Richard Beard (2021) Sad Little Men: Private Schools and the Ruin of England, London: Harvill Secker
In 1975, as a child, Richard Beard was sent away from his home to sleep in a dormitory. So were David Cameron and Boris Johnson.
In those days a private boys’ boarding school education was largely the same experience as it had been for generations: a training for the challenges of Empire. He didn’t enjoy it. But the first and most important lesson was to not let that show.
Being separated from the people who love you is traumatic. How did that feel at the time, and what sort of adult does it mould?
This is a story about England, and a portrait of a type of boy, trained to lead, who becomes a certain type of man. As clearly as an X-ray, it reveals the make-up of those who seek power – what makes them tick, and why.
Sad Little Men addresses debates about privilege head-on; clearly and unforgettably, it shows the problem with putting a succession of men from boarding schools into positions of influence, including 10 Downing Street. Is this who we want in charge, especially at a time of crisis?
It is a passionate, tender reckoning – with one individual’s past, but also with a national bad habit.
Mark Stibbe (2021) Home at Last: Freedom from Boarding School Pain, Milton Keynes: Malcolm Down Publishing
Sent away to boarding school on his eighth birthday, Mark Stibbe watched his adoptive parents drive down a gravel road, leaving him standing in front of a huge country house with his trunk and his teddy.
That night, already confused and frightened, he was given the first of four beatings in his first two weeks. This trauma of abandonment and abuse was to scar Mark’s life until his fifties, when divorce forced him to deal with what he calls his “boarded heart”. In this ground-breaking book, Mark argues that there are many thousands of wounded people, men and women who suffer throughout their lives with homesick souls. This often leads to them being driven to succeed in their work while failing to engage emotionally at home.
Arguing that boarding schools are orphanages for the privileged, Home At Last is split into two parts. The first part looks at four deep impacts to the soul: desertion, deprivation, disengagement and dependency. The second part embraces the four corresponding stages of the healing journey: revelation, restoration, re-connection and recovery. They must be experienced if former boarders are to enjoy the long-awaited end to their spiritual winter.
While the author interprets this reclamation religiously as a return to the Father, it does not have to be seen this way – whatever the reader’s beliefs, it is a homecoming.
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