Teachers With Guns

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It’s funny how little things bring to mind old memories. When President Trump floated the idea of arming teachers to protect children, I vividly remembered my first day at high school in the north of England. All the new boys were herded into a lecture theatre and briefed by the teacher whose duties also included running the Lost Property Office.

We were told that the teachers were Masters and we were to address them as ‘Sir’. We would be addressed by our surnames, followed by our initials where there were two of more boys with the same surname, and we were not to fasten any but the middle buttons of our blazers: top and bottom buttons were only for show. Oh, and while in uniform outside the school grounds we were always to wear our caps.

There was to be no walking on the grass, and the path that offered a short-cut on the way to the cricket pavilion was out of bounds to all boys except sixth-formers. On reaching that pinnacle we would also be allowed to wear brown shoes instead of black and, in the summer months anyway, exchange our regulation caps for boaters.

At frequent intervals we were reminded how lucky we were to be admitted to such a good school.

All in all it sounded like a declaration of war. I can’t help thinking that, if our Masters had been armed, the boundary between corporal punishment and capital punishment would have got blurred pretty quickly.

Elitism

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We used to own a Mitsubishi Magna Elite. It was a very comfortable car, but from the day we bought it (second-hand) it gave us trouble: too many bells and whistles that could go wrong. But who would label a car ‘Elite’ now? Elite, with or without an acute accent, is a dirty word. Elitism is even worse.

Tory Shepherd, one of my favourite News Corp journalists (pictures below), condemned the condemnation of the elite in a well-written article today. Here’s a brief quote from it:

“… the meaning of “elite” has been expanded by angry populists. It is being commonly used to describe (derogatorily) anyone with any power or influence. Or education, or knowledge, or expertise. Elite is all bad, and the Common People are the new superior beings in this new world.”

toryshepherd nshute

You may wonder why Nevil Shute’s picture is alongside Tory’s. He wrote a book in 1953 – coronation year – called ‘In the Wet’, which was largely a diatribe against socialism. Most of the story was set in a future where Australia would have an electoral system in which the better educated and higher achievers had multiple votes. The maximum number of votes was seven, and the seventh vote could be awarded only by the sovereign. The ultimate formalisation of elitism. Perhaps no more then a recognition that people who are smart and successful always have more influence over decision-making than thick losers.

Or do they?

I look back on my own upbringing and education, which was undeniably elitist. I went to the best public school on Merseyside and then to Cambridge University where I joined the Officers’ Training Corps. And at every step I was made aware that I was privileged, and that with privilege came responsibility. I was being trained to serve society, and to see leadership as a form of service.

My original idea of being Prime Minister didn’t come to much, but I think I can claim to have tried to be of service to mankind, or at least to feel guilty about not trying hard enough.

Anyway, I am now firmly of the view that every society needs an elite, which should be selected early enough to be imbued with the ideal of service. This is exactly what happens to every member of the Royal Family of course. (And don’t say, “Which royal family?”!) I refer you to Plato’s Republic, if you haven’t already read it.