15 DECEMBER 1961, Page 15


a present pupil at Shrewsbury, I would question Mr. Richard Cobb's description of his house as a 'haven of liberalism'; and however true it might be of his house, it certainly is not true of the school as a whole. Perhaps a boarding school for adoles- cents can never be a haven of liberalism, but there are still restrictions which are unnecessary and in some cases harmful. Foremost of these is the system of fagging for prefects: this not only encourages intolerance, arrogance and lack of respect for others' rights in the prefects but also creates artificial social barriers within houses, seriously limiting any individual's choice of companions, and in a few cases creates timid, frightened fags. Punishments are still in most cases unintelligent; beating by the house- master is the almost automatic punishment for any serious offence, and prefects, who can beat with the housemaster's permission, may be less humane in their attitude to punishments than the masters. A liberal attitude to someone who does not like sport is hampered by compulsory football, by excessive reward for house and school games-players, by school sport appearing to be the focus of the school's esprit de corps and finally by the necessity, for school prestige, of concentrating on a few sports and so discouraging others (e.g. tennis, rugger) from becoming too popular. Then the Corps encourages passive obedience and unquestioning acceptance, with a disregard for the individual as an individual; hardly characteristics for a liberal institution to en- courage. Lastly there are many petty restrictions which are unnecessary for senior boys, such as not being able to go to a cinema or a public house or smoke a cigarette or take an evening off from work. Public schools have improved vastly since Mr. Cobb's and Mr. Inglis's days, and none can doubt the superb teaching and example, for life of the masters, and the many and varied facilities they offer. But many changes must be made yet: in some cases they are in the process of arriving, but Mr. Cobb's praise is premature. This battle is not yet won.