A critique of Great Britain's elitist "public" school system, created centuries ago as a charity for the poor only to be hijacked by the upper class and turned into a pipeline for control of the nation's top jobs and government posts.
This private-education boom provides the starting point for Robert Verkaik’s calmly written, fair-minded but ultimately angry polemic against what we still call the public-school system ... Verkaik is skeptical about how much Labour would do, not least because Jeremy Corbyn’s circle is so infested with privately educated men; but he carefully analyzes the growing unease about this peculiarly British form of class division in the modern Tory party ... His book, crammed with facts and reminders and passionate argument, including from supporters of private education, is well worth reading. Some of it is highly contentious. At times, the author seems to believe that everything that has gone wrong with Britain is the fault of Eton and a clutch of other grand ivy-choked academies. This is easier to state than demonstrate ... The book is least convincing where Verkaik enjoys himself too much attacking easy targets—David Cameron’s admittedly remarkable network of chums, the Bullingdon club, Boris being endlessly Boris. All this is easily available elsewhere ... The strongest passages come when Verkaik goes after lesser-known targets, such as the private-school influence around Corbyn’s office and Momentum, and in shafts of historical insight that will surprise many.
Robert Verkaik’s new book Posh Boys is a detailed and damning history of the institutions that at once run and ruin Britain ... One weakness of Verkaik’s analysis is that it doesn’t really consider how the most traditional all-male schools like Eton differ from all-girls schools and co-ed schools. There is no doubt that girls in private schools, whether single sex or co-ed, benefit in similar ways from the improved chances of university access and the post-school network, but it’s still harder for professional women to accumulate wealth and power on a scale to match the entrenched advantages of their male counterparts ... Verkaik argues that 'pushy' middle-class parents are needed to pull up the standards of struggling state schools, and that the presence of their 'articulate, confident, able' children will help their less privileged peers. But this is a painfully one-sided view ... white, middle-class kids have just as much to gain from learning alongside children who are different from them.
In his fascinating, enraging polemic, Verkaik touches on one of the strangest aspects of the elite schools and their product’s domination of public life for two and a half centuries: the acquiescence of everyone else ... Verkaik’s larger theme is the toxification of British public life by the private school system and the injustice and inequality that educational apartheid based on wealth entails. But the blatant theft of public resources is the book’s sharpest point. From the very beginning the institutions— including St Paul’s, Winchester and Eton—have been hijacked by the wealthy, though they were plainly set up to benefit the poor ... Verkaik’s solution is 'slow and peaceful euthanasia.' He would suffocate the schools ... My money says private schools will survive: since the second world war successive governments have failed to curtail them in any significant way.