This memoir covers the first twenty years of the life of the author, a retired university professor, from when he was born in October 1941 during WW2 to when he went up to university in October 1961. It is a warts an’ all account of a 1940s’/early 1950s’ childhood through adolescence to 1960, when the family was struck by tragedy.
The focus is on actions and events which shaped his personal, social and emotional development, with a particular emphasis on his experiences at a single-sex grammar school in the 1950s. The highly competitive, sports, drama and poetry loving pre-adolescent unsurprisingly took to life in the grammar school like ‘a duck to water.’ But this education had its downside as well as upside.
In the central section of the memoir the author takes a critical look at his own education and draws various conclusions. School was highly significant but it wasn’t the only source of influence. His membership of an evangelical organisation, church youth club and church choir also made an impact, as did elocution and drama classes and involvement as a young actor with the National Youth Theatre. The influence of mass media, the ‘rock n’ roll revolution’, films and books is also explored. One facet which the author finds intriguing relates to his transition from a highly conformist grammar school pupil to an anti-establishment university student. He argues that although the dominant school ethos was conservative, exclusive and hierarchical there was space for a certain creative and critical element. Experiences in what we would now call his ‘gap’ year were also salient in this respect, in particular his employment as an untrained teacher in a secondary modern school.
Grammar School Boy is a unique critique of the grammar school system that will appeal to readers interested in education and the effect it has on child development.