Underachieving at CH

Anything that doesn't fit anywhere else, but that's still CH related.

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rockfreak
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Re: Underachieving at CH

Post by rockfreak » Sat Jun 30, 2018 8:29 pm

I have been posting on Nick Duffell's sites ever since I read his books 'The Making of Them' and 'Wounded Leaders'. I sent him emails about my experiences at Christ's Hospital and in later life and he asked if I would put these up on his sites. His late co-worker Rob Bland happened to be at CH in the 1960s. So many of the posts we are seeing appear to bear out what Nick says in his research. Boarding school survivors are in a psychological bind where they know that they have had a supposedly privileged education but feel guilty about complaining that it may also have had unwanted side effects. He divides those he sees in his consulting rooms as Compliers, Rebels and The Crushed. If you read his books you'll quickly start turning into an amateur shrink and fancying that you can spot these types on these sites, or maybe hybrids of them.
It's taken me a lifetime to come to terms with my own feelings and Nick's books have been an enormous help. One of the things that strikes me about this website and its posts is just how unaware so many people are about the "coils of the serpent" as Nick puts it - the ongoing unconscious reverie about the English class system (including Christ's Hospital) that so many people still have and which doesn't exist anywhere else in developed Europe.

A quick footnote about class. William accuses me of coming from a middle class background. Not strictly so. My father came from North Yorks and briefly worked down the mines then on the roads in Wales before coming south and getting a clerical job in local government. My mother was born in Plaistow. But when I was born we lived in north London and it may be that conditions there were a bit better than for those nearer to the Thames in south and east London which got heavily bombed during the blitz and took longer to recover.

scrub
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Re: Underachieving at CH

Post by scrub » Fri Jul 20, 2018 5:26 pm

I've been thinking about this for a while and have come to the conclusion that I didn't underachieve at CH. Not because I was a genius athlete who went to Oxbridge, but because the expectations for me were so low.

For my parents, the only two things they told me were 1) do what makes you happy, and 2) don't become a teacher. Fairly easy bars to hurdle.

As far as the school was concerned I was comfortably mediocre, a straight B/C student with minimal athletic and musical ability. Not likely to fail (although GCSE English was a close thing), but never an Oxbridge candidate. I could play sport but 3rds in Rugby was my level. As long as I didn't do anything that the school couldn't easily ignore (like having hair too long for Poulton's liking, that was a fun conversation) I always felt that I was basically left to my own devices.

I remember my meeting with the careers advisor well. After listening to what I wanted to do/be - at the time this was a vet - took a look at my grades and predicted A-level results and told me bluntly that it was not going to happen, he wouldn't even put in my application to study vet med, and it'd be best if I considered learning a trade instead. I think this may have been meant as a put-down, a friend seemed quite shocked when I told them, but it didn't register at the time. My parents were the first of their families to have what you'd call middle class jobs so while uni was their preferred destination for me after school, if I'd jacked it all in and gone the City and Guilds route they wouldn't have minded much. I'm fairly sure my gran would have been cheering. As long as I kept hurdling 1) and 2) it was all good.

I've probably wildly overachieved as far as the school is concerned. Not only did I get a Bachelors degree, I also got a PhD and work as a research scientist. Fairly sure my teachers never expected that.
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bakunin
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Re: Underachieving at CH

Post by bakunin » Wed Jul 25, 2018 6:01 pm

Hah, what's so bad about being a teacher? (err... not counting the recent news of course)

I always thought (or, it was always expected of me) that I would go the PhD route but wasn't disciplined enough to stay in the program.

I suppose I was a big let down in CH's eyes (not that I give a sh!t, especially now) as I got into Oxford but managed to fail my exams at the end of my first year and was transferred out to Southampton. But I enjoyed Southampton a lot more. Oxford with its pomp and privilege was in many ways a continuation of CH, and I resented that. I also resented CH's rewarding goody-two-shoes and rugby lads but ignoring academic achievement unless it was accompanied by sycophancy.

My mistakes in my twenties were my own but I can't say CH provided me with the right attitudes or habits or motivation when I was 18. In fact I was discouraged from taking advanced courses (i.e. further maths A-level) and my talents were never individually encouraged or noticed (I could have taken GCSE chemistry in my 3rd form), i.e. I was just automatically put on the science track and that's all. Should we expect more? The school makes claims that it provides a truly special education, I didn't notice that. Maybe if I played a musical instrument or was good at sport? The main problem for me was thinking that everything was easy, I was never challenged academically in science, so when I encountered actually difficult concepts at university I panicked and didn't put the necessary effort in.
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rockfreak
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Re: Underachieving at CH

Post by rockfreak » Wed Jul 25, 2018 9:23 pm

Nick Duffell has a bit to say about Oxford's pomp and privilege. And Toby Young, a rather right-wing commentator as it happens, was at Oxford at the same time as Cameron and Boris Johnson and he says that they appeared to be running everything there just as they'd run everything at Eton. Even among the well-heeled they appeared to be the pick of the crop - although I'm not sure that their subsequent decisions in politics have particularly distinguished them.

scrub
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Re: Underachieving at CH

Post by scrub » Wed Jul 25, 2018 9:54 pm

Nothing wrong with teaching per se, but both my folks were teachers and they were not exactly enamoured with the direction the profession in the UK was headed in the 90's.

Took me a while to get CH out of my system too. I had to bounce around a bit to work out what it was I wanted to do, and the path (and time) I took was not one that CH would have used in their Deps careers talks :lol:
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Katharine
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Re: Underachieving at CH

Post by Katharine » Wed Jul 25, 2018 9:54 pm

bakunin wrote:
Wed Jul 25, 2018 6:01 pm
I can't say CH provided me with the right attitudes or habits or motivation when I was 18. In fact I was discouraged from taking advanced courses (i.e. further maths A-level) and my talents were never individually encouraged or noticed (I could have taken GCSE chemistry in my 3rd form), i.e. I was just automatically put on the science track and that's all. Should we expect more? The school makes claims that it provides a truly special education, I didn't notice that. Maybe if I played a musical instrument or was good at sport? The main problem for me was thinking that everything was easy, I was never challenged academically in science, so when I encountered actually difficult concepts at university I panicked and didn't put the necessary effort in.
If you change science to Maths, I could have written that about my time at Hertford, I, too, was not allowed to take an extra Maths A level. Depressing that it was the same so many years later. I didn't fail at Oxford but I certainly didn't shine in the way CH had expected me to!
Katharine Dobson (Hills) 6.14, 1959 - 1965
Don't worry about the world coming to an end today. It's already tomorrow in Australia!

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