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This whole Eton vs Harrow thing - did OP have a point?

(48 Posts)
margaritaisland Thu 01-Aug-19 20:23:32

Actually I think OP was on to something with her post which was a stab at contrasting the sort of boys that tend to come out of Eton and Harrow, respectively. The OEs are for the most part maybe more geeky than the more spartan types to be found coming out of Harrow - we live near Harrow's sister school John Lyon (a different proposition entirely). Seems to me that a lot of parents will look to famous ex-pupils when trying to understand or have some sense of the school being a good fit for their child, and what the school may be able to offer in terms of moulding the child into something resembling a successful and world-ready adult at the end of their schooling.

We made a conscious decision to send our child to Sevenoaks, because we had a real sense of the sort of pupils it produces. DS was always strong in drama and we were at least aware that Dan Day-Lewis was a former pupil. The majority of pupils had a warmth and compassion that we didn't detect in the pupils at the other home counties boarding schools we considered. All parents are making these calculations and considering these inane and unscientific aspects when touring the schools.

You'll also find a considerable number of nouveau riche European and Chinese parents at most top independents who are deciding on a school, at least in part, in terms of aspects like the school's tradition, the accent the child will acquire, the prestige, what a typical old boy looks like and how they conduct themselves (the mannerisms, coded words and language, secret handshakes and all the rest of it).

I will say that OEs are quite annoyingly bashful on the whole - which is a complete pretense IMO - and I personally prefer the way that Harrovians own their sense of superiority. I have to change the channel whenever Tom Hiddleston or Edward Redmayne are on the box (The pair of them are just continually virtue signalling what nice, down to earth young men they are, which just comes across as very contrived and false to me personally).

I guess in terms of taking the conversation forward, it would be interesting to discuss the extent to which parents focus on these inane considerations in selecting schools for their children; and whether the top fee-paying institutions are self-promoting via the achievements of their ex-pupils. Are these schools manipulating and moulding their pupils to possess certain traits which imbue them with a sense of what it means to be an Etonian, Harrovian, Sennockian or whatever. Are these traits detectable, recognisable or sought after in the professions? The stuttering, slightly nervous disposition, unkempt of appearance, and bashfulness that one might detect in OEs Hiddleston, Redmayne and Johnson, or the borderline brashness and boundless confidence in Harrovians ala Cumberbatch and Laurence Fox, could suggest there is a point or at least something worthy of discussion in the OP's post.

OP’s posts: |
BubblesBuddy Fri 02-Aug-19 01:05:38

If anyone chooses a school based on well known old boys, they are, quite simply, barking! These men are unique one offs.

Weskit Fri 02-Aug-19 01:10:42

So, you’re picking schools based on the self-presentation styles of actor old boys. I’ve really heard it all now.

Marmighty Fri 02-Aug-19 01:17:34

Thanks OP, I was feeling a bit low but this preposterous thread has really cheered me up

Alislia17 Fri 02-Aug-19 03:24:26

Message deleted by MNHQ. Here's a link to our Talk Guidelines.

CruCru Fri 02-Aug-19 08:50:58

I think I see what you mean. A friend’s son went to one of the schools you mention and she said that part of the reason she’d chosen it was that she knew some older boys and men who had gone there and liked how they went about the world. It is quite rare to know lots of old boys from all sorts of famous public schools so you just had to go on what you do know about them.

CuckooCuckooClock Fri 02-Aug-19 08:59:00

This has to be satire. Hilarious

Mugglingstrum Fri 02-Aug-19 09:24:28

Think Marga is yanking our collective chains.

batvixen123 Fri 02-Aug-19 09:32:15

I sort of see where you're coming from. I think looking at famous old boys is maybe taking it a bit far but I was definitely raised with a sense that some schools tended to have alumni with certain traits. DH went to Winchester and I remember the minute he said that I thought "of course you did".

I can see how if you didn't know a lot of lads from those schools you'd look at those high profile old boys you could at least see appearing in public.

LaMarschallin Fri 02-Aug-19 09:42:01

They turned out a remarkable sort of gel at my finishing school.
Lots of useful tips. None of this "how to get out of a Ferrari without flashing your knickers" rubbish.
We learned the best way to get into a Ferrari was flashing your knickers first.

Seriously, it's hard to believe any schools could be such sausage machines as to keep churning out instantly recognisable clones. A friend of mine went to Benendon and certainly doesn't have a whiff of Princess Anne about her.

nolanscrack Fri 02-Aug-19 09:47:40

Marga -I think its wonderful that Daniel played such a key role in you selecting Sevenoaks,I presume you will also be leaving Sevenoaks after a couple of years (like Daniel) because your son will hate it and move to Bedales and in later life have great things to say about Bedales and nothing good to say about Sevenoaks?

If you knew the slightest thing about Eton you'd know there is no such thing as a typical Etonian ,the school is large enough and diverse enough for every boy to be what they want.

JoJoSM2 Fri 02-Aug-19 11:53:01

I’d hope parents have sth to do with how their children turn out and not just the school...

Mominatrix Fri 02-Aug-19 12:57:39

I think people who judge a school based on alumni are similar to members of the general public who base/lambast a school based on alumni. Why are people damning parents who determine their opinion towards a school with a famous alumni whilst accepting that the general public also judge schools based on the products of said school. Both are incorrect, and one only hopes that potential parents would do a bit more research on a school which they would be paying significant amounts of money to educate their child, but the basis is the same.

I read on many threads condemnations of entire schools based on some alumni the poster has casually met or reads about and these judgements are seen as valid and few question the accuracy of these prejudices.

BubblesBuddy Sat 03-Aug-19 00:55:55

Few think anecdotes are valid. Most posters say go and have a look! Schools change and perceptions might be wrong.

Zodlebud Sat 03-Aug-19 01:04:54

But people judge schools on things like leaver destinations which is surely the same thing? If your child is academic then some parents will actively seek those schools with a high % of Oxbridge admissions. Basing decisions because a certain person attended would be extremely naive

We all had a good laugh at the OP but in reality it’s all a bit close to home.

BubblesBuddy Sat 03-Aug-19 04:16:12

Leaver destinations is lots and lots of DC. Possibly several hundred each year. Yes, there might be trends in academic destinations but that’s only part of what a top school might be able to help DC achieve. That’s not quite the same as a handful of well known actors and politicians spanning 25 plus years. When did Daniel Day Lewis go to school, exactly?

Utility Sat 03-Aug-19 08:31:41

This thread is brilliant: satire of the highest order.
Though it prompted me to have a look at alumni of Sevenoaks School on Wikipedia. Many that most people won't have heard of, but also Clive Dunn! A true British legend.

TonTonMacoute Sat 03-Aug-19 19:46:51

Are these schools manipulating and moulding their pupils to possess certain traits

No, I don't think so for a minute. They tend to encourage boys to make the best of themselves, play to their strengths and learn to manage their weaknesses. Both schools are hundreds of years old and have old boys of all types. Remember that the only ones we ever hear of are the ones who become famous, the vast majority don't. You can't judge a school on the time minority who make it big.

My DS went to Eton. His prep school headmaster recommended it, we went to see it and loved it, and felt it would be a brilliant fit for him - as indeed it was.

One of his friends had a younger brother who was at Harrow, because he preferred it to Eton, and so his parents thought he would do better there. Another friend chose Eton because of the outstanding music department. You should match the child with the school, the ambiance, the staff you meet, how good the sport/drama/music departments are, and various other factors.

You would be mad to make the choice based on famous old boys, and I never met any other parent who even thought of such a thing.

Arewedone Sun 04-Aug-19 15:47:28

I read this thread in jest to my ds who applied the broad assumption made by Op and it surprised me he thought there was a grain of accuracy in the idea that public schoolboys do generally conform to the culture of the school in the way they talk/dress/compose themselves. He reminded me of an old family friend from Malaysia that sent their son to Eton and after 5 years looked and behaved very foppish/ English.
I think though you would be barking mad to make that the sole criteria for school selection.

backinthebox Sun 04-Aug-19 15:56:29

I'm fairly sure the OP didn't mean to be quite as hilarious as she is, but thanks for the excellent tea break reading. I'm posting though mainly to say I've actually met Eddie Redmayne in a private setting and he wasn't virtue signalling what a nice person he was, he really was a nice person.

We get a lot of public schoolboys round where I live, and I find the best way to tell which school they went to is to wait for about 5 minutes and eventually they'll bellow 'I go/went to XXX school, you know!'

Utility Sun 04-Aug-19 17:27:02

Backinthebox, have you ever met anyone who bellowed that they went to Sevenoaks?

ShrodingersRat Sun 04-Aug-19 21:11:05

Shi-I-iiii-t A former pupil of my Dc’s school is on remand pending murder trial shock

Shall I hire a lawyer now? What can I do? Dare I wait til the A level results are out and we find out whether his school have ‘produced ‘ an undergraduate at a prestigious Uni on a competitive course ? confused

stucknoue Sun 04-Aug-19 21:25:49

The fact that people want to send their kids away to school at 13 or younger is what concerns me most of all. DD's ex boarded from 8, that's just a little kid ... whether they produce geeks, sporty types or actors is ignoring the fact that many early boarders were sent for their parents convenience and have emotional attachment issues. Dd boarded from 16 at her own choice, kids need their parents every night.

backinthebox Sun 04-Aug-19 23:24:28

Utility tbf no. Mostly seems to be Radley. But that's probably because it's nearby.

Another thought I had - I work in a profession that on another current MN thread is described as being solely the preserve of posh, rich men, but I haven't met a single Etonian, Harrovian or indeed anyone who went to anyone else who went to a posh expensive boys' school while I've been working in my job. Maybe as a common female member of the working classes I naturally repel them, like rain on a windshield?

AutumnCrow Sun 04-Aug-19 23:26:46

I went to St Cake's

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