Tuesday, April 03, 2007

From Schoolboys to Gentlemen Part I


Thomas Arnold was headmaster of Rugby school in 1828. He brought about reform to the English school system. He emphasized strength of character through education, and the pursuit of moral and academic excellence. Arnold also concentrated on giving a religious education, he was a devout Christian. He refined the prefectorial system which was essentially aimed at keeping younger boys out of trouble through instilment of discipline and respectability.

“Or really, because it is not good to have taken one’s public school’s ethical system seriously. I am really, sir, the English public schoolboy. That’s an eighteenth-century product. What with the love of truth that- God help me!- they rammed into me at Clifton and the belief Arnold forced upon Rugby that the vilest of sins – the vilest of all sins- its to peach to the headmaster! (Ford, 490).”

“…say you regarded me as a head master in 1912. Now I am your commanding officer- which is the same thing. You must not peach to me. That’s what you call the Arnold of Rugby touch…”

“And he was constantly impressing these sentiments upon his pupils. ‘What I have often said before,’ he told them, ‘I repeat now: what we must look for here is, first, religious and moral principle; secondly, gentlemanly conduct; thirdly, intellectual ability (Strachey)”.

Christopher is not only the last Tory of his kind; he is also the last English public schoolboy and the last English country gentleman. General Champion misjudges Christopher’s conduct; he believes that his contemptuous personal life jars with the discipline and moral code of his troops. Consequently, like a head master, he decides to commit to the greater good by sending Christopher up the line. “I am to go up into the line so that the morals of the troops in your command may not be contaminated by the contemplation of my martial infelicities (491)”. Like the prefect system, Christopher is responsible to his subordinates by providing a prime example of propriety. Due to the rather public nature of his affairs, the General is uncomfortable with having him in his current position amongst his troops, lest Christopher himself lead their weakening of moral fibre.



Strachey, Lytton. http://www.bartleby.com/189/301.html

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