Monday, March 21, 2011

School Through the Ages: Robert Graves

(From Good-Bye to All That, by Robert Graves.)

I went to several preparatory schools, beginning at the age of six. The very first was a dame's school at Wimbledon, but my father, as an educational expert, would not let me stay there long. He found me crying one day at the difficulty of the twenty-three-times table, and disapproved of a question-and-answer history book that we used, which began:

Question: Why were the Britons so called?
Answer: Because they painted themselves blue.

Also, they made me do mental arithmetic to a metronome! I once wetted myself with nervousness under this torture. So my father sent me to King's College School, Wimbledon. ... My father took me away after a couple of terms because he heard me using naughty words, and because I did not understand the lessons.

... [My father] sent me to another preparatory school at Rugby ... I did not like the place. There was a secret about the Headmaster which some of the elder boys shared — a somehow sinister secret. Nobody ever let me into it, but he came weeping into the classroom one day, beating his head with his fists, and groaning: 'Would to God I hadn't done it! Would to God I hadn't done it!' My father took me away suddenly, a week later. The Headmaster, having been given twenty-four hours to leave the country, was succeeded by the second master — a good man ...

1 comment:

  1. It must have been a full-time job for Graves' father to monitor his son's school, take his son out of the school, and find the next one to send him to. I know the feeling!

    The same problems have been around forever: bad curricula, stressed-out kids, sexual abuse.

    Those Brits have a way with words, don't they? Even the diddling Headmaster has elegant syntax: "Would to God I hadn't done it!"