Child prodigies in sport
Child prodigies in sport

In an article in the Daily Mail of Saturday 8 December 2001 about an 11 year old girl, Henrietta Brockway, who has her sights set on a golfing career and aims to emulate Tiger Woods, her father is quoted as saying, 'Henrietta is an exceptional talent. Some people say we should put the brakes on for several years, but how can you stop a child who has set herself an ambition?'

Neither my father, nor any of the wicked people who were prepared to advise him to frustrate me, saw that as being any problem. I have often thought that musical or tennis prodigies are at an advantage compared with potential academic ones, because the possible financial rewards that may accrue in later life may exert some influence in encouraging parents to overcome their feelings of jealousy and their reluctance to arouse social disapproval. Unfortunately, my parents were idealistic in all the wrong ways, and however massive my future earnings might have been, they would have prided themselves on their indifference to such irrelevancies, even if I had been a musical or tennis prodigy instead of an academic one with no obvious prospects of anything better than a professorial salary.

My parents were always willing to forego the glittering prizes on my behalf, apparently as a gesture of asserting the superior importance of ... just what? I resented this, and thought that this was something you should not do on someone else's behalf. It did not appear that life had presented them with any opportunities to rise in the world, and the position they were in appeared to be the best they could have got, starting from very disadvantaged circumstances. If they had had, or ever would have, opportunities for high-flying ambition of any kind, and wished to pass them by in their assertion of the superior significance of something else, they were welcome to do so on their own behalf. But I did not see that they should make such a renunciation on my behalf.

The loss of a commercial motive in favour of considering one's offspring's wishes is another disadvantage of 'free' education. If parents are having to pay for their offspring to attend a certain school, they may at least see an advantage of economy in giving in to the offspring's demands to be removed from an actively damaging school situation. My parents would not have been saving money by allowing me to leave the Woodford County High School, but I am afraid they were too 'idealistic' to be influenced by such a financial consideration, even if it had been present in the situation, any more than they were by my total misery.

My misery, be it said, arose not only from the negativity of the daily experience of the rebarbative school environment, but from the horrific realisation of the damage being inflicted on my future career prospects. As my parents had always provided me with a heavily retarded programme of exam-taking, I had no further time to waste and now every further delay was seriously eroding my chances.

The direct paying of fees by parents not only requires them to have a genuine motivation for the decision to do so, whether what they are purchasing for their offspring is harmful or otherwise, but provides some safeguard against the destructiveness of the school to which they pay fees. A school which is dependent on

fee-paying parents has to consider their wishes to some extent, and parents are probably on average less tolerant of the total destruction of the prospects in life of their offspring than is the population at large, which resents the advantages that those with a good genetic endowment might have. 'The population at large' includes the functionaries of local education authorities and teaching staff at all levels. Why should they wish those they 'teach' (and, more importantly, make decisions about) to achieve entry to lives more happy and successful than they have themselves?

An Oxford graduate, who had been at a state comprehensive school and was living as an unemployed person with no obvious career prospects, although his IQ may well have been over 160, dismissed the possibility that teachers in schools might be jealous of their pupils on the grounds that, if they were, jealousy would be widespread. Many possible careers provided better lives than those of teachers, so if they were jealous of all those who might be more successful in life than they were themselves, they would have cause for jealousy against a high proportion of those over whose lives they exercised so much control and influence.

Another safeguard which is provided by direct parental fee-paying is that an independent school, however destructive its own attitudes towards a certain pupil, cannot be quite so uninhibitedly destructive towards his or her family as a state school or the state educational system which is paying the pupil's fees on the parents' behalf and hence considers itself as the owner both of the pupil's life and soul, and those of his or her parents. (He who pays the piper calls the tune.) Hence it is perfectly free to use any leverage it has to turn the parent against his offspring by encouraging him to frustrate and oppose its wishes and intentions, and will certainly attempt to turn the offspring against the parents by convincing him or her that any ambitions they have derive entirely from the evil influence of their parents. They can therefore best escape from the depressing situation in which the educational system has placed them by blaming their parents and abandoning their ambitions.

Thus direct fee-paying is a distinct safeguard against the destruction of family relationships and the lives and health of both pupil and parents.

The parents of high IQ pupils are very likely to have high IQs themselves, so they are objects of hostility in their own right. It is asserted as fact, and most people wish to believe, that IQ is not a meaningful concept and is not inherited. I resented very much the destruction of my parents' lives by the persecution of my father, although my parents had always willingly complied with the social requirement to frustrate me, allowing their relationship with me to be destroyed in the process.

So I was left at the end with my family life, as well as my career prospects, in a state of ruin. This is what a 'free' education really means - that the system has a free rein to ruin the lives of parents as well as pupils.