An English Education Essay

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A Very English Education In 1979 the BBC made a documentary series about life inside elite public school Radley College. The headmaster, a man with something of Michael Howard about him, told boys born with silver spoons that they were there to acquire the right habits, for life. Now, for A Very English Education (BBC2, Sunday), the film-maker Hannah Berryman has found some of the boys, to see what sort of men they became. So here's Donald, who was top scholar, an athlete, and desperate to do well; but then something happened, some kind of breakdown that still brings a tear to his eye. Bookish James used to find solace and a reminder of home by writing comics, though that wasn't mainstream enough to be approved of at Radley, so he had to keep it to himself. The Hon David, a lazy young aristocrat, left early in order to pursue … well nothing really. And Tim, the odd one out, born spoonless in North Shields, the son of a vicar. Even then Tim could see that there was something unjust about Radley – that his classmates all seemed to have a sense of entitlement. So what, where, who and how are they all now? Berryman keeps the viewer guessing. Comic book James now writes sci-fi, says he's not defined by Radley, and seems to be sane, probably because his wife is normal and lovely and didn't go to Cheltenham Ladies or wherever. The (still) Hon David sculpts a bit and bumbles about in a crumbling, shabby, freezing mansion. He has no idea how many rooms there are, probably doesn't know how many children there are either, but eight-year-old Archie is just about to be sent away to boarding school, even though they can't afford it. Saddest of all is Tim, the Geordie vicar's son. Not on the surface, perhaps; he's very successful professionally, CEO of a shipping company in Hong Kong. But he's on his own, and clearly lonely. His long, loaded pauses say more than his
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