Thursday 20 April 2023

Public schools: stupidity and awfulness of

Today, the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry published its report (pdf, 200 pages; will forward to anyone interested) on the bad, horrible, minor public school I went to in the 1960s. Loretto. Violence, bullying, sexual abuse and a culture of silence. I myself was not actively abused (unless I count being told to bend over so that a boy two years older could cane my arse because I had walked on grass or put my hands in my pockets: compared to what others suffered, this was the everyday norm). I got off lightly. I survived (survival is random).

Two years ago, up in Edinburgh, I went out to that school and I stood outside the building in which an invited speaker from South Africa told us how apartheid was necessary and good, and I looked from the street (private property: nearer would be trespass) at the building – that window, that room – in which I put a knife to my wrist and wondered and took it away because I am a coward. I still have that Boy Scout knife. In my desk drawer.

Loretto is not Eton but it is part of the private-school, public-school delivery system for prime ministers that needs total dismantling. Star old boys from that school include a Formula 1 racing champion and a Tory MP (and Solicitor General for Scotland) accused of sexual assault and child rape.

In my last year at that school I was anorexic (without knowing it; diagnosed later). I withdrew. I was feeling but didn’t know how to express, articulate. No one to express to. Culture of silence. Still don’t know. Today, telling a friend who phoned about what I’d been reading today, I only realised how angry I am – not just the ruined lives but how damaged people go on to damage others – when I started breaking up.

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