"One of the core aims [of Toby Young's free school] is to instil in boys and girls from ordinary backgrounds the same edge that public school toffs have."
When Young arrived at Oxford University (the poshest) from a northern grammar school, he was bowled over by the public-school boys. "They had an assurance that contemporaries from humbler backgrounds altogether lacked" - he has probably been jealous of them ever since.
Top public school Eton "has a practice known as "oiling", which is learning how to win friends and influence others, and how to clamber over them to get what you want. It's a mixture of ambition, self-confidence and bloody-mindedness...""Young is right to emphasise the importance of character." State-educated youths "find they lack confidence and roundedness..." Baden-Powell described the Scout movement as a "character factory, designed to instil determination and resilience in all young people, regardless of class."
"Competitive sport is vital: it teaches resilience, teamwork and trust. Leadership training and mentoring should become widespread in schools. Young people should be given tough challenges, mental as well as physical..."
To give them "mental strength" send children on "hikes and gruelling expeditions". "Boarding... should become much more prevalent... The experience of living side by side with fellow students, and in conditions of relative deprivation, is profoundly character-building."
It looks like "character" can mean whatever you want it to mean. Public schools are often said to turn out "confident, articulate" young people. If you Google these words, you'll find they appear on the prospectus of most private schools. I like the sound of the Helen O'Grady Drama Academy in Africa, where they teach presentation, performance skills and public speaking. Because the confident, articulate child "finds it easier to make friends". If you want confident, articulate children, why not teach confidence and articulacy, rather than separating them from their families and subjecting them to gruelling hikes? It seems a roundabout method, to say the least.