the workhouses of London and Manchester. We must ask: what conditions of society made it possible to keep thousands of poor uneducated men in the penal and worse than penal conditions of serving in a man o’ war for months on end? Why was mutiny as rare as it was, given that life on shipboard had (as Dr. Johnson said) all of the discomforts of life in prison, with the additional danger of drowning? What was life on shore like, that men sometimes volunteered to serve?

So the story may start with the boarding schools, and they may have set the tone, but the full story is closer to the story of Sparta, where an entire society is geared towards domination.

17

J 11.07.19 at 7:12 pm

Has anyone ever done some sort of comparison study of English Boarding schools and Canada’s Indigenous Residential schools?

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Canadian_Indian_residential_school_system#Conditions

18

Z 11.07.19 at 8:25 pm

@Chris

What a horrendous collection of stories! I’m so sorry for you.

19

Chris Lay 11.07.19 at 8:30 pm

The OP strikes me as broadly correct, and as rhyming with this recent essay in n+1 that frames American collegiate greek life as a cycle of abuse that produces the sort of abusers who are capable of running an empire: https://nplusonemag.com/issue-34/essays/special-journey-to-our-bottom-line/

20

Ranjan 11.07.19 at 8:39 pm

Great post, Maria. Insightful posts like this are why I keep coming back to CT.

21

RobinM 11.07.19 at 8:53 pm

To my surprise I once encountered a former Fife, Scotland, primary school teacher in North Dakota, of all places, who told me the following.

One of his pupils was a nasty, brutal little bully whom he’d punished, as was the norm in Scottish schools in those days, by striking the boy’s hands with a leather strap. The boy’s response was to tell the teacher he would have to deal with his dad on the following day.

The next morning the teacher, standing at the school door, saw the boy coming accompanied by his father, a rather large coal miner well known in the area as a Communist militant. “Did you belt my boy,” the man asked. “Yes,” said the teacher. “Did he deserve it,” the man asked. “Yes,” said the teacher. “You did the right thing,” said the man who then turned and walked away.

In other words, I’m glad Adam Roberts (@15) and oldster (@16) have done their bit towards shifting the conversation away from the childhood miseries of the privileged few towards a wider concern with a society in which brutality was—and is—widespread and widely accepted by perpetrators and victims alike.

22

J-D 11.07.19 at 9:11 pm

http://crookedtimber.org/2019/11/07/englands-ruling-pathology-boarding-school-syndrome/#comment-769421

I think Golding believed he was saying something eternal about the human soul.

Confirmed by Golding himself in the essay ‘Fable’, specifically dealing with questions about The Lord Of The Flies, in which he wrote that experience in the Second World War compelled the conclusion that men produce evil the way bees produce honey.

23

novakant 11.07.19 at 10:09 pm

I remember watching and listening to “The Wall” (and Monty Python’ s “The Meaning of Life”) as a teenager and asking myself: “what on earth is their problem?” – I really didn’t get it, because everything seemed so alien and medieval to me.

24

Alan White 11.07.19 at 11:11 pm

A hearty second on the terrific post Maria (if I may). But I have to say that many of these comments about boarding school are truly shocking to me, a product of Northern California public education that, while certainly not socially perfect, makes me more grateful than ever for it. And as I’ve said before, this is why CT continues my education even in retirement!

25

Jack Morava 11.08.19 at 12:02 am

26

Faustusnotes 11.08.19 at 12:02 am

Without wanting to detract from the point of the OP (which I agree with) it’s worth bearing in mind that British non boarding schools (state and private) in the 1970s and 1980s were nasty and brutal and the British model of parenting at that time (children should be seen but not heard) was pretty loveless. Savile was roaming the halls of hospitals in the 1980s raping children and he wasn’t picking on the kids of the ruling class. So when we see damaged politicians today it’s not just boarding school that did it. (I say this as someone who went to state schools in the uk in the 1970s and 1980s then moved to oz in 1986 and the difference was huge).

Does anyone know if corbyn went to boarding school? Because on top of everything else he seems personally to be a decent guy.

As a further aside I would mention that the Golding view of society is also part of the reason that so many modern libertarians and liberals think that all laws and social norms are backed up by coercive power. Their entire education precludes then believing people might pay taxes or follow traffic laws because they want to cooperate with each other.

27

Chetan Murthy 11.08.19 at 12:28 am

librl @ 8: I found this series of posts on Sparta to be quite interesting: https://acoup.blog/2019/09/27/collections-this-isnt-sparta-part-vii-spartan-ends/

One of this theses is that the Spartan “education” system was really a system for the indoctrination of child soldiers (in the modern meaning) and with all the abominations that that entails.

28

joel hanes 11.08.19 at 3:52 am

I’m a little surprised that no one has yet mentioned Orwell’s
“Such, Such Were The Joys”
http://www.orwell.ru/library/essays/joys/english/e_joys

29

John 11.08.19 at 3:56 am

There is a lot of truth to this essay but it seems to me that the problem is hell-deep more pervasive than indicated.
What if most/all of our his-story is driven by the individual and collective suppressed rage of childhood abuse, which was, and still is the norm throughout the world.
Four websites which illuminate the situation:
http://psycohistory.com/articles/the-history-of-child-abuse
http://www.violence.de/index.html
http://www.wombecology.com
The second and third sites are linked to this site
http://www.ttfuture.org

And of course the work of Alice Miller the author of For Your Own Good
Plus the book Spare the Child by Philip Greven which is especially relevant to fundamentalist Christians in the USA

30

craig fritch 11.08.19 at 3:57 am

As a long time schoolteacher in a northern Canadian community, I recognize the common culture of the English boarding school and our residential schools. The brutality, sexual assults and complacent do-gooding. Officially, good intentions, but the reality far messier. However a big difference is the racist assumption of :improvement”. But paramount was the fact that very young children were torn from families for years at a time, some never again seeing family.
The result is suicide, substance abuse and damaged childrearing capacity. Very different from cruel domination of the lower classes and colonial subjects.

31

faustusnotes 11.08.19 at 4:45 am

Novakant mentions The Wall and makes a good point about the story that album tells. It’s not just about school but also parenting. The song Mother (so beautifully covered by Sinead O’Connor at the Wall concert), the background speech in another song (“How can you eat your pudding if you haven’t eaten your meat?!”) and the entirety of Comfortably Numb, that album is a vicious attack on the entire culture of child-rearing and education in England. I think it must seem bizarre if you were raised in the UK after the 1990s, or were raised abroad. But that album speaks directly to me and I think many people of my generation.

Marillion – one of the inheritors of Pink Floyd, I guess – also have songs on this same topic. Alone again in the Lap of Luxury (and all of Brave) are drawn from the same themes, I think. Brits of a certain generation really felt the bitterness of the UK’s horrible attitudes towards education and child-rearing, and those who went into music made sure to talk about it.

32

Peter T 11.08.19 at 5:10 am

An interesting side-note is that the people who actually built British ‘success’ were mostly not the product of boarding schools, but the sons of families much lower in the class stratum. The navy, the East India Company and the merchants of London, Glasgow, Edinburgh and Bristol were run by these, while the upper classes were often an incompetent but domineering veneer.

33

J-D 11.08.19 at 7:33 am

faustusnotes

Does anyone know if corbyn went to boarding school? Because on top of everything else he seems personally to be a decent guy.

A day student, like Margaret Thatcher and Theresa May, and unlike boarders Clement Attlee and Stafford Cripps.

34

bad Jim 11.08.19 at 8:03 am

British penal institutions at the time were also notoriously brutal; sadism on the part of guards and administrators was the norm. That pupils and prisoners were treated alike could be ascribed to a mere lack of imagination.

35

galanx 11.08.19 at 9:16 am

C.S. Lewis may have had a horrible experience in a single-sex boarding school, but he strongly advocated it for others, in an apparent triumph of ideology over memory.

As for Orwell, others who went to school with him who later achieved prominence recalled him as quite a happy well-adjusted boy, rather a teacher’s pet than otherwise. Apparently he was swept up in the movement satirically described by Huxley, where a description of schooldays as miserable was de rigeur for writers at that time.

36

oldster 11.08.19 at 12:07 pm

Kipling’s “Stalky & Co.” gives an interesting, overly-flattering look at a boarding school that was a few social notches below Eton. (i.e. for 1%ers, not the 1% of the 1%ers)

It’s far too affectionate and gauzy, but absolutely clear-eyed about the link between the boarding schools and empire. The novel’s last chapter is set in Afghanistan, as I recall.

It’s one of those comical, “he just tweeted it out” situations, where the leftist suspicion that a social structure functions to perpetuate domination is rejected huffily by broad swaths off society, and simply affirmed with gusto by an arch colonizer.

37

hix 11.08.19 at 1:10 pm

” I think it must seem bizarre if you were raised in the UK after the 1990s, or were raised abroad”
Depends on when and where. While the UK was a very late reformer compared to the rest of western Europe and it seems a worse case before, the basical pattern is not that unual.
Our local catholic boarding school barely came arround to admit to its past pattern of violence only recently and less severe cases seem to have taken place even in the early ninties.

38

WLGR 11.08.19 at 1:50 pm

What I find more interesting than the “Lord of the Flies as British boarding school” interpretation as such (which I’ve seen in a number of places and seems on pretty solid ground) is what this interpretation implies about the more typical reading of the book in the grade-school English literary canon, as a way of underscoring the book’s own critique on a meta level: not only is British upper/middle class education a factory line for the production of emotionally abused, emotionally abusive sociopaths to fill the ranks of the Empire’s nomenklatura, but this very same Anglophone pedagogical culture is also so narcissistic and un-self-critical that when it sees a trenchant attack on its own culturally specific pathologies, all it can perceive is a chilling existential glimpse into the amoral void that (in its view) sits at the very heart of universal human nature itself, a warning against the innate violent savagery allegedly being held at bay by the very same Western imperial institutions the book is actually critiquing. It’s the same high tier of social satire also reached by Verhoeven’s Starship Troopers, where the oblivious mainstream cultural reception to the work ends up emphasizing the deeper critical message at least as powerfully as the work could ever hope to achieve on its own.

Semi-related, but in this context I can’t help but recall some earlier kerfuffles on CT over the use of “tribalism” as a middlebrow cod-social-scientific master signifier for everything that ails human society, which seems like another manifestation of this same tendency for Western imperialist discourse to depict its own narrow pathologies as innate and universal, then use this alleged innateness and universality as an excuse to clamp down even harder on anything it doesn’t already control, further entrenching the same pathologies and further justifying its own control in an ever-stronger ideological feedback loop. How interesting, then, that the most recent prominent pusher of the “tribalism” meme in Anglophone elite discourse has been Amy Chua, whose other bit of recent cultural buzz was thanks to her longstanding role at Yale Law as de facto procurer/groomer of hot young female law students to clerk for Brett Kavanaugh.

39

chris s 11.08.19 at 2:44 pm

“British penal institutions at the time were also notoriously brutal; sadism on the part of guards and administrators was the norm. That pupils and prisoners were treated alike could be ascribed to a mere lack of imagination.”

See also the army with it’s ‘beastings’, with one well trodden path in previous times was Borstal -> Army.

40

PatinIowa 11.08.19 at 5:33 pm

oldster at #16:

“We must ask: what conditions of society made it possible to keep thousands of poor uneducated men in the penal and worse than penal conditions of serving in a man o’ war for months on end? Why was mutiny as rare as it was, given that life on shipboard had (as Dr. Johnson said) all of the discomforts of life in prison, with the additional danger of drowning? What was life on shore like, that men sometimes volunteered to serve?

So the story may start with the boarding schools, and they may have set the tone, but the full story is closer to the story of Sparta, where an entire society is geared towards domination.”

Yes, this. And now let’s remember that the Americans working at Al Ghraib, civilian and military, were volunteers.

41

Stephen 11.08.19 at 7:01 pm

Chris@14: What an appalling experience. Please do accept that I feel deeply sympathetic for your undeserved sufferings.

Regards

Stephen

42

Heshel 11.08.19 at 7:02 pm

@38 How interesting, then, that the most recent prominent pusher of the “tribalism” meme in Anglophone elite discourse has been Amy Chua, whose other bit of recent cultural buzz was thanks to her longstanding role at Yale Law as de facto procurer/groomer of hot young female law students to clerk for Brett Kavanaugh.

Yes, and Chua, if I interpret her tiger parenting thesis correctly, is a similarly vocal proponent of authoritarian parenting and child education practices.

43

Julian Fischer 11.08.19 at 8:16 pm

(I hope you’ll forgive the off-topic comment: UCLA Philosophy is conducting a faculty search and we’d like to place an ad on Crooked Timber, but we’re having trouble reaching anyone through the general mailbox. Is there someone else we could write to about buying some ad space? Our aim is to recruit from a diverse a group of candidates as possible, which is why we’d buy ad space here and elsewhere. If you have information, I can be reached at jfischer@humnet.ucla.edu. Thanks!)

44

engels 11.08.19 at 10:26 pm

‘boarding schools went into rapid decline in the 1980s and 2000s’

According to this at least that subsequently reversed:
https://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/2017/04/29/boarding-schools-no-longer-need-harry-potter-effect-inspire/

45

Collin Street 11.09.19 at 1:01 am

I can’t actually seem to boil my thoughts down into a thesis properly-so-called, so I’ll just sort of vaguely sketch out what I’m thinking and see uf you lot can pull it together for me.
+ sending your children to boarding school for no good reason is in itself abusive and a cause of trauma, and almost certainly cooccurs with other of familial emotional abuse, and that sending a loved non-abused child to boarding school for good articulable reasons is likely much less traumatic, particularly since there won’t be any more than normal childhood trauma from the rest of the upbringing

+ there’s been outstanding work over the past 150 years rooting out imtergenerational abuse, but that the bulk of this has happened among poor people and not so much the elites, particularly with family abuse.

tldr boarding-school abuse is already second-generation, sort of thing.

46

steven t johnson 11.09.19 at 1:58 am

As I understand it, the kings in Sparta did not have to undergo the agoge. Also, the Spartans were the Equals or Peers (of each other,) who had to invited into a syssition (usually translated “dinner club,”) which must have controlled much of their personal consumption. Also, Sparta educated its women (“flashing thighs,” etc.) The intimate relationship between foreign conquest and domestic democracy is hardly clearer. Whatever you may say about Spartan education, inadvertently turning out damaged snobs who take supervisory positions, whereupon they misuse their power to delight in cruelty doesn’t seem to be it. I think the other critique is that Sparta was primitive communisms (aka “barracks” communism,) and to be rejected as possibly appropriate to (technologically, though this is usually left unsaid,) primitive times.

Curiously I have managed to avoid Lord of the Flies despite it being nearly as important in high school indoctrination as 1984. As such, it seems to me the representative of the English ruling class is the officer whose disapprobation is not to be read as ironic in any way. At any rate, I suspect all those English teachers got it right, that this is a wisdom of the crowd situation.

47

Philip 11.09.19 at 9:23 am

I’ve not really thought about LotF since I read it in comprehensive school in the 90s. I enjoyed it then and easily imagined that the boys I went to school with would have acted in a similar way but would have just spoken differently. Corporal punishment had stopped by then but there was still a fairly lax attitude to bullying. I don’t know how different it is today, an impression I get is that at times schools are reticent to recognise bullying because recording incidents of bullying will go against them in an inspection.

It seems obvious now that it is a story about kids all from one background. If you had girls, working class kids, and non white kids the group dynamics would be very different. For example, in general, working class parents value independence where middle class parents value education and networking to advantage their children.

While it is specifically about children at boarding school I think the points about wider attitudes to emotions, children, and parenting are still relevant. My grandad was the eldest of 5 brothers. His mother died when he was about 9 after having a girl who died soon after birth. His father was a very emotionally cold man. My grandad went down the mine at 14 then joined the army in 1933 when he was 19. He loved the army and said it was the first time he felt part of a family. He probably had some form of PTSD after WW2 and did use corporal punishment on my dad. However my dad always felt loved and grew up to have lots of admiration for his dad.

48

Donald 11.09.19 at 2:04 pm

C.S. Lewis may have had a horrible experience in a single-sex boarding school, but he strongly advocated it for others, in an apparent triumph of ideology over memory.“

This surprises me. Do you have a cite?

49

Dipper 11.09.19 at 4:09 pm

The kind of treatment experienced by amongst others Chris Bertram at private and boarding schools is I believe largely symptomatic of society at the time. It is not as though this treatment was isolated acts of hatred and cruelty in a sea of warmth love and compassion. The prevailing view across society at large into the 1970’s was ‘Spare the rod and spoil the child’. Children were treated coldly and with harsh physical punishments in boarding schools because that’s how children were treated everywhere.

The UK is not the only society that sent children away at young age. I believe it is quite common in West Africa to do this. Hence the leaving of West African children in foster care in the UK, one consequence of which is the excellent film The Last Tree which I can thoroughly recommend.

With specific regard to Boris Johnson and his time at boarding school, I’m not sure much can be made of one individual in what is clearly an exceptional (as in outlier) family. Given one of his closest aides is a comprehensive-educated former member of the Revolutionary Communist Party Pakistani woman from Oldham It is not clear that his time at boarding school has created a sense of class or sex-based bonding.

50

Kiwanda 11.09.19 at 4:14 pm

…this very same Anglophone pedagogical culture is also so narcissistic and un-self-critical that when it sees a trenchant attack on its own culturally specific pathologies, all it can perceive is a chilling existential glimpse into the amoral void that (in its view) sits at the very heart of universal human nature itself,

While the combination at boarding schools of removal from family, commonplace bullying, and sexual predation might be a particularly terrible English extreme, it’s going too far to believe that to be so without looking further, to deny common humanity by assuming that the situations in other places *must* be better. There’s plenty of bullying in China and Japan, it seems. I’m skeptical that English people, and these institutions, are so very special in their distinctive awfulness.

51

Francis Spufford 11.09.19 at 4:23 pm

I was surprised by the idea of Lewis advocating boarding-school, too. Maybe there’s a cite to come, but I wonder if this isn’t an over-interpretation of the satire at the expense of progressive education (in its mid century British form) at the beginning of The Silver Chair? You can think that doing without corporal punishment will lead to bullying, and even that boys and girls should go to separate schools, without believing that little boys should be dispatched to remote houses in the countryside where nobody loves them. The chapter about his own boarding school in Surprised by Joy is called “Belsen”.

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oldster 11.09.19 at 7:16 pm

Philip @ 47

“He probably had some form of PTSD after WW2 and did use corporal punishment on my dad. However my dad always felt loved and grew up to have lots of admiration for his dad.”

I am firmly opposed to corporal punishment of children, and I am proud to have raised my boys without hitting any of them, ever.

But the connection between physical abuse and cruelty is complicated. I was psychologically cruel to my boys, and did things for which I can never forgive myself–ridicule, belittling, etc.. Those things left psychological welts, and forty years later, scars.

And I also know people whose parents spanked them, but who felt deeply loved and cherished, and never doubted their parents’ love. Warm, loving acceptance can make up for some smacks here and there, or at least that’s what some happy adults tell me.

I still would never hit a child, and the happy cases in which physical punishment left no estrangement or damage seem to me flukey enough that no one should attempt to reproduce them. But if I could do it again — without the sleep deprivation, without the poverty, without the desperate struggle to gain a foothold in my profession — I would try to do it without any psychological cruelty, either.

It’s complicated. And now I’m near to death, and will never have the chance to do better.

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Neville Morley 11.09.19 at 10:07 pm

Partly because I’ve been teaching the topic this week, my engrained historical pedantry compels me to note that more or less anything we think we might know about the Spartan system can be doubted. What we can say with confidence is that such stories were told and repeated; what’s disturbing is that the people telling such stories generally did it because this was this seemed to them a utopia, a better and more virtuous society than their own democratic hellhole.

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Peter T 11.10.19 at 1:32 am

I have to put a pedant word in the navy. It inflicted brutal punishments and gave a wide arbitrary power to those in charge. So did almost all 18th and early 19th century institutions, in a society where physical violence and cruelty was routine. It also paid poorly. On the other hand, it was open to talent, it offered a career ladder, it fed you very well (and the captain got the same food as the common sailor – if he wanted something different he had to pay for it himself), and it was emphatic about the necessity of good relations between officers and men. Mutinies were quite common, usually took the form of refusing to take a ship to sea under an abusive captain, and were almost always met with an order from the Admiralty relieving the captain of his command (see NAM Rodger’s amusing ‘rules for mutiny’ in The Wooden World).

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galanx 11.10.19 at 4:56 am

C.S. Lewis didn’t think his own experience should have been replicated; he thought that an idealised Rugby-type school experience, single-sex boarding school with kindly teachers and plucky schoolfellows, was much better than state schools or mixed schools.

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Mark Pontin 11.10.19 at 6:34 am

Neville Morley wrote: ‘anything we think we might know about the Spartan system can be doubted. What we can say with confidence is that such stories were told and repeated; what’s disturbing is that the people telling such stories generally did it because this seemed to them a utopia, a better and more virtuous society than their own democratic hellhole.’

Indeed. Hilarious, in a ‘life-is-a-comedy-to-those-who-think’ kind of way.

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J-D 11.10.19 at 9:08 am

Mutinies were quite common, usually took the form of refusing to take a ship to sea under an abusive captain, and were almost always met with an order from the Admiralty relieving the captain of his command

Citation needed.

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J-D 11.10.19 at 9:15 am

By chance, I came across this only recently:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wfh9cQcC1Sk

There’s nothing in it about boarding school, and yet I feel it has some relevance to some of the foregoing discussion.

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Maria 11.10.19 at 1:07 pm

Francis – “without believing that little boys should be dispatched to remote houses in the countryside where nobody loves them.” This a hundred times. It seems so mad and wicked when you look at it this way – how could anyone think you can make whole and happy humans by depriving them of love when they are most vulnerable? There seems to have been a long and deep concern that mothers’ love and the domestic sphere would harm little boys and mess with their masculinity – that comes through all the way to postwar behaviourism.

Thank you, everyone on this thread who has shared things about this.

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monboddo 11.10.19 at 1:43 pm

We shouldn’t forget there are also US equivalents, which educated many of the east coast “elites.” FDR went to Groton, JFK to Choate. I don’t know whether they quite matched their English counterparts for sadism, but they must’ve had an effect. I attended one for a single year and found the bullying common, though not thankfully the corporal punishments.

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Jonathan Monroe 11.10.19 at 1:45 pm

I think there are two subtleties missing here.

First, there is an important distinction in terms of emotional impact between boys who were sent to boarding school early (typically age 8) – something that is now considered child abuse even among the upper class, and only done if parents are internationally mobile in a way which makes a “proper education” impossible without boarding – and those who were sent to boarding school at 13 (still common for sons, but not daughters, of the 1%). The worst horror stories (Monbiot’s own account, the first half of Roald Dahl’s ‘Boy’, Orwell’s ‘Such were the joys’, most of the child abuse scandals) relate to boarding prep schools – also the age group in Lord of the Flies (the big’uns are 11-12 at the start of the novel). My social circle includes a number of men who were sent to boarding school at 8, and precisely zero of them enjoyed the experience. The negative accounts of public school are more along the lines of “this was a negative experience that might have been character-building for other people, but wasn’t for me”. (Consider the difference in tone between the first and second halves of ‘Boy’, or the fact that Orwell enjoyed his time at Eton.) Of the men in my social circle who went to day prep schools and boarding public schools, the horror stories are the exception and not the rule.

As a related point, George Monbiot’s career (and, in many ways, Orwell’s) is probably best understood in terms of the noblesse oblige of an Eton education sticking while the class prejudice didn’t. This piece makes a lot more sense if you remember that Mobiot found it easy to do the unconventional things he recommends because of a combination of his inherited wealth and the social confidence that Eton gave him.

The second subtlety is that all middle schools (possibly not all-female ones, where the pathology is different) tend towards Lord of the Flies. Paul Graham writes here about how it spoke to him as a bullied nerdy boy in a “good suburban school” in the US. The only reason why my experience of the same age range wasn’t Lord of the Files was individual (mostly female) teachers who actually cared. The horror of boarding school is that home isn’t the escape which it would be for an upper class boy with a healthy, loving family. But if home isn’t an escape (abusive parents, absent parents, distracted parents, parents who unreflectively back up abusive school-based authority) then the horror is the same however school is set up.

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Dave Heasman 11.10.19 at 4:08 pm

Mixed experience here as a boarder among 60 others at a county grammar school from 57-64. Fellow boarders I characterised as “waifs and strays or Army brats” (garrison town) .
For the first couple of years the bullying was horrendous and totally ignored/condoned by the housemasters who themselves largely just wanted the quiet life.
Post year 9 it improved massively, as did life elsewhere as it became (fanfare) the sixties.
I think the difference between going away at age 8 or 11 and at 13 is significant.
Eton is also an outlier because every boarder has his own room, something I only got in year 13.

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Heshel 11.10.19 at 4:09 pm

Given one of his closest aides is a comprehensive-educated former member of the Revolutionary Communist Party Pakistani woman from Oldham It is not clear that his time at boarding school has created a sense of class or sex-based bonding.

Is there an internet meme-y analogue to Godwin’s Law that can be snarkily invoked to call out folks who discharge the One Black Friend argument into a comment thread? Because Dipper violated that law.

64

steven t johnson 11.10.19 at 4:30 pm

Neville Morley@53 speaks of engrained pedantry, then (inadvertently) implies that Sparta was admired because not democratic. Democracy is always about “us” vs. “them,” the differences being in how “us” is defined. The role of elections, equality, etc. is about trying to make an “us” effective enough for war. The Spartans had ephors, two kings and a system that tried to make the majority of the citizens true equals. Like Robert Heinlein in Starship Troopers, true citizens were those who fought for their country. Sparta was another form of democracy than from Sparta.

Those who objected to Sparta seem to have objected to either making Messenians, fellow Greeks, into Helots, slaves, instead of foreigners, the proper form of forced labor. Others objections to the democratic hellholes were not just about poorer men having the franchise, but the unworthy rich using their wealth to effectively take liberties and privileges that should have belonged to the men of good families, who were in their eyes the best people. Or indeed the decadence of luxury.

If we insist on reading in terms of contemporary politics, then some of the Spartan love by outsiders was closer to Rousseau’s idealizing the simple life. Or to get even more contemporaneous, about how socialist countries have more equality, less consumerism, etc. But it seems even a Cimon was more admiring of how stable the Spartan version of democracy was and how useful an ally to Athens.

But if we do want to talk solely about psychological aspects, religious education in Sparta included the festival of Artemis Orthia, where boys and young men were whipped. I gather this festival continued into Roman times, and became a tourist attraction.

J-D@57 demands a citation from Peter T, ignoring that Peter T cited NAM Rodger’s The Wooden World. This seems particularly ungenerous.

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WLGR 11.10.19 at 5:29 pm

That’s perfectly fair, Kiwanda, I wouldn’t want to speak for the horrors or lack thereof in educational systems I know little to nothing about. The point is that there’s loads of textual/contextual evidence to support the argument that Golding was writing specifically about elite British boarding schools like the one he taught at, and many of the specific atrocious behaviors of the kids in the novel (especially the class-based bullying of the lower-class Piggy) are behaviors Golding would’ve observed the boarding school system helping enculturate in his elite pupils, as opposed to the other interpretation many of us in this thread probably picked up from our own grade-school English teachers, that Golding was actually writing about some universal primordial Hobbesian state of nature that “civilizing” institutions like boarding schools help to combat.

What the second interpretation implies (the Pinkerian interpretation, let’s call it) is that Golding chose to write about younger kids in order to emphasize that the boarding school hasn’t yet had enough time to stamp out their innate primordial savagery, and an older group of British boarding school kids in that situation would’ve been more civilized; if anything, what Golding seems to have been going for was exactly the opposite way around, and the “good guy” characters like Ralph and Piggy are able to retain a shred of humanity precisely because they haven’t been enculturated into the boarding school system’s sociocultural heirarchies and cruelties as irreversibly as their peers.

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Mike Furlan 11.10.19 at 8:30 pm

“It’s long been clear to many that the UK is ruled by many people who think their damage is a strength, and who seek to perpetuate it.”

Which brings to mind Corey Robin speaking about Clarence Thomas’s view of racist police forces and a racist prison system.

“Black people have suffered worse in the past–and, by his lights, gained more because of it. Perhaps the same will be true in the future.”
p. 215, “The Enigma of Clarence Thomas”

Others have argued that time in the Gulag, toughened those who survived.

All nonsense to me. Kind of like saying that you can make a bird fly better by plucking out just the right number of feathers.

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Jonathan Calder 11.10.19 at 8:44 pm

When I studied Lord of the Flies for O level in the 1970s – and it was pretty much a compulsory text in those days – it was presented to us as a timeless fable about man’s innate goodness or wickedness.

Reading it today, you just ask how anyone would expect boys who had been subjected to a 1950s private education to behave.

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Peter T 11.10.19 at 8:53 pm

J-D @ 57

Citation provided. I could provide a page reference, but the book is adequately indexed.

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Kiwanda 11.10.19 at 10:53 pm

WGLR, you cover two claims as interpretations of LotF:
“English middle-school (ages 11-14, say) kids are awful until the uniquely great English boarding school fixes them”, and
“English middle-school kids are awful because the uniquely awful English boarding school breaks them”.

But these are not the only possibilities. My best guess of the situation (not specifically an interpretation of LotF) is “a solid minority of middle-school kids are miserable little bullying shits, the world over, and schools very often make things worse”. This probably does amount to a claim about human nature, or at least, about the social dynamics of schools.

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WLGR 11.11.19 at 12:49 am

Another point that occurs to me: while Piggy retaining his humanity relative to the other kids is treated as more or less a given in the novel, Ralph is treated as potentially susceptible to following a path like Jack’s, and the survival of his humanity is largely thanks to his connection with Piggy. This makes it especially significant that Piggy is coded as coming from a lower class upbringing relative to the others (even signifying this relative poverty with the same easy metonym as that other widely-read literary fantasy about British boarding school, a broken pair of glasses) because it implies a “Captain Courageous” style narrative device similar to what Slavoj Žižek talks about in Cameron’s Titanic, where the upper-class character faced with the soul-destroying prospect of a patrician lifestyle manages to retain their soul by vampirically leeching the soul of a plebeian companion, who inevitably ends up sacrificing his own life so his upper-class companion might survive. Or to take a slightly less vampiric comparison, it’s also similar to the Frodo/Sam relationship in Lord of the Rings, where the protagonist is a scion of minor rural landed gentry who forms a bond with his simple yet loyal lower-class manservant, and relies on this bond to help him retain his humanity even while those around him succumb to the devious temptations of modernity and decadence symbolized by the Ring of Power.

Gee, so many interesting angles open up for consideration as soon as we tune out from the banal old “innate savage Hobbesian state of nature red in tooth and blah blah blah” mantra, huh?

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WLGR 11.11.19 at 6:06 am

Kiwanda, I’m not necessarily trying to dispute that any exceptional awfulness of British boarding schools compared to modern standardized education systems in general is likely a matter of degree, not kind. I don’t have any grand well-worked-out theories here (other than a punt to David Graeber’s thoughts on bullying, which I find interesting) but I strongly suspect there’s something in particular about educating people for the job of managing a large empire, and/or educating people to embrace such an empire as a positive good, that lends itself to a particularly modern and “civilized” form of callous sociopathic brutality, and I suspect this is a large part of whatever grain of truth Golding may have hit on in LotF. Certainly it seems bizarre to me that more people don’t point to the US’s unparalleled worldwide military footprint as a likely explanation for all kinds of exceptional pathologies in US society, from “little” issues like our blanket hostility toward international standards and treaties and such, to “big” issues like our epidemic of mass shootings.

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Neville Morley 11.11.19 at 8:28 am

@steven t johnson #64: the suggestion that Sparta was admired because not democratic was not in the least inadvertent, but I could have put it more precisely: the Lakonophilia of 5th- and 4th-century Greeks, especially Athenians, which provides almost the entirety of our image of the Spartan system, was manifestly driven by a hatred of Athenian democracy. Sparta is presented as a true aristocracy, in which power is kept in the hands of a tiny minority who are supposedly fitted for rule by birth, wealth, rigorous training and full-time devotion to war; of course *they* can be regarded as equals (doesn’t seem to have worked in practice, but that’s the theory), because they are equally virtuous. All this is set up in contrast to places like Athens, which have made the terrible error of giving political rights to those ghastly people who have to work for a living, rather than having slaves or helots to do it for them, and so are incapable of virtue or good judgement – which does indeed also corrupt some of the upper classes, who start trying to serve their community rather than seeking to overthrow it.

Put another way: yes, Heinlein’s Starship Troopers. But you seem to be taking that as a positive thing.

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Jim Buck 11.11.19 at 1:06 pm

My plebeian education occurred in an industrial hell-hole, where primary teachers would take common flowers to show the pupils—who would otherwise have remained unacquainted with such exotica. Junior School (middle): we would be taken by bus, every Tuesday, to showers 4k away. Preparation for the 11+ exam largely consisted of reminders that only puffs passed it and went to Grammar School; and, anyway, there were plenty of jobs going in the steel foundries. Secondary Modern: threw me in with better-off kids who lived in council houses and could take regular baths; teachers were sadists, or drunks, brutes mostly. A memory that haunts me is of a kid who was in my cohort, but missed the first few weeks. One day, his mother brought him into the classroom. I heard her explaining to the teacher that the boy had been refusing to start secondary school because he had been bullied about his severe eczema, in the juniors; and he was afraid that the same would happen here. The teacher was all smiles and reassurances, and the mother left confident her son was in safe hands. As soon as it was clear that the mother had gone, the teacher gave the boy a vicious swipe across his suppurating face. Worse things happened the years ahead, but none continues to affect me in the way that incident does–probably because one of my own children suffers severe eczema.
Looking across at my peers who were privately educated, they were represented as having more fun: getting beaten on the arse, rather than the hand–which seemed far less fun; they were reputed to have tuck shops, and midnight feasts-whereas, I was often so hungry, I’d hallucinate that my desk had turned into cake. Best days of our lives (all of us)(irony)

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Curt Kastens 11.11.19 at 2:49 pm

I know a number of older Iranians. People who went to school before the 1989 revolution.
I have talked with them about bullying in school and they have said that not only have they never witnessed such behavior had it happened a teacher would not even have had to have gotten involved because the children themselves would have put a stop to it.
Ok all of these indidividuals came from wealthier families, upper level civil servents and college proffessors and doctors and engineers and such. That might have something to do with the expiriences that they had. Schools in villages might have been different.
Is this evidence that Anglo societies are warped?

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steven t johnson 11.11.19 at 4:08 pm

Neville Morley@72 is incorrect about one thing: I believe Heinlein’s Starship Troopers, which advocates for Athenian-style democracy as the way to social stability, knew from history his novel was BS. But here the point is the shared admiration for Athenian democracy as “our” side.

The “class” distinctions in Athenian democracy between the citizens who could afford hoplite armor and those who could afford a horse and those who could afford a ship reminds us how much Athenian democracy was also about military service. There was a significant difference in that Athens was a naval power. This meant poorer men could contribute to the city’s military with skilled labor. Skilled labor has always had more ability to negotiate with their superiors. Athenian slavery, Spartan Helots means there was no distinction by today’s socialist-influenced standards as to the fundamental basic of the citizen’s democracy.

I must simply disagree that there weren’t religious types who freaked out about luxury, then as now. And I must also disagree that landed property or old money has never played a role in conservatism, all the more so when the dirty, new money is greater than the good people’s. But I must disagree most of all that the main animus was against people who got rich by working themselves. I haven’t imagined people got rich by hard work for decades now. I don’t even the larger mass of the rowers taking pay worked for a living in the sense assumed, much less the paid jurors. A lot of the Lakonophilia was disguised resistance to city spending. And I disagree that Lakonophilia was motivated by a disdain for the lowers, or the education of women and women’s roles in Sparta would have been a much greater problem. I believe scandalous women was a big problem for the side you think was democratic.

The desire to falsify the true nature of democracy (bourgeois democracy, if you must be technical, but most reject any such category) is so pervasive and powerful it requires falsifying even ancient democracy. Our usual categories don’t fit neatly. Sparta was another form of democracy. This may be an unpleasant thought if one wants uncritical endorsement of the theory Athens was “us” and Sparta was somehow more of a slave society (despite the facts.) But…The Neville Morley version of Sparta would have medized, like Macedon. Indeed it is even a question why a Cimon wouldn’t have volunteered to serve as satrap? How much less explicable is the Spartan/Athenian alliance?

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outpup 11.11.19 at 7:52 pm

Fwiw, I’ve been exposed, second-hand, in recent years to Italian American New York and/or New Jersey residents, apparently traumatized, readily sharing their encounters with Irish nuns in parochial schools.

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Collin Street 11.11.19 at 10:20 pm

Conservatism always seems to boil down to making sure there are spaces for abuse, doesn’t it?

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LFC 11.11.19 at 11:04 pm

@WLGR

Of course the British system not only educated future managers of the empire but also, at the univ. level (and prob. at least in several cases boarding/public school as well) some of those who would supplant those managers. A perfect example is Nehru who, in view of his British education (Harrow and then Trinity College, Cambridge), told J.K. Galbraith (then Kennedy’s ambassador to India) that “I am the last Englishman to rule in India.” (Quoted by M. Walzer, The Paradox of Liberation, 2015, p.17, citing B.R. Nanda, Jawaharlal Nehru: Rebel and Statesman, 1995.)

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Tom Hurka 11.12.19 at 12:36 am

Is it relevant that Golding wrote Lord of the Flies just a few years after a world war in which horrible atrocities were committed by people who hadn’t been anywhere near an English boarding school?

80

Kiwanda 11.12.19 at 1:41 am

Curt Kastens (and WGLR)

Page 41 of a report by Unicef gives some results for a poll asking students how often they experienced bullying behavior; the proportion saying that this happened on a roughly monthly basis was about one out of three, for students in South Africa, Hong Kong, Singapore, New Zealand, and Australia, about one out of four, for Turkey and Saudi Arabia, and 18% down to 13% for Japan, Georgia, Korea, and Kazakhstan. Average student age was about 14. Meanwhile, in Mexicso and various countries in South/Central American and the Caribbean, at least a third of sixth graders (age 11-12) were bullied in the previous month.

So there *might* be higher prevalence in former colonies, specifically British ones, but it certainly happens elsewhere.

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bad Jim 11.12.19 at 7:04 am

I had half a mind to say something about this, but Jim Buck’s comment cemented my reserve. The starving of students is perhaps a worse abuse than beatings, not mitigated by being due more to thrift or negligence than malice.

Haydn and Schubert were both boy choristers, dependent on their employers instead of their parents, malnourished during their growing years and wound up short. If memory serves, Oliver Sacks complained in Uncle Tungsten of being sent out of London during the blitz and in his rural refuge subsisting mainly on boiled mangel wurzel, a not particularly nutritious root.

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J-D 11.12.19 at 9:09 am

Confirmed by Golding himself in the essay ‘Fable’, specifically dealing with questions about The Lord Of The Flies, in which he wrote that experience in the Second World War compelled the conclusion that men produce evil the way bees produce honey.

In addition, there’s the evidence of his second (and personal favourite) novel, The Inheritors. The inheritors of the title are human beings, and they inherit through the displacement and destruction of their Neanderthal predecessors, who are depicted in the novel as lacking the evil inclinations of the inheritors. Whether or not his product matched his intentions, what the author intended in The Lord Of The Flies was to make a point about intrinsic and universal human propensities, not just about the effects of boarding school.

Peter T

Citation provided. I could provide a page reference, but the book is adequately indexed.

My error. I failed to grasp the intended significance of the citation. Sorry.

I searched for more information about the book, and the result was a report that it’s not to be found in any library near me, which complicates the idea of consulting the index. However, I did chance across this, for whatever it may be worth:

Despite a series of major single-ship mutinies, the British lower deck was defeated and their leaders executed. In reaction, mutineers in the home command planned a fleet-wide strike for the early summer of 1797, which is the subject of the first two sections of chapter 5. It was both the greatest victory and the most painful defeat of the decade. Over 30,000 seamen took control their ships, developed radically democratic institutions of self-government, and put forward a detailed and sophisticated program of political change that, if implemented, would have reconstructed the Royal Navy as a republican force. But the mutiny was crushed, and a reign of terror descended upon the navy.

http://d-scholarship.pitt.edu/8491/1/frykmanne_etd2010.pdf

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bad Jim 11.12.19 at 9:38 am

The US has refused to ratify the The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child because of the fear in some quarters that corporal punishment might be banned. It ought to be noted that some in those quarters take biblical chastisement to extremes, advocating the deployment of plastic tubing upon infants (“To Train Up a Child”).

This approach to child rearing may explain the regional prevalence of authoritarian personalities and their attendant effect on political preferences. Elsewhere, sparing the rod has had generally salutary consequences.

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Jim Buck 11.12.19 at 11:43 am

Bad Jim; good point about the effects on height of malnutrition. I just scrape 5’6”. I suspect that I would be even smaller— except that my pitiful scrawniness was spotted by a GP, who got me sent away convalescent for 3 months. I do think the nutritious regular meals made an inch or two difference to my fnal height. The freedom to run around in woodland, building dens, probably benefitted me too. I certainly did not miss home. If it had been my choice, I would have stayed there, in the Warwickshire countryside until I hit fifteen.
Upthread, someone mentions Irish nuns. I never had dealings with them, thank fuck! I am reminded, though, of Nancy Scheper-Hughes‘ ‘Saints, Scholars, and Schizophrenics’— in which she made the observation that the Irish are/were the only people to use severe corporal punishment on nursing infants. However, it is the ritualistic framing of sexual power relations which seems, to me, to constitute the English Vice. I like to think that the visibility of classroom punishment internet porn has made the reintroduction of caning untenable; but in these mad populist tines, who knows?

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WLGR 11.12.19 at 3:28 pm

In addition, there’s the evidence of his second (and personal favourite) novel, The Inheritors. The inheritors of the title are human beings, and they inherit through the displacement and destruction of their Neanderthal predecessors, who are depicted in the novel as lacking the evil inclinations of the inheritors. Whether or not his product matched his intentions, what the author intended in The Lord Of The Flies was to make a point about intrinsic and universal human propensities, not just about the effects of boarding school.

If you read The Inheritors as a historical allegory, the point seems to be exactly the opposite: the more “advanced,” “civilized” tendencies of the modern Homo Sapiens are precisely what makes them capable of far deeper viciousness and brutality than the Neanderthals, and their exaggerated fear of the “primitive” people they’re exterminating is an ideological projection to help them hide this truth from themselves. Any remotely serious account of the atrocities of World War II (I’m partial to Götz Aly and Susanne Heim’s Architects of Annihilation) is quite clear that “advanced,” “civilized” tendencies are perfectly compatible with the worst sorts of horrors humanity has ever committed, and nothing I’ve seen of Golding’s post-WWII oeuvre seems out of line with such an understanding of the conflict he’d just witnessed.

Not to say the Neanderthal-based allegory in The Inheritors isn’t problematic for a boatload of reasons — i.e. the peoples subjugated by European colonialism are fully modern Homo Sapiens, more than capable of participating in colonial-style brutality if enculturated into such a role — but as before, the temptation to default to the same old hackneyed “innate savage Hobbesian state of nature red in tooth and blah blah blah” ends up working like a Denver boot on critical thought to prevent it from getting anywhere remotely interesting or incisive.

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WLGR 11.12.19 at 4:38 pm

That said, I wouldn’t want to get caught in the trap of attributing too much “wokeness” to a midcentury elite-educated Englishman like Golding, which would probably be asking for disappointment in one form or another. I guess the other possibility is that Golding really did intend to write a critique of innate universal human nature or whatever, and the scathing critique of elite British imperial culture resulted inadvertently from his fealty to the maxim of “write what you know.” If that’s the case, the best thing that could happen to Lord of the Flies would be something like what happened to Heinlein in the Starship Troopers movie, where a filmmaker like Verhoeven seizes on the author’s accidental critique of his own ideology and exaggerates it beyond any reasonable ambiguity.

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hix 11.12.19 at 5:25 pm

Just googled when corporal punishment was finally banned at schools: 1983 here in Bavaria. Late enough – it took another two decades until the last UK subsidary (Northern Ireland) introduced a complete ban. https://www.theguardian.com/childrens-books-site/2016/jul/01/corporal-punishment-jon-walter

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J-D 11.12.19 at 9:18 pm

WLGR

I get the feeling that I have sacrificed clarity to conciseness and that as a result you have taken me to be making a point different from the one I intended.

In discussing The Inheritors, I avoided the term Homo sapiens because I was aware that there is disagreement among the experts about whether Neanderthals should be considered a separate species from that species, Homo neanderthalensis, or a separate subspecies of the same species, Homo sapiens neanderthalensis. For greater clarity, therefore, I stipulate that in this comment I am using the term sapiens to refer to the distinct species or subspecies (as the case may be) which includes both ourselves and the ‘Inheritors’ of Golding’s title but does not include Neanderthals. In the additional interests of clarity, I note that the term ‘Neanderthal’ does not (naturally) occur in Golding’s text, but the main characters of the novel, who are distinguished from the sapiens of the title, can readily be understood (and I believe generally are) as a fictionalised version of the Neanderthals, and in any case distinct from sapiens as the Neanderthals (species or subspecies) were.

Nothing can be known of psychological differences between sapiens and Neanderthals, and I don’t think Golding can sensibly be read as intending verisimilitude in his portrait of Neanderthal nature. Therefore, I suggest, that portrait must be understood as a dramatic/narrative device to emphasise, by contrast, the point he’s making about sapiens nature. His point is that sapiens is like this (group of characters) as opposed to being like that (group of characters), and being like this and not like that results, in his own terms as previously cited, in sapiens producing evil the way bees produce honey. It’s not (I take him to be asserting) a result of being German, or of being Nazis, or of being British, or of having had a boarding school education, or of being primitive, or of being advanced, or of being white, or of being black, but rather a result of propensities of our nature which have (at a minimum) been universal since we (sapiens) took the place of the Neanderthals. The things he’s saying about the boys (and also the man, at the end) in The Lord Of The Flies are (he’s saying in The Inheritors) things that go back at least that far. The low-technology examples of sapiens in the The Inheritors and the high-technology examples of sapiens in The Lord Of The Flies have the same nature and the same propensities. If you wanted to find something different, you would need to go at least as far back as the Neanderthals.

To repeat myself, that’s what I take to be his intention: there’s nothing surprising about a book escaping its author’s intentions.

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Kiwanda 11.13.19 at 6:14 pm

J-D:

Nothing can be known of psychological differences between sapiens and Neanderthals, ..

Don’t let stevenjohnson read you saying that.

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