self confidence

I’ve long been fascinated by the way that private, or fee paying schools manage to equip children to ‘succeed’ in life. There is no doubt in my mind, that many of these schools manage to instill in their pupils a frame of mind, or set of skills which seem to make them able to accomplish extraordinary things. This intrigues me, I’m philosophically opposed to the idea of an economic elite paying to have their children privately educated, but remain fascinated by the product of this kind of education.

I’ve pondered various factors, from class sizes and teacher ratios, to the factor of parental expectation and elements of curriculum. However, my current thinking is that its actually quite simple. I think that the reason these schools equip their pupils for ‘success’ is that they teach them to expect success. They endow them with a depth of self confidence that other schools don’t. This is acheived through a number of methods, in particular a heavy emphasis on competition.

I managed to watch ‘When Boris met Dave’ on 4OD the other night, an interesting little piece of whimsical journalism about the early days of the current mayor of London, and the possible next Prime Minister. Both men were Eton boys, who took their degrees at Oxford. Clearly they are both very intelligent, and in Boris’ case more than a little mad.

It strikes me that these guys, and their moneyed counterparts, not all of whom are endowed with particularly fiersome intellects, share a level of self confidence which has encouraged them to attempt things which others might not. State education tends to equip people to be the engine of the economy, the workers, the drones. It seems to me that the careers days at Eton were probably more about the ‘higher level’ jobs, whether in industry or the civil service. I doubt many were encouraged to get jobs as shop assistants or bin men as they were at my school.

Self confidence is without doubt one of the most important things we can give to children, it gives them an ability to make good decisions, to make choices without being motivated by the fear of what others will say. Self confidence is an incredibly valuable tool, its a shame that the private education sector seems to have been able to instill it into pupils so much more than the state sector.


7 thoughts on “self confidence

  1. I think this is really true. I remember thinking about it when I was helping with the Steward’s Trust camp at North Dock, mentally comparing those kids to the ones I saw every week who were on the verge of dropping out of state school. And the only difference I could see had nothing to do with intelligence and everything to do with expectations. The private (public?) school kids seemed to just assume they would succeed when they tried something, whereas the other kids didn’t even want to try, they were so convinced they would fail.

  2. Whilst in no way deriding the importance of self confidence I think you forget a few other key factors.
    1) Private schools are selective so of couse a higher proportion of their kids will go on to top jobs.
    2) The parents tend to be wealthy allowing their children to take up internships and other expensive and unfunded forms of education and allowing them acces to wealthy people.
    3) The old boys network.
    Furthermore I think you have to question the nature of the causative relationship. Do they win because they have self confidence or do they have self confidence because they know the odds are so strongly stacked in their favour. Most people would be pretty blooming self confident if they had the advantages of the average public school boy.

    1. good points, I had been thinking particularly about the importance of selection, I think this is a key thing as it makes a statement about the likelihood of success from an early point. Not as convinced by your other points, not sure for instance that the old boy network helped Ranulph Fiennes up Everest or whatever, but important to ponder…

  3. Incidentally workers and drones are utterly different. Drones in fact do no work ever. I wish people would stop putting the two together.

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