Slavery and the British Public School
There are unresolved issues around slavery which are central to the British psyche, at least for the middle classes who see themselves as potentially the ruling classes.
Public schools have advertised “Be a student here and become a born leader”. Parents still argue the case for sending their children to private education in order to secure them a competitive advantage. In an individualised society, advantage for one is at the expense of others. So much for democracy and equality of opportunity.
British public schools had the task of preparing students to attend the old universities, and to rule the colonies. The régime of team sports, deferred gratification and cold showers was seen as building the necessary character for future rulers.
Enduring a period of suffering could be justified if the ends were achieved. Thus students endured bullying, corporal punishment, sexual abuse, and separation from their families in order to make the grade. They were convinced that the experience had done them no harm, and proceeded to inflict it on their children.
Schools funded by donations from public spirited slave traders, in Bristol, Liverpool and London, reflected the aspirations of these determined adventurers that their children should be able to become gentlemen. Attending school was a form of middle passage, a painful but necessary transition.
British public schools separated children from their parents at an early age, and took on themselves the right to punish, in loco parentis. This separation freed the parents to travel or live as they pleased, but at the expense of fracturing normal family relationships. During their formative years, public school students rarely encountered normal family or interpersonal relations.
British independent schools still seek to cultivate the illusion of superiority. They preserve the hierarchical model of society which sustained slavery, selling social status at commercial rates.