following Advice to Clever Children
don’t usually react very well to people expressing hope that my life
will get better, or their good wishes for my endeavours. The chance of my
life getting better is infinitesimal; the trends of modern society are totally
against it, as they have been all my life. If anyone wants my position to
improve, they could send money or petition someone else to give me money, or
start a public campaign to put pressure on the university to do the decent
thing and reinstate me at an exceptionally good salary level with supporting
grants for several research assistants to enable me to make up for lost time.
idea that my father was sorry for what he did suggests that it was an
accidental mistake. Actually he was never sorry in any ordinary sense of the
word; both my parents had taken their position in advance and were committed to
believing that social advice could never be wrong, while any statements or
affective states of mine could be disregarded. Talking to one of my associates
the other day, she said that everyone in my education sounded round the bend.
My parents had decided in advance, and perhaps this decision was determined
even before I was born, that they would attempt to deprive me of every
advantage that my ability might have enabled me to have.
or not this rose from their own jealousy and wish to see me deprived, in
whatever combination with their awareness that society would wish to see me
deprived, the resulting syndrome was impenetrable and they maintained it
unchanged until their deaths.
my father stopped me from taking the School Certificate, he took advice from
some local headmistress, who said that not taking exams young would not matter
to a girl, and it would not do any harm to her future prospects- if she was
really exceptional. It occurred to me quite soon that this was Delphic. So long
as I obtained a minimum of respectability at the end, and entered an academic career,
I would not be able to claim that my prospects had been damaged. But if they
were, it would be proof that I was not exceptional anyway and did not need an
also occurred to me quite soon that there should be a law against the giving of
advice so potentially damaging except by those who were in a position to
deposit half a million pounds which the victim could claim if his career was
actually ruined, to provide an income in lieu of academic salary. Half a million was what I thought at the
time: now inflation would have significantly increased the necessary amount.
father, in fact both my parents, were absolutely committed to believing this,
which made them impervious to my sufferings, however great these rapidly
the time I found it extraordinary that reasonably enlightened parents should
have no scruple about overriding their offspring’s wishes, however strong and
however clearly expressed. I still do, and still think that violating what is
clearly the right thing for an individual should be recognised as tremendously
dangerous; however, I know now that such a recognition is explicitly rejected
by modern ideology, which does not accept determinants arising from the
psychology of an individual. There is no such thing as a permanent
individuality; the individual is a variable entity resulting from social
interactions. (This is known as 'social constructionism’.)
this turning point my fathers willingness to ride roughshod over my
inclinations had been concealed by the fact that I had not known enough about
the exam system to ask explicitly for what I would have wanted if I had known.
Now it was out in the open it was clear that he was willing to override me as
violently as was necessary to conform to social expectations and beliefs, and
from now on, every arrangement imposed on me, from the decision that I should
not take the School Certificate onwards, was against my will.
back, I still find the cruelty with which I was treated incomprehensible, although
it was in line with the modern devaluation of the concept of an individual.
unhappiness at the state school was clearly visible; surely it would have been
only natural for parents to remove their offspring from an environment that was
affecting her so badly? In fact I expected them to take my word for it at the
end of the first day that this was no solution to the problem of filling my
time while debarred by law from taking exams. This school was no use at all;
the first thing to do was to leave it, then one could think about
correspondence courses and other expedients.
course my sufferings on being kept there were continually increasing. My
statements that it was too bad a place to remain in, and even the implicit statements
to the same effect that were made by my depressed appearance, aroused anger and
insults from my parents, and the interminable quarrels about my refusal to give
up on an academic career. These quarrels, I reflected, served to stifle my
demands to be removed and suggestions for what I might do instead, as we had to
argue bitterly and injuriously about my unsuitability for an academic career
before, jaded and weary, I was able to bring the discussion round to what I
considered the real point, which was my need to get out of this hell-hole.
lest we lose sight of the fact that we are talking about oppression by the
collective, not of oppression by the hapless parents who are enrolled as its
agents, let me just repeat the conclusion: state education, which includes the
university system in its present form, should be abolished. If it could ruin my education and my life,
it could ruin anyone’s.