The Great Prep School Swizz

By Gold, Tanya | The Spectator, May 21, 2016 | Go to article overview

The Great Prep School Swizz


Gold, Tanya, The Spectator


Prep schools are a soul-sapping waste of money

I should have known the London prep school scene was a racket from the way parents talk about it. They sound mad. 'You're too late!' I was told by one mother, when my Little Face (not his real name) was nine months old, as if we had, by a whisker, missed the lifeboats at the Titanic . 'What schools are you considering?' asked a stranger in the playground. I muttered some names and she, a drab suburban Maleficent, cursed me. 'You'll be lucky,' she smiled, as I dreamed of laying a peculiarly north London curse of my own: 'May your child fail its A-levels.'

Even so, I put Little Face on waiting lists for prep schools, and write cheques. I do not have a complex defence for this. It is, for a leftist, hypocrisy. And because the marketing literature of these schools is skilled, I am grateful for the opportunity to write cheques and appear on waiting lists, although I am never sure, with sibling policies and old-boy policies and religious devotion policies, exactly what I am waiting for. The seduction of these schools is entirely dependent on the mirage that you will procure for your child something -- ideally everything -- that is denied to others. It is an arms race.

Then the first rejection comes. Little Face is not invited to interview for nursery at a famous London school, for reasons that are mysterious. (Little Face is very handsome and charismatic. He looks at The Spectator . He can say 'I love trucks!') He is a failure at two and a quarter, and this failure seems arbitrary, a guillotine.

Then: the first tour. Perhaps I am expecting my own first prep school, which emphasised ballet, flower-arranging and the correct use of napkin rings. They thought I was weird because I ate books, and I thought they were mad because they wanted me to dance round gardens en pointe while holding a napkin ring. So I cried and my mother, whose political trajectory began at Leon Trotsky and has now reached Boris Johnson, sent me to a proper prep school. There were boys, Latin lessons, a spaniel called Tarquin who lived in the kitchen and a staff who, in retrospect, were functionally alcoholic.

This one is a maze near Regents Park, and ugly; it smells of bleach. The headmaster is professionally charismatic; a showman. He tells the gathered parents -- and a solitary nanny promoted to school inspector -- about the seven-plus examination, with which small children are fed into fairy-tale schools: Westminster Under School; Colet Court; University College School. (Not UCS for Little Face. I once saw a 4ft-high UCS boy try to buy a lease on a Starbucks.) He talks about Mandarin and chess and violins and student-teacher ratios. He has -- and this is a disease that only prep school heads have -- a form of Tourette's syndrome that makes you say 'Westminster' all the time. This is the dream that makes north London parents' eyelids flicker in the dawn. St Paul's in Hammersmith is south of the river.

Hear this prayer, and you will forget that the best state schools now outperform the best private schools, as established by the editor of The Spectator when praising Tony Blair's reforms. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

The Great Prep School Swizz
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.