Have you ever visited schools like Eton College in the United Kingdom, St. Albans in the United States, or Geelong Grammar School in Australia? Maybe you were among the lucky few to have attended one. These schools are primarily reserved for children from the most privileged families, members of the 1 percent, as we would say today. The schools are steeped in tradition, covered in oak and ivy, and cost a small fortune to attend. The fees at St. Albans, for instance, run as high as $58,000 USD. For that price, it’s no wonder that these schools offer some of the best education money can buy and have produced some notable graduates. For instance, 19 prime ministers from the UK attended Eaton. Talk about a small circle!
These schools, which are found worldwide, produce and sustain social class and have had to adapt to changing global and local circumstances over the decades. Many started as all boy’s schools but have since become co-educational. Others were reserved for national elites to produce competent colonial administrators but have since turned their attend to the growing market of international students.
My guest today, Debbie Epstein, has been part of a research team exploring elite schools in former British colonies, from Australia to Barbados and Hong Kong to India. The team, comprised of Jane Kenway, Johannah Fahey, Debbie Epstein, Aaron Koh, Cameron McCarthy, and Fazal Rizvi, have recently co-written a book on their findings entitled “Class Choreographies: Elite schools and globalization.” Debbie, a Professor of Cultural Studies in Education at the University of a Roehampton, joined me to talk about some of the major themes explored in the book.
I should mention, for full disclosure, that this project holds a special place in my heart. I met my future wife, Johannah Fahey, while she was collecting data for this project while in Hong Kong. Please excuse my biased opinion about this excellent research!
If you would like to order the book, the authors have provided FreshEd listeners with a 30% discount. Don’t wait: the offer ends July 31!