If their parents can afford it, children are sent away from home to walk a well-trodden path that leads straight from boarding school through Oxbridge to high office in institutions such as the judiciary, the army, the City and, especially, government.
Our prime minister was only seven when he was sent away to board at Heatherdown preparatory school in Berkshire.
Like so many of the men who hold leadership roles in Britain, he learned to adapt his young character to survive both the loss of his family and the demands of boarding school culture. The psychological impact of these formative experiences on Cameron and other boys who grow up to occupy positions of great power and responsibility cannot be overstated. It leaves them ill-prepared for relationships in the adult world and the nation with a cadre of leaders who perpetuate a culture of elitism, bullying and misogyny affecting the whole of society.
Nevertheless, this golden path is as sure today as it was 100 years ago, when men from such backgrounds led us into a disastrous war; it is familiar, sometimes mocked, but taken for granted. But it is less well known that costly, elite boarding consistently turns out people who appear much more competent than they actually are. They are particularly deficient in non-rational skills, such as those needed to sustain relationships, and are not, in fact, well-equipped to be leaders in today's world
I have been doing psychotherapy with ex-boarders for 25 years and I am a former boarding-school teacher and boarder. My pioneering study of privileged abandonment always sparks controversy: so embedded in British life is boarding that many struggle to see beyond the elitism and understand its impact. The prevalence of institutionalised abuse is finally emerging to public scrutiny, but the effects of normalised parental neglect are more widespread and much less obvious. Am I saying, then, that David Cameron, and the majority of our ruling elite, were damaged by boarding?"
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