Posts Tagged ‘Upper Middle Classes’

Bullying, Starvation and Death in 19th Century Public and Boarding Schools

September 26, 2019

There’s a strong mood in the Labour party for the abolition of the public schools. Unlike in America, where the public schools are the state schools, the term over this side of the Atlantic mean the network of extremely expensive private schools educating the children of the aristocracy and the upper middle classes. It’s from them and their ethos that elite derive some of their power and sense of entitlement through the social solidarity and networks these schools provide. Private Eye in its review of a book on Eton in the 1980s commented acidly on a statement by one former Eton schoolboy, now an Anglican bishop, that looking at the numbers of other old Etonians now in leading positions in the government, civil service and society, he felt the whole world was Eton. Another said that if he found out a man hadn’t been to Eton, he wasn’t sure why, but for some reason he thought less of him.

But it wasn’t always like this. Before Matthew Arnold turned up at Rugby in the 1840s, the Public Schools had a very poor reputation. They were notorious for a very narrow curriculum that concentrated almost exclusively on the classics, vicious bullying and vain attempts to keep order among their charges through sadistic flogging. As well as immorality.

I found these passages, describing the abysmally low standards in them in Andrina Stiles, Religion, Society and Reform 1800 1914 (London: Hodder & Stoughton 1995).

Some of the endowed schools had begun to take boarders quite early on. Rugby for instance, which had originally been founded in the sixteenth century as a free grammar school for local boys, evolved in this way into the 19th century public school. Conditions before 1840 in public schools left much to be desired. A narrow classical curriculum, poor housing and food, harsh discipline and a low moral tone characterised life there. Violence and bullying were common. By the middle of the century the situation was improving and public school values were changing, for several reasons. One of these was the arrival of Thomas Arnold at Rugby in 1829.

(p. 74).

Nevertheless there was still disquiet about the narrow curriculum of the public schools a generation later in 1861:

No Latin or Greek may make Mast Jack a dull boy, but Latin and Greek without anything else go far towards making him a very dullard. Parents are beginning to feel this and to ask whether a skinful of classical knowledge with a little birching thrown in for nothing is worth the two hundred a year the pay for a boy at Eton.

A Royal Commission under Lord Clarendon was appointed to examine the revenues, management and curriculum in the nine chief public schools. Its report in 1864 was more favourable than might have been expected. It agreed though that there was still an undue emphasis on the classics and added that the schools ‘are in different degrees too indulgent to idleness, or struggle ineffectually with it, and consequently send out a large proportion of men of idle habits and empty uncultivated minds’. A number of reforms were suggested and some of these, mostly organisational ones, were incorporated in the Public Schools Act of 1868. The effects were limited for the schools were not made subject to government inspection and each remained virtually independent. As for broadening the curriculum, little was done.

(p. 75).

But if standards in the public schools were low, those in the middle class private schools were potentially lethal.

Many parents wishing to protect their boys from the dangers of the public school, or not able to afford the fees to send them there, turned to private boarding schools. These varied widely in competence, were often quite small, and had a more liberal curriculum than the public or grammar schools. The pupils were usually better supervised and better housed than in the public schools, though this was not always the case and some private schools were very badly run, with a high death rate among the pupils from disease, malnutrition and general neglect.

(p. 76).

With this history, it’s amazing that the private sector still has the social cachet to demand respect, and old Etonians like David Cameron and Boris Johnson hold them up for emulation from the state sector. One of those two charmers declared that they’d like every school to be like Eton. This was in a speech promising further privatisation of state education. Well, every school probably could become like Eton, if it had the amount of money spent on it Eton has from the fees it charges elite parents. But as its the state sector, they get nowhere near the funding and resources they need and deserve. If we really want to create a strong state education system that provides a good schooling for everyone, then the myth of private school excellence has to be disproven and their privileged place removed even if the schools themselves aren’t abolished.

 

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Will Killary and the Generals Get Their War with Russia?

March 27, 2018

The news yesterday that a number of EU countries had followed Britain’s lead and expelled Russian diplomats is alarming. This is ratcheting up the tension with Russia to Cold War levels. Despite the lack of definitive evidence that the Russians were behind the poisoning of the Skripals, May and nearly the rest of the countries in the EU have decided that Putin is responsible. And I’m afraid that the tensions they’re fomenting will ultimately lead to war.

Killary began all this nonsense about Russia interfering in western elections as a way of diverting blame from herself for his massive failure to convince Americans to vote her. She’s a horrible candidate – a massively privileged, neoliberal corporatist, who has absolutely no sympathy for the working class, and whose policies on drugs with her husband actively damaged the Black community. She took working class votes for granted and didn’t even bother to campaign in many traditional Democrat states. Instead, she did what Blair did over here and went chasing the upper and upper-middle classes. As a result, she alienated many voters, who would otherwise have voted Democrat. She did get a million or so votes more than Trump, but lost through the machinations of the Electoral College, a very undemocratic institution that was originally set up to allow slave-holding states to count their slaves as less than human so they would have voting equality with free states. She could have blamed the electoral and demanded its abolition. Many others have. But she didn’t. Obviously, she’s quite happy with that very undemocratic part of the American electoral system.

Unable to accept her responsibility for losing the election, and a strong supporter of the status quo, she turned to blaming Russia. In doing so, she joined a number of far right organisations, including eugenicist groups founded by former Nazis, who believed that the poor and Blacks are biologically unfit and so should be denied state welfare. And even before she lost the election, she showed a very strong hostility to Russia.

From reading articles in Counterpunch, it appears that the current policy in the White House and the Pentagon is for ‘full spectrum dominance’. That means that America should be the world’s only superpower, with an unchallenged military dominance of the rest of the world. What America, and its elite leader, including Hillary Clinton, fear is the rise of the multipolar world. They cannot tolerate the emergence of political and economic rivals, such as Russia, or China, or India, for that matter. Hence the massive increase in military spending. Under Obama’s administration, Hillary’s foreign policy towards Russia and China was militantly hostile and she seemed keen to ramp hostility to both these nations to dangerous levels.

And on this side of the Pond, various NATO generals also forecast war with Russia. One of them, a deputy-head of NATO, actually had a book published a couple of years ago entitled 2017: War with Russia, in which he predicted last year that Russia would invade Latvia, and this would spark a war between Russia and NATO. He predicted it would all happen last May. Fortunately, the month came and went and Russia didn’t. But NATO troops were massing on Russia’s borders, which would serve as a provocation to the Russians. Russia is encircled by NATO bases, and has sent military advisers to the Fascist regime in Ukraine.

As I’ve blogged many times before, much of this renewed American hostility to Russia has nothing to do with concerns about democracy and human rights. It’s purely economic. The American multinationals that poured millions into backing Yeltsin at the end of the Cold War did so in the expectation that the ensuing massive privatisation of Russian state assets would allow them to dominate the Russian economy. But Putin has stopped that. Thus the massive corporate anger against Putin’s Russia. Putin is a thug, who has his critics and opponents beaten and killed, but that’s not the reason the American political elite and their counterparts over here hate him.

I’m very much afraid that this latest round of expulsions will end by creating more tension, in a cycle that will end in a war with Russia, perhaps using a manufactured incident as a pretext for invading them. The pressure the government placed on Porton Down to state that the chemical used to poison the Skripals was definitely Russian is very, very similar to the pressure Blair and his cronies put on MI6 to ‘sex up’ the dodgy dossier and claim that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction that he could launch within 45 minutes. He didn’t. The British and American publics were lied to, and despite massive opposition the west invaded Iraq. And the result has been nearly two decades of chaos and carnage.

And I’m afraid the same process is going on here to create another war for the benefit of the American military-industrial complex and big corporations desperate to get their hands on Russian resources and industries.

It needs to be stopped. Now. Before war really does break out, a war that could see millions die, and our beautiful planet turned into an irradiated cinder.

‘Bomber’ Fallon and the Merchants of Death Arms Fair in London

September 17, 2017

Mike today has put up a piece over at Vox Political commenting on Michael Fallon’s speech yesterday at the DSEI arms fair in London. Fallon, who earned the monicker ‘Bomber’ because of a speech in which he declared that Britain had a moral duty to bomb the peoples of the Middle East, now went on to say that, thanks to Brexit, Britain’s future as the world’s leading arms exporter looked good. And that we should try to sell armaments to anyone in the world, regardless of morality.

Mike makes the point that Fallon’s comments are insensitive, coming as they do when Britain is selling arms to Saudi Arabia, which is using it to kill innocent civilians, including children in schools and madrasas, in Yemen. And Saudi Arabia has no qualms whatsoever against using such armaments against us. 17 of the 19 people involved in the 9/11 hijacking were Saudis, and the trail of responsibility for that atrocity goes right up to the top of the Saudi government itself.

http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/09/17/warmonger-fallon-wants-the-uk-to-sell-arms-to-anyone-who-wants-them/

This weekend’s Counterpunch also carries an article by Michael Dickinson, ‘Stop the London Death Fair’, about the DSEI trade fair and its dealings with some of the world’s most evil and repressive governments. It begins

Roll up! Roll up! Ballistic missiles and hand grenades! Drones, helicopters and warships! Rocket launchers, tanks and assault rifles! Welcome to the biennial London Arms Fair! Showing now until 15th September at the Excel Centre in Docklands, the Defence Systems and Equipment International (DSEI) – “a world-leading event that brings together the defence and security sector to innovate and share knowledge” – presents one of the world’s biggest arms bazaars, displaying the latest high-tech arms and surveillance technology, crowd control and weaponry. This year the exhibition is split into five key zones: air, land, security and joint, all showcasing the latest equipment and systems. DSEI is organised by Clarion Events, with extensive cooperation from the British government.

Military personnel, politicians, private defence contractors and consultants mingle as they shop. Countries accused of war crimes and human rights abuses, Algeria, Angola, Colombia, Iraq, Oman, Qatar, Pakistan, Turkey, the UAE, and Ukraine are among the invited. Although not an official guest, the Israeli arms industry has special pavilions at the venue, where over 34,000 visitors are expected to view the latest in killing weaponry for sale, exhibited by more than 1,600 arms companies, including the US and UK giants Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Raytheon and BAE Systems.

With authoritarian regimes such as Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain and Azerbaijan among the official UK government guests in attendance, this year’s keynote speakers at the opening day conference included British Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon, International Trade Secretary Liam Fox and many of the top brass in the UK military establishment. Fox said that overseas governments had an inaliable right to defend themselves and that if they could not buy the equipment they required from developed countries with effective controls, like the UK, they would look elsewhere. Last year Britain’s arms export industry turned over 3 billion pounds.

Andrew Smith, a spokesman from the activist group Campaign Against the Arms Trade (CAAT) said: “DSEI is one of the biggest arms fairs in the world. It exists purely to maximise arms sales. Prime Minister Theresa May and her colleagues may talk about promoting human rights but DSEI could not happen without the full support of government. A lot of the regimes in attendance have been linked to terrible human rights abuses, and events like DSEI only make them more likely in future. It is vitally important to spread as much awareness as possible of this terrible arms fair taking place. ”

https://www.counterpunch.org/2017/09/15/stop-the-london-death-fair/

Conservative governments, including Margaret Thatcher’s, keenly supported the British arms industry, and this policy was taken over, along with just about everything else, by Tony Blair and New Labour. It’s hardly surprising. George Orwell remarked when he finally gave up his anti-War stance in the face of the Nazi threat, and went to work for the BBC writing anti-Nazi and pro-war material, that if you’re a member of the British upper and upper middle classes, you’re bred for war. This has always been true, ever since the modern armed forces emerged from the military aristocracies of the Middle Ages. The officer elite has always been solidly middle class, although there has been some efforts to make it more diverse.

The government has tried to defend its massive support for the arms industry by arguing that arms sales open up foreign markets to British industry generally. After buying some of that ‘wonderful kit’ David Cameron enthused about, foreign nations would go on to buy other British products and services. But they don’t. They buy British weapons, tanks and other pieces of hardware, and nothing else.

And the British ruling class, its politicians and senior civil servants, also stand to benefit personally from the arms trade. Private Eye for decades has exposed the revolving door between the MOD and British defence ministers, and the arms industry, in which British generals and officials find very lucrative places on the boards of defence contractors and arms manufacturers once they retire or leave office.

As for the private military contractors, previously known as mercenaries, that the British government has supported, these have been used by the Tories to give unofficial support to regimes, where it would have been otherwise embarrassing for Britain to send in the regular army. Like Sri Lanka.

It hardly needs stating that the arms industry is a deeply immoral trade, and that by lauding Britain’s role in it Fallon has shown the complete absence of any kind of moral consideration for the victims of these weapons and a complete indifference to the nature of the regimes he intends to sell them to.

As far as he’s concerned, war is a business. And business is good.

Close down the arms fair, and kick out Fallon and the rest of his vile government.