Such, Such Were the Joys (cont’d)

Today, FedUp Mom answers a question she posed two weeks ago in her guest post where she suggested that people read Such, Such Were the Joys by George Orwell. Read her answer to the first question she posed here. And, of course, don’t forget to chime in with your own answer.

Such, Such Thursdays
by FedUp Mom
(part 2)

QUESTION #2:

(from Such, Such Were the Joys)
“Indeed, it was universally taken for granted at St. Cyprian’s that unless you went to a ‘good’ public school (and only about fifteen schools came under this heading) you were ruined for life… Over a period of about two years, I do not think there was ever a day when ‘the exam’, as I called it, was quite out of my waking thoughts… For people like me, the ambitious middle class, the examination passers, only a bleak, laborious kind of success was possible.”

[Vocabulary: in British usage, “public” schools are so called because they are not open to the public. It’s pronounced “Chumley”.]

How does Orwell’s quest for a ‘good’ public school compare to today’s upper-middle-class quest for an Ivy League school? How is ‘the exam’, which got Orwell to Eton, similar to today’s SAT? Compare, contrast, and weep.

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FedUp Mom’s ANSWER:

The phrase “the ambitious middle class, the examination passers” knocks me out. If our school district had a sign over it, that’s what it should say (second choice: “abandon all hope, ye who enter here.”)

“A bleak, laborious kind of success” is what people in my neighborhood aspire to, and everyone wants to send their kids to the same few high-status universities. Some people get into the Ivy League by being born into the right family (does anyone believe that George W. Bush went to Yale because of his academic excellence?) Others get to the Ivy League because of the enormous resources their family can put towards getting them there (for instance, kids at elite private schools, who are carefully groomed, and the path cleared before them). But the kids in our district have to work like donkeys, and the competition is ferocious. The ironic thing is that if you really want your kid to go to the Ivy League, you’d be better off moving somewhere else and hoping your kid will get a break for “geographical diversity”.

2 Comments on “Such, Such Were the Joys (cont’d)”

  1. Joy says:

    Boy – do I agree with this. But I wish parents didn’t think their kids have to go to Ivy League. What’s wrong with letting kids make choices like a trade (blue collar) or community college for a few years before attending a budget-breaking, elitist university?

    April 30th, 2010 at 9:39 am
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  2. ödev says:

    Boy – do I agree with this. But I wish parents didn’t think their kids have to go to Ivy League. What’s wrong with letting kids make choices like a trade (blue collar) or community college for a few years before attending a budget-breaking, elitist university?

    June 23rd, 2011 at 11:23 am
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