25 DECEMBER 1964, Page 13


From: F. R. H. Du Boulay, Harold Wincott, Jack Ross, Joan Scruton, Nicolas and Ruth Walter, James Dale, Frederick T. Sillett, J. A. Smyth, G. V. Parwar.


SIR,—May a parent, for a change, say something about private education? What follows is written dogmatically, but only for the sake of brevity. The writer has experience of different kinds of school as pupil, parent, governor and university selector.

First comes the issue of liberty. To forbid parents, to educate their children satisfactorily but privately would be an act of dirigisme so tyrannical that it would undermine the grounds of political obedience in a society that has hitherto avoided totalitarianism.

Second, it is illusory to suppose that the destruction of private education would also remove the elements of good fortune when boys secure important jobs. Family influence, good and bad, is fundamental, and can only be erased by separating children and parents at an early age, and finally.

Third, a sensible compromise could doubtless be arranged by subsidising a minority of children whose parents couldn't meet the cost of private education. But if the minority became a majority much of what is excellent would vanish, and the State's own schools would not benefit by one iota.

Fourth. it is erroneous to say that the fees can only be met by inherited wealth or expense accounts. Many parents pay out of income and live modestly. A boy's annual fees are roughly equivalent to the cost of buying a family car on two years' hire- purchase. Finally, it is abundantly clear that the mainspring of the campaign against private education is the hatred felt for the lucky (including the clever as well as the rich) in the hearts of the fairly lucky, who then inflame the unlucky to justify themselves. Such hatred is .visible within the State's own schools, grammar and multilateral, where able children are persecuted for 'snobbery' by their dimmer contem- poraries. This situation cannot be abolished, short of destroying the lucky ones systematically. People can only be encouraged to accept each other.