I have been amused to read in the papers this week about the real battle of the forthcoming Oscars: Eton vs Harrow…or should I say Old Etonian Eddie Redmayne vs Old Harrovian Benedict Cumberbatch for the coveted Best Actor award.
Redmayne has, of course, been nominated for his portrayal of the scientist Professor Stephen Hawking in The Theory of Everything while Cumberbatch has been nominated for his portrayal of World War II codebreaker Alan Turing in The Imitation Game.
And, as it has been pointed out in a number of papers, the men are former pupils of two of the country’s greatest and most famous public schools in the land: Eton and Harrow.
I for one am proud to be part of an independent school system which spots and nurtures such outstanding talent and brings it to such incredible fruition.
Let us not forget also the outstanding Rosamund Pike, former Badminton School pupil, who is up for a Best Actress award for Gone Girl. She is joined by fellow Brits Felicity Jones and Keira Knightley, nominated for Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress respectively.
It is a triumph for the British film industry and for our country that all of their artistic talents have been recognised. And yet behind the fun headlines of the Eton vs Harrow stories, there are sure to be some who criticise the ‘system’ which sees so many public school educated men and women excel in the creative arts, both in front of the camera and behind it.
I am thinking back to the last two Olympics when instead of praising the talents of all of our athletes, Lord Moynihan famously bleated in 2012 that it was ‘wholly unacceptable’ that more than 50% of medallists at the Beijing Olympics came from independent schools when only 7% of the population were privately educated. He certainly did his best to somehow take the shine off those independent school educated gold medallists, even intimating that they did not deserve their places on the team. Perhaps he would have liked to have introduced a quota system to ensure what he might see as equality?
More recently the former Education Secretary Michael Gove criticised the scale of ‘the private school dominance of top jobs in Britain’. He said it was ‘remarkable’ how many of the positions of wealth, influence, celebrity and power in Britain were held by former independent school pupils.
Too often the independent school system is somehow held to blame for what can only be lauded as the incredible achievements of thousands of its former pupils, often for political point scoring.
In fact, our independent schools have not only nurtured and brought to fruition the headline-grabbing talents of some of our Oscar nominated actors and actresses and their like but have also been responsible for adding value to thousands of lives and helping them to be the best they possibly can. In return, those boys and girls become men and women, many of whom give back to the wider world with their talents, headline grabbing or not!
I am looking forward to an untarnished British victory next month!