Okay, so I’m just going to throw it out there. Boarding school is an abdication of responsibility. I challenge anyone out there to convince me (should they want to) that this is in the best interests of any child? And please don’t say it builds character. This is a peculiarly specious kind of reasoning. After all, this is in part the question. What kind of character does such an upbringing create? So the question remains, why would an independent day option be inferior to boarding? I leave the assumption that a private education is better unchallenged for now, although I’m sure there are many that would disagree.
There are for me uncomfortable parallels between this supposedly privileged child and one abandoned to the care system. Electing to allow you child sporadic home visits and a phone call instead of kiss goodnight is nothing short of insanity. I’m sure there are good people working within these places and I’m certain they have genuine care for the people in their charge, but this cannot replace the common place but powerful affection a mother and father have towards its child. Of course there is money behind one decision and some consideration of the child’s future (at least academically), but it is curiously detached. There is, after all, no need for such sacrifice. This is not a refugee placing their child on a boat leaving some war ravaged area. This is middle England. You can have your cake and eat it…attend the best school and still enjoy the security and joy of a family life. How is a child expected to not feel abandoned when this is precisely what has happened to them? How can a life regimented by meal times, prep times and break time nurture a sense of home and ultimately of self. The person we become are built from small moments…from the seemingly trivial…lounging about with the family in front of the box, chatting over supper about the day’s events, chasing a ball in the park with dad after school and going to sleep in your own bed in the knowledge that those who care about you more than anything in the world are feet away…ever vigilant sentinels devoted to keeping you safe.
Should the charge of sentimentality or hysteria be levelled against me, please take a moment to look at the sheer number of services and charities that are devoted to tackling the scars left behind by these experiences. Boardschoolrecovery.com cite common problems with substance abuse and overworking to the point of burn out. Another, Relatenow.co.uk, explains that many attendees of the boarding school system do not experience healthy dependent relationships as a child (such as with a parent) and as a result are unable to form healthy inter-dependent relationships in adult life. There is, they suggest a natural suppression instinct when it comes to developing feelings towards another, born from a fear that dependent relationships are not ‘safe’. In the same way there is, ingrained through years of boarding, a tendency to intellectualise or rationalise situations…to think feelings than feel them. In a relationship this can be interpreted as lack of care or authenticity. The effects of this are devastating.
I don’t want to bombard you with facts and figures. I simply want to reiterate the challenge. How can it be a good thing? It puts me in mind of something my friend said to me the other day and no doubt a million others have said the same. She recounted an incident in which her child had spilt paint all over the sofa. As she was dealing with it and scolding the child she suddenly stopped and thought to herself, ‘Oh God, I’ve become my mother.’ Of course, there is a note of horror in this recollection. Most of us do not want to become our parents. This is a natural progression. We still love them, but we have become separate beings. We come to perceive ourselves (perhaps necessarily so) as unique…and therefore we must therefore do something different to what came before. However, contained in that horror is also the affection we have for them, the recollection of the thousands of times we were scolded, held, talked to, consoled and worried about. This is at the heart of any home life. You take this way from an individual and you remove an important piece of what he or she might become.