While reading an article in my association's Counselling Journal recently, it dawned on me that my site reflects only the acceptable side of school life. The article was titled, “The Best Years of Your Life?” The item examined the psychological implications of a form of education intended to be so. Yet showed how damaging it could be to the young person sent away to school. Indeed it states that no less than eleven articles of the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child which Britain signed in 1991 are contravened by sending a child to a Boarding School.
For many - many more than I had once believed - Boarding School was indeed the Colditz to which as boys we may have referred to it. Much more sinister than the jocular manner in which we intoned the word; because truly we were incarcerated in an institution as much as a building.
Of course there were dispensations - belying the facts - such as Exeats and Visiting Weekends (for those who were lucky enough to have visitors). Though in the former case the simple village life of Sherborne and its environs hardly reflected our home. Similarly the falseness of 'having a good time' and being spoiled by our parents on visits somehow made the comparison worse, because at the end of the day we had to return to school. As much a reminder of the feelings of abandonment and separation we experienced when we first arrived, rather than an oasis in mid-term. Remember those poor souls who believing they had escaped - as absconders they were dragged back by the authorities - demoralised further by that indignity.
The Holidays were sometimes quite daunting, not having seen family members or friends for 3 months or so and I for one often felt like a fish out of water for the first week or so while I got my bearings and got to know my friends again - catching up on all that they had done in my absence. For overseas students who were unable to return home and spent their holidays in Eastbourne, though I am sure had some fun, were to be even less connected to their families.
Since I started the school website several years ago I have attended all the Reunions I was aware of. I have discovered a significant number of old boys whose lives have been distorted by the experience of Boarding School, by enduring the terrors associated with being separated from their families by well meaning parents.
Remember the way our letters were censored to make sure we did not write anything that could upset our parents and guardians - anything that might cause our fee payers to remove us from school.
Remember too the harsh punishments endured because there was no one to champion for us. When the culprit or culprits did not have the courage to own up then the whole group, Dorm, class or even school were punished en mass.
Think of the absolute power the Headmaster had while we were in his 'safe custody.' Such was the power, the abuse. I should not single him out because other names come to mind who I am sure administered cane, slipper or ruler more for their own satisfaction than as an appropriate punishment. What we needed was love and care especially in the pre-teen years not the overzealous disregard for our nurture. They say bullies are bred from fear - fear perhaps that if they did not keep us in line we would revolt; indeed in the declining years of the school I understand this is what happened.
All this considered it is not surprising that so few of the Old Boys actually have an interest in attending Reunions - for many it would be masochistic to consider the associations that come to mind when talking about the old days - for those who can remember the abuse, for others who repressed it just an uncomfortable feeling.
There were as many of you who were thousands of miles away as tens or hundreds. If you can identify with just 1/10th of what I am saying, I urge you to go to this self help website "boardingschoolsurvivors.co.uk" to find out how you and others like you can be released from the internal prison that you now find yourselves in. A prison you have built as protection for your emotions.
If you require counselling and its never too late to ask for help, go to the British Association for Counselling & Psychotherapy site and Find a Therapist in your area.
Roundheads and Cavaliers:
When I first came to the school I was asked by someone in my dorm "Are you a Roundhead or a Cavalier?" I quickly discovered to what they were referring. An abuse in the form of mutilation may have been part of our lives a long time before we first attended King's School.
On Sunday Morning Live (1 July 2012), the question of whether Circumcision should be made illegal was discussed. I am aware that the practise is performed as part of the teachings of more than one faith and I do not wish to enter into that aspect. I am only concerned about the lasting effects on the lives of those who, at an age when they had no choice in the matter, through religious, medical or the vogue of the time, lost a small but significant part of their anatomty. For some this may have had little or no lasting consequence.
However for those who sufferred the trauma of the operation and/or have lived with the loss all their lives, there are organisations that can help like "15 Square - Giving men a choice", which I suggest to people of like mind and who understand. . What you choose to do with the information is entirely up to you. There will be no discussion of the subject in the Updates.