August 14, 2012

Do you like this?

So, back home in Britain everyone (by which I mean a few newspaper columnists, obviously) has been harping on about the lack of competitiveness in sports in state schools and how, basically, most state schools' idea of a good PE lesson is when all the kids just, like, queue up to give some fat, blind kid in a wheelchair a beanbag and then he gives them a hoop and they hop to the end of the PE hall with the hoop in their hand and then at the end everybody gets a chocolate medal, just for having taken part, even – or especially – the fat, blind kid in the wheelchair.

Whereas all the public school kids – by which, now pay attention non-Brits, by which I actually mean really posh private school kids – all had to do these really viciously, violently competitive sports like rugby and lacrosse and they just, like, sweated a lot and it was really vicious and violent, plus afterwards they had to have a cold shower – icy cold water in this icy cold shower – coz they'd sweated a lot with their lacrosse sticks and that – and then there was all this gay sex and even then only the best got medals. For their House – they didn't even get to take the fucking medals home. That's what everyone's been saying. By which I mean a few newspaper columnists, obviously.

Well, I don't know, to be totally honest. High School PE lessons looked pretty fucking competitive from where I was standing – which was usually this tiny little strip of corridor between the showers and the changing room. We had a male PE teacher, and he wasn't allowed to go down that tiny strip of corridor. So me and my friend Monique, we used to hide there and practise smoking and not do any running about and sports and that, coz that was anstrengend. She even taught me to blow rings like a caterpillar in Alice in Wonderland or something once. It was ace.

So, everybody in Britain having this nervous breakdown about how non-competitive PE lessons in state schools are has been getting me thinking. Because I went to an average state school. It was perfectly average. Our text books were normally older than we were, and our school playing field was slightly larger than a stamp, I'm sure there were a lot of state schools that were a lot better than ours, but I'm equally sure that there were probably a lot of them that were a lot fucking worse. Hey, Lady Mary out of Downton Abbey was in the year below me. How bad could we have been? But, still. I'm the state-schooliest of the state-schooly, and still, my education was a lot more – by which I mean A LOT more – competitive than most Germans was.

I never realized this until my Lesebühne got recommended for the Best Berliner Lesebühne Prize of the Year. What happened was these uni kids wanted to give somebody money for no reason – oh, sorry, I don't mean for no reason, I mean, they wanted to give the Lesebühne people some money for being really good at writing Lesebühne stories and that. And all the Lesebühne people got really, really, really upset. Well, okay, not all of them. But about 90 percent. And not really, really, really upset. But pretty distraught. They didn't act like a group of uni kids wanted to give us money coz they thought we were great. They acted like a group of evil bastards wanted to rape us in the arse coz they thought we were a bunch of cunts who deserved to be raped in the arse. It was really weird, to be honest.

"Don't you think it's really nice," I said, gingerly, to one Lesebühnekollege, "that these kids want to give us money, as appreciation of our talent? Isn't that nice?"

"Hmm," he said.

"It'll be fun, the prize ceremony, anyway, That'll be a right laugh. There'll probably be Sekt and a buffet."

"Hmmm," he said again.

"It'll be so much fun," I continued. "We can wear our nicest clothes – you can wear a suit, and I'll wear a black dress. And if we win, we'll get €700, and if we don't win, we'll have a load of free alcohol and a bit of free publicity."

"Hmmm," he said.

"Aren't you looking forward to it?"

He looked at me and sighed as deeply as only a German can, especially when they've been asked whether they're not looking forward to something.

"If they want to give me money, they can ask me for my bank details and transfer it directly into my account. I'm not going to go to some awards ceremony."

I didn't say anything for a while. I just gazed at him pityingly. Then I said:

"What happened at your prize ceremonies back in East Germany? Did the Stasi hand out the certificates? Was it really awful? Did the people who didn't win get in trouble with the Stasi?  Were your prizes, like, signed photos of Honecker? Was it really bad? Are you really traumatized? Do you not want to talk about it?"

My Lesebühnekollege did a mini-sigh then.

"This is nothing to do with East Germany, Jacinta. Prize ceremonies are nothing to do with German culture. They're alien to us."

"They're not German?"

"Nope. Not for schools. They don't have it in the West either. My kid who lives in South Germany, he's never invited me to a prize ceremony. It's just not normal. It's not normal practice. And Sports Day. We don't have Sports Day either. It's all totally American. All that."

"It is?"

"It is. It's certainly not normal. And I'm sure it's not good for you, either."

Now, the thing is –I was crap at sport – but I was great at everything else. You shoulda seen my medals for French and German. My blazer was dripping with them. But the truth is, I'm not totally sure it's been good for me, either. I mean, I don't think I would have been that geschadet if they hadn't given me those medals for being great – or if everyone had got one. To be honest, I think this competitive streak is basically the worst element of my personality. If I weren't so competitive, I would be NICE, nice like how Pippa from Home and Away is. I am basically a nice person who is marred by competitiveness. But, fuck, am I competitive. I never let my son win. I have never let him win in his entire life. I always intend to, but then I start playing, and I can't bear it. I can't bear losing. The other day, I even cheated at Monopoly. Oh, God, I feel bad. I started out, all, like, oh, I'm gonna let him win this time. It'll be over quicker, and we can go to the park. But then, really early on, I got Parkstrasse and that other blue one – the German Mayfair - is it Schlossallee? Really early on. So I just knew I could really easily win. And then I needed to buy new houses and he wasn't looking and when I went to get my €200 for passing “Go”, I took a €500 instead.

You know what? I am sure that would never would've happened if I'd gone to a Waldorfschule.


August 14, 2012

Comments (13)

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Academies are privatisation through the back door, same as with the NHS.

Sandra more than 1 years ago

Grant Mantained

What exactly is the difference between grant mantained schools and academies? How can every academy be an academy? An academy's always been a word that means an excellent school - a dance academy and stuff - if every other High School in england becomes an academy then what does the word mean? Why are they all focusing on, like "Media" or "Science" or something? Does that mean that a kid who gets a Maths GCSE from a Media academy has a lesser qualification than a kid with a Maths GCSE from a "Maths" academy? It's totally meaningless. It's like 1984 or something. It's just obviously a ridiculous idea and in twenty years time they'll change all the academies back to High School again.

Jacinta Nandi more than 1 years ago

Don't be silly Andrew

Don't be a silly-billy. I often do really controversial things like saying oh, all Americans are cunts or we should ban Coca-Cola or actually, Mario Barth isn't that bad but this really isn't one of them. Don't be a silly-billy. When people say state school, they think of comps. All those religious schools are state schools, too. But if you say to someone: "What kind of school did you go to?" and they went to a CofE school, then they say: "Oh, I went to a state school - but it was Church of England, actually." Or if someone went to a girls' school, they say - "I went to a girls' school - but it was a state school, actually." The 'actually' is because it's not the norm, and in the whole state/private/public school divide, single-sex schools, grammar schools, religious schools fall in between categories. Everyone knows that. So don't be silly, okay? Or are you just an American? If you're an American, then I'll let you off. But if you're from England, then stop being silly. You know what I mean. It's like people who say they live in Havering but actually they live in Romford.

And nobody knows what academies are. Almost every High School in Britain is being rebranded as an academy, but nobody knows what it actually means, or what it will mean in the future.

Jacinta Nandi more than 1 years ago

Bothersome facts

A state school is a school funded by the state. Whether it is a co-ed or single-sex institution is entirely irrelevant. Also irrelevant is the form which it takes - comprehensive, selective, academy. All three school forms are funded by and accountable to the state. An academy is accountable to the Department of Education, not the local authority. So why should they not be classed as state schools?

These are simple facts. Has the author never heard of research?

Andrew Smith more than 1 years ago

thick idiots

Lots of rich kids are thick, too. I went to Exeter uni and there wére so many rich thickoes there. Am somewhat undermining my argument by not being sure of the plural of thicko, however.

Jacinta more than 1 years ago


Er, why does a school being girls only make it not a state school, Jacinta? I went to one in london and there was nowt 'un' state schooly about it. Right dump, full of thick idiots who spent all day beating each other up. If you didn't speak with a cockney accent you were given a slap for being a 'yuppy.' Sport was varied but crap. Teachers were too scared of the students to make them do any. Wish I had rich parents and gone to private school. Lucky, lucky sods.

Marina more than 1 years ago


Nobody knows what schools turning into academies really means, except everyone feels slightly deflated and upset by ther whole Tory privatisation-invasion notion of it but too exhausted to try stop it.

Yes - girls-only state schools do kinda fall between the cracks for definition. But they are NOT private schools, OK?

Liz Nicholls more than 1 years ago

Girls only state schools

aren't proper state schools. When you say atate school, you mean a mixed sex, comprehensive.

My school's been turned into an academy now. I have no idea what it means. Whenever I go back to Britain, I feel like I've time-travelled into the near future.

Jacinta more than 1 years ago


I'm with you on this... But you can be competitive in a nice way, no? No?! :-)

I agree - when a yank slags off British state schools I get all arsey as if someone's slagged off my mum! It's OUR job, not theirs! But I went to all-girls secondary school and we had more or less totally hardcore sporty lesbian, Nazi-type games teachers. Is that exclusively a girls-school thing then?

Liz Nicholls more than 1 years ago

insulting your family

I think w. British state schoolkids, it's like insulting yr family. We always say to each other: I just grew cress in an egg and had henna drawn on my hand and did a special wanky North-East African beanbag dance BUT as soon as a public school kid says it, we're like: woah, back off you cunt! Plus I think there is a huge difference betw. primary & secondary school. And kids aren't stupid, last year at sports day Rico got a certificate for having "taken part" and he looked at it resignedly on the U-Bahn, and said, in a slightly disappointed, matter-of-fact voice: "Now I know what 'taken part' means. It means "didn't win anything."

I think that is okay. Adults don't go Dur-dur-dur-DUR when they get promoted ahead of you and stuff. I think giving all primary school kids a certificate for taking part is okay. They know it's bullshit, but it's still okay. It's okay. I think all this "Kids have to learn what a cut-throat world this is" is said by people who are quite traumatized from their school times. To be honest. That's what I think. The "It never did me any harm" brigade. I don't quite buy it.

Jacinta Nandi more than 1 years ago

dog eat dog

Competitions bring out the best and the worst in people, which is something all kids need to have experience in dealing with before they go out in the cruel world. don't you think?

Helena more than 1 years ago

Yeah but

they also have parents with more money to support them with their business ventures, no?

Maybe I should send Rico to a Waldorf school

Jacinta Nandi more than 1 years ago

Winner mentality

I heard from someone who went to one that Waldorf Salad Schools had a higher rate of people starting their own businesses later in life, which suggests that fostering a winner mentality in kids is a bit more complicated that just making them bash each other with polo sticks.

Benjamin Knight more than 1 years ago

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