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Part Three

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Since 1960s Eton has changed a lot. Modem Eton is less of a hot­house, less self-involved and all consuming. Now two incidents of bullying a younger boy can result in expulsion. Corporal punishment is banned. The boys are allowed out more on weekends. A Muslim tutor was recently appointed. The role of women is still peculiar: with the ex­ception of teachers’ wives, the few present are mainly “dames” who run the domestic side of the boarding houses and maids. But there are a few women teachers and more are coming. Next year there will be a female housemaster in College.

The headmaster, who signs his name “Tony”, thinks Eton is “more outward looking, more diverse and kinder” than it used to be.

If so, that has helped those who leave it. A senior headhunter, John Viney of Zygos Partnership, says the job market has noticed the change in the school. Many Etonians used to be captains of industry; from the 1970s they fell out of favor as the Jess hidebound products of state schools and university growth re­placed them. Viney says public schools like Eton have money, good teachers, the kids get every opportu­nity, and they come out quite confi­dent. The Eton network helps, but “even if you’re bright, you’re not going to get anywhere without ef­fort,” says Viney.

Eton is adapting to the times — it is embarking on a campaign to of­fer more financial aid. Already 13% of boys receive help because their parents can’t afford to pay in full, worth on average half their fees. That costs the school about $4 million a year-out of income from an endow­ment of $315 million. To raise the share of students getting aid to about 30%, Eton wants to boost its en­dowment by at least $90 million. Money by itself won’t be enough to bridge the social chasm that keeps many boys from hearing about Eton or thinking they could possibly fit in there. Only two or three enter each year from state schools. An existing program to identify and help needy but smart 10-year-olds to give them private schooling before entry is aimed at only five boys per year. It often doesn’t get that many. Never­theless, more money is the essential first step to broadening the base of the student body. Little says many alumni are enthusiastic about con­tributing to the capital fund if it will expand access.

Outside the school, the best test of its success comes from fair-minded observers. “If Eton were a business, it would have opened 20 more and be expanding the brand everywhere,” says Geoff Mulgan, head of the Young Foundation. Other schools are doing just that. Now 5-7% of Eton students are foreign, and the boys’ range of nationalities and ethnicities is increasing. But Eton’s leaders do not aspire to build an empire. On their own turf, their goal is to pre­serve quality, reform slowly, and set an example others will want to fol­low. That 1,300 boys can swim in Eton’s bounty when millions of Brit­ish teenagers cannot is in some sense unfair. Nevertheless, Little says that his friends who are state-school headmasters “tend to be rather pleased that places like Eton exist. They’re a point of reference for what you can do if you have the money; of something that can be moved to­ward.”

He has a point; it is unlikely — to put it at its very lowest — that Britain would be hurt if all its schools aspired to teach and treat their students with the same respect as Eton displays. Those who graduate from Eton will always have a good start in life. But they need not be snobs. And, as the school has a big chance to prove, they need not all be privileged when they show up.

Adapted from JF. O. McAllister, Time


Reference Material

The Duke of Wellington rose to prominence as a general during the Peninsular campaign of the Napoleonic Wars. Following Napoleon’s exile in 1814, he served as the ambassador to France and was granted a dukedom. During the Hundred Days in 1815, he commanded the allied army which, with a Prussian army under В Richer, defeated Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo. He was twice prime minister under the Tory party. He then continued as one of the leading figures in the House of Lords until his retirement. He remained Commander-in-Chief of the British Army until his death.

Percy Bysshe Shelley was one of the major English Romantic poets and is criti­cally regarded among the finest lyric poets in the English language. Shelley was famous for his association with John Keats and Lord Byron. He became an idol of the next three or even four generations of poets, including the im­portant Victorian and Pre-Raphaelite poets. He was admired by Karl Marx, Oscar Wilde, Thomas Hardy, George Bernard Shaw, Bertrand Russell, William Butler Yeats, Upton Sinclair and Isadora Duncan.

George Orwell — Eric Arthur Blair, better known by his pen name George Orwell, was an English author and journalist. His work is marked by keen intelligence and wit, a profound awareness of social injustice, an intense opposition to totalitarianism, a passion for clarity in language, and a belief in democratic socialism. Orwell wrote fiction, polemical journalism, literary criticism and poetry. He is best known for the dystopian novel Nineteen Eighty-Four (published in 1949) and the satirical novella Animal Farm (1945). Orwell’s influence on contemporary culture, popular and political, continues decades after his death. Several of his neologisms, along with the term “Orwellian” — now a byword for any authoritarian or manipulative social phenomenon opposed to a free society — have entered the language.

Hugh Laurie is an English actor, voice artist, comedian, writer, musician, re­cording artist, and director. He is well known in the media along with his friend and comedy partner Stephen Fry for the film Jeeves and Wooster. Since 2004, he has played Dr Gregory House in House.

Henry VI was King of England from 1422 to 1461 and again from 1470 to 1471, and disputed King of France from 1422 to 1453. Henry’s one lasting achievement was his fostering of education. He founded both Eton College and King’s College, Cambridge. King’s College Chapel and Eton College Chapel respectively each consisted of a late Gothic or Perpendicular-style church with a monastic and/or educational foundation attached. Each year on the anniversary of Henry VI’s death, the Provosts of Eton and King’s College, Cambridge lay white lilies and roses, the floral emblems of those colleges, on the spot in the Wakefield Tower at the Tower of London where the imprisoned Henry VI was, according to tradition, murdered as he knelt at prayer.

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