Passenger Education


Mar 20, 2007
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I imagine that most of the contributors to this forum simply use the term 'public school' to refer to any school charging fees.

It is worth noting that the entire notion of a 'public school' only became crystallised in the late-nineteenth century. The Industrial Revolution had spawned an affluent and upwardly-mobile middle class and boys from that section of society made up by far the largest percentage of the pupil base at establishments like Rugby, Wellington and Marlborough. Eton, as ever, was a law unto itself and had the greatest number of truly aristocratic or upper class pupils.

Virtually every public school placed an emphasis on 'manly virtues' like duty, honour and sporting prowess. Generations of boys, who went on to assume positions of influence within the Empire, were indoctrinated with these values. In 1914, ex-public school boys (most of whom would have been members of the OTC) enlisted in their thousands as junior officers and were among the first to be killed in the Great War. The 'Rolls of Honour' at schools like Eton, Harrow and Uppingham make for heart-breaking reading.
 

Bob Godfrey

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Nov 22, 2002
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Martin, you're right of course in your understanding of the standard British interpretation of the term 'public schools', but it must be confusing for Americans who would use the same term to describe schools which are anything but private. Perhaps you could explain the origin of the term as used in the UK?

Our public schoolboys have one thing in common with Americans, however, in that both have a peculiar idea of what constitutes a game of 'football'.
:)
 
Mar 20, 2007
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Isn't it high time somebody quoted the famous line about public schoolboys being useful at a ball, indispensable in a shipwreck and of no earthly use on any other occasion? It somehow seems rather appropriate on this board!

In my view, and each in his own way, both Colonel Gracie and Lawrence Beesley were very much products of the public school system, which imbues their accounts of the sinking with a subtle but pronounced flavour. As the 'Titanic' founders, Gracie writes of his feeling of 'vox faucibus haesit' whilst Beesley quotes a particularly beautiful passage of Shakespeare (from 'The Merchant of Venice', I believe) when describing the starry sky above his lifeboat. Latin, Greek and Shakespeare would have been taught as standard at EVERY public and grammar school in both England and the States.
 
Dec 2, 2000
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Easley South Carolina
>>I imagine that most of the contributors to this forum simply use the term 'public school' to refer to any school charging fees.<<

Per what Bob said, it doesn't work quite that way on my side of the Western Ocean. In the USA, "Public School" refers to state owned and operated facilities which are essentially free. (What that really means is that they're funded by taxpayer revenues.) In most states, schooling is compulsory until age 16.
 

Jason D. Tiller

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Dec 3, 2000
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In the USA, "Public School" refers to state owned and operated facilities which are essentially free. (What that really means is that they're funded by taxpayer revenues.) In most states, schooling is compulsory until age 16.
FWIW, the same applies to Canada as well.
 
Dec 29, 2006
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Witney
But grammar and "public" schools were, when they were founded, normally charitable free schools for pupils regarded as "foundationers". However, boarders and non-foundationers had to pay fees. For example, Witney Grammar School, when founded in 1660, was to cater for 30 free scholars and up to 70 fee-paying pupils. If the number of pupils exceeded 100, an extra teacher would be appointed. The core of the curriculum, as a matter of interest, would be Latin, Greek and Hebrew.
 

Bob Godfrey

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Nov 22, 2002
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I've read that the earliest of our 'public schools' were so called because the scholars were taught as a group (ie 'in public') rather than receiving individual tuition from private tutors. Whatever, the term has survived as a historic tradition, and is now used only informally. The official term nowadays is 'independent school'. Here's a link to the interesting FAQ page on the website for Harrow School:

http://www.harrowschool.org.uk/html/faq/
 
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sashka pozzetti

Guest
There seems to be some confusion, I did not ask how many ET members went to Public school at all!!!

What I did say was that I wondered was if any ET members had been to a public school, or I suppose equivalent 'establishment' places of education, that Titanic passengers might recognize, and what the benefits might be socially. That would of interest!!!
 
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sashka pozzetti

Guest
Also, aren't there also Public schools for girls too?!
 
Dec 29, 2006
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Grammar schools were originally called "public" schools because scholars were taught in specially-built public school houses, rather than in private houses. I would argue that most of these schools are, or once were, grammar schools. Curiously, the "public schools" investigated by the Clarendon Commission in 1861 comprised just NINE establishments - Eton, Winchester, Westminster, Charterhouse, St Paul's, Merchant Taylors', Harrow, Rugby and Shrewsbury. Today, there must be at least 250 HMC schools, which now prefer to call themselves independent schools.

Turning to Sashka's question about the benefits of a so-called "public" school education - it is really quite simple, a "public" school education is basically a meal ticket for life. There are whole areas of British society in which a "public" school education is an essential requirement (although few will admit that this is still true). Try getting a good job in the Foreign Office if you went to a bog-standard comprehensive school. Or the BBC. Or the National Trust. Or English Heritage, Etc. Etc. Etc.
 
Dec 2, 2000
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Easley South Carolina
>>There seems to be some confusion, I did not ask how many ET members went to Public school at all!!! <<

Understandable since the term "public school" has a very different meaning in the United States as opposed to the United Kingdom.
 
Mar 20, 2007
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There were most certainly public schools for girls although, in 1912, the majority of their pupils were still drawn from the affluent middle class. Nowadays, establishments like Cheltenham Ladies College, Westonbirt and Heathfield can really lay claim to being socially as 'smart' as Eton but this was not the case until comparatively recently. It goes without saying that the notion of a 'co-ed' boarding school would have been completely beyond the pale.

As I've explained above, upper class girls were usually educated at home by governesses or, alternatively, at small and select seminaries with a handful of contemporaries. There were, I think, two governesses accompanying their charges aboard the 'Titanic' - Elizabeth Shutes, travelling with Margaret Graham, and Grace Bowen, travelling with the Ryerson girls. It seems to be generally accepted that the position of the governess in the Victorian and Edwardian periods was not an enviable one. I myself believe that the image of the Agnes Grey-type figure, despised and downtrodden, was largely obsolete by 1912. Everything I've read (and I've looked into the question in some detail) suggests that the 'new generation' of governesses were in fact resourceful, independent and intelligent women who often did much to foster a love of learning in their students. Indeed, in some families, governesses became trusted and valued individuals in their own right.

I rather fancy that our idea of a 'finishing school' was more an innovation of the inter-war years and that they were largely patronised by the upper-middle class. I have a feeling that most truly 'smart' Edwardian mothers would have laughed out loud at the notion of their daughters being taught how to arrange flowers and walk properly - a knowledge of 'the right way to do things' would simply have been absorbed from birth.

However, in the final months before they 'came out', young girls WERE routinely dispatched to agreeable cities like Paris, Dresden and Florence, where they would board with poor but genteel spinsters, polish up their languages and hopefully soak up a little culture, before being launched onto the marriage market back at home.

Oh, and Sashka - there is no confusion. I perfectly understood the point you were trying to make with your original question. But I still maintain that it would be difficult for anybody on this board to provide an answer to it without laying themselves open to accusations of snobbery and elitism. I suspect that any explanation of the benefits of a private education by an ex-public schoolboy or girl would be interpreted as 'I'm better than a state school pupil because...' by those who haven't followed this discussion as closely as we have.
 
Jan 28, 2003
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For those interested in the peculiar education system for upper-class English girls in the early 20th Century, I would suggest Nancy Mitford's (The Pursuit of Love and Love in a Cold Climate. And also the autobiographical works of her Communist sister Jessica, who lived in America during her adult lifetime, and who described a governess introducing the young Mitford girls to the gentle art of shoplifting in lofty West-End stores ... not to mention the French nursery assistant who enabled them to swear and blaspheme in French to great effect. Or, indeed, the lives of the two Fascist Mitford sisters, Unity and Diana. Truly a family microcosm for our recent times, albeit upper class.

Whatever the rights and wrongs of society and education in the early 20th Century, and the wars they had to fight ... I have to say ... they seemed to have a darned sight more fun in their lives than we've ever had since. Whether this is a good or bad thing, I don't want to comment.
 

Bob Godfrey

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Nov 22, 2002
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Now that's what I call the 'finishing' touches to a girl's education! In our family there were private lessons along similar lines from Great Great Grandma, but she wasn't a good teacher. Ended up doing 6 months in Holloway for shopping in Harrods without her purse.
 

Bob Godfrey

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Nov 22, 2002
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It's not so bad, Mon. We were a working class family but we were brought up to appreciate good things. You wouldn't find old Martha on the job in Woolworths or Marks & Sparks! :)
 
Dec 29, 2006
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Sashka, I thought you were asking if any ET members had been to public/independent schools that Titanic passengers might have attended?

On a more general level, if the question is about Titantic passengers attending such schools, then some of them clearly did. The Reverend Carter, for example, went to Charterhouse School. Lawrence Beesley, I think, went to Derby Grammer School, which would not have been regarded as a public school - although many grammer schools were as good, if not better, than many fee-paying schools. However, Mr Beesley taught at Dulwich College, which IS a public school.

A further point that might be made concerns religious affiliations. In general, Non-conformists did not attend public schools, which were often strongly Anglican. They often went to "dissenting acadamies" and then went straight into the family business - sometimes as "premium apprentices". Thomas Andrews was educated in this way (although I think he may have been an Anglican?)
 

Brian Ahern

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Dec 19, 2002
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I forgot to add that Briarcliff Junior College, which Olive Earnshaw, Helen Newsom and Margaret Hays all attended, was a super-smart school for girls in Westchester County. It was often referred to as 'Debutante U' and one former pupil recalled that, for many of the older girls, it was no more than a place to rest between parties!

Martin, after delving into the topic slightly, I believe you are correct about Briarcliff Junior College being the same "Briarcliff Manor School" that Olive Earnshaw and Margaret Hays attended, and that Helen Newsom's obit says she also graduated from.

I wonder if Helen Newsom obit is correct on this detail. Being only 19 in 1912 and marrying at 20, I would have thought she was too young to have already completed a post-secondary education.

BTW, your description of the typical Briarcliff student is on par with the sort of student that the more expensive junior colleges have tended to attract, since they don't offer BAs.
 
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sashka pozzetti

Guest
Hi Stanley, I am generally interested in how Public school worked amongst the passengers socially. I thought that maybe if anyone on ET (or maybe someone they know) had been to a Public, or 'fee paying' school they maybe could offer some insight, or even one of the prestigious Universities in the US or UK. I don't see why that would be very controversial, unless ET members were all reverse snobs against people who have been to these institutions. I wondered if there were things like inter school rivalry that may have affected people on the ship, or if you might gain benefits, or not. It sounds like there might have been a class system within a class system in first class, depending on things like schooling, as well as more obvious things like a title. It is almost like you could produce a ranking of all the passengers based on various factors. :)