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The Presence of Social Elitism in English Boarding Schools

Posted: 22/01/2013 14:52

As I am steadily approaching the end of my secondary school career, and looking towards university life, I have reflected on what has been, quite frankly, an incredibly banal experience. When I left primary school at the age of eleven I joined a state school for a year, where I had a relatively normal experience, halfway through my first year in a suburban state school, I was presented with the opportunity to attend a boarding school. The fees for the school were in the region of £29,000 per year, which, bearing in mind the average salary in the UK is £27,547, is an incredibly large amount of money.

My family would not be able to afford half of that a year, let alone the full fee, so when I was offered the education at this school for free, I jumped at the idea, and so did my family. So there I was, at an expensive, 'first class' boarding school, and due to the nature of my being there, I was incredibly grateful. The problem however, is that there is a dark side to the British boarding school system, which is nothing like the homo-erotic hazing and initiation of the 20th Century that everyone associates with boarding life. After reading Mehdi Hasan's blog post about Private schools, it struck me that here are numerous worrying issues that can be found within private boarding schools that I have experienced, but some of them seem more prominent and disturbing than all the others. This article will discuss extravagance, egos and elitism in British Boarding schools.

The percentage of foreign students has increased dramatically, and these are not your average exchange students, these are the sons and daughters of millionaires and billionaires across the globe, and when these students attend school with bursary students like me, it creates a real social divide, instilling these students with incredibly elitist attitudes.

It is not the foreign students themselves that are the problem, in fact some of them are perfectly normal and pleasant people, but with wealthy foreign students comes an increase in a frivolous attitude. These students and others from England, including day students are not humbled by their parents huge achievements but proudly display achievements they never made by parading round wearing the latest Gucci coats, in Prada shoes, tapping away at their iPhone's, with the latest MacBook in their Louis Vuitton bag. These students have taken social elitism to the max, and as the numbers of these types of people increased, this extravagant anomaly, became a normality, to the point where you can be ostracised, purely by the clothes on your back, and the amount of money in your wallet (or in their case, on their credit cards.).

It is quite scary as an adolescent, living in an environment where any form of individuality can often be completely stripped away, and people become defined purely by material possessions. This creates a social hierarchy, where the wealthiest and the people that display their wealth, take top spot. These schools are producing students with no social graces and no integrity, with plenty of money to splash, which is surely not the way to counter our social problems?

There are pretentious people in all walks of life, but when it is the majority it is interesting to note the type of environment it creates, and the dangers with this. When someone has more money than they need, they tend to spend it on things they don't need either. Necessity takes a back seat, and luxury becomes the motive for everything. Trips to London on the weekend, to go shopping, clubbing or to have lunch a regular occurrences, and coming from a background where going out to eat is a real treat and luxury, I find it frankly banal when a group of sixteen to eighteen year olds tell me they are all going to London for lunch.

The quality of education is what is quoted to be the reason behind these incredibly expensive fees. I am not in a position to call any of the teachers incompetent, but my younger brother left to go to a state grammar school this school year, and the average grade that students achieve is much higher in comparison to a school that charges huge fees for an 'exceptional education'.

This elitist regime that is presented in these schools is something that has to be stopped. These schools are breeding people who are under the impression that Kim Kardashian is more notable than Martin Luther King Jr and that in society there is no room for integrity or self-improvement, unless it involves fashion or money. I feel I am surrounded by hundreds of people that know the cost of everything and the value of nothing, and I am sure I am not alone. If we do not want generation after generation being controlled by these rich elitists then something has to be done, of course my scope is limited, but from what I hear from many others I have a feeling I am not alone.

 
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