Simanaitis Says

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NOW THAT KIDS ARE returning, sorta, to traditional schooling, maybe it’s time to bring some humor, er… humour to the educational process. I do this in vintage fashion, by examining Down with Skool, written in 1954 by Geoffrey Willans and illustrated by the incomparable Ronald Searle.

Down with Skool, by Geoffrey Willans, illustrated by Ronald Searle, Vanguard Press, 1954.

Willans puts the book in perspective: “In England when a man is desperate for a crumb of bread he can either rob a bank or start a private school. There is this difference between the acts. One is against the law; the other not.” 

Willians continues, prep schools “take small boys from the ages of eight to thirteen and a half, when they pass them on to the rigours of the public school. It is astonishing that parents who could educate their children free on the state still prefer to spend vast sums….”

“Of course,” Willans says, “the best prep schools are excellently and efficiently run by keen and qualified headmasters—but the tone of them all is the same…. Good or bad, these prep schools in the main have been responsible for many generations for developing the early spirit and aptitude for leadership in the British upper-crust—of course, what you feel about them is your own affair.”

This and other images by Ronald Searle in Down with Skool.

Our Guide Through St. Custard’s. Nigel Molesworth says skools are “nothing but kanes, lat. french. geog. hist. algy, geom, headmasters, skool dogs, skool sossages, my bro molesworth 2 and MASTERS everywhere.”

“The only good thing about skools,” Nigel says, “are the BOYS wizz who are noble brave fearless etc. although you hav various swots, bulies, cissies, milksops greedy guts and oiks with whom i am forced to mingle hem-hem.”  

Masters are Sloppy and Like Gurls. “Proof: Masters not only like BEER some hav fotos of Gurls hem-hem like bety grable in their rooms…. That is all very well they hav got to hav something in their lives besides Caesar pythagoras and other weeds but i ask you wot could any GURL see in a master? Especially one like bety grable? Q.E.D.”

On Maths. “Pythagoras as a mater of fact is at the root of all geom…. Whenever he found a new thing about a triangle Pythagoras who had no shame jumped out of his bath and shouted ‘Q.E.D.’ through the streets of athens its a wonder they never locked him up.”

“To do geom,” Molesworth explains, “you hav to make a lot of things equal to each other when you can see perfectly well that they don’t. This agane is due to Pythagoras and it formed much of his conversation at brekfast.”

“Pythagoras puzzled by one of my theorems.”

Parents at a Glance. “Once a body hav been sent to skool the die is cast. all the same every so often parents wake up and wonder how their little dear is doing. It is then that the headmaster hav to organize a pla or something which prove to parents that their sons are worth their salt and can learn a lot of tricks if pressed like dogs or even seals.”

“In any case,” Nigel says, “there is only one thing for parents to sa when they recover their speech they must say it was much beter than last year. Wot last year must hav been like then is a lot more than i can imagine.”

“I think sometimes parents may wonder whether we are worth the sacrifices they make for us.”

Thanks, Geoffrey Willians and Ronald Searle, for putting education in perspective. ds 

© Dennis Simanaitis,, 2022  

3 comments on “SKOOL IS BACK

  1. Bob Storck
    April 18, 2022

    Obviously our modern youth are keeping the same standards of grammar and spelling.

  2. sabresoftware
    April 19, 2022

    Four of my six year sojourn in England was spent at those juvenile penal institutions, a.k.a. “skool”. The mistress that I had for English one year would have made me spell out the correct version of “skool” three times for each occurrence as a correction to any paper or test. If at that time the spelling was still incorrect it would be followed by repeating 100 times. Similarly grammar errors required submitting a rewritten sentence, once, but then 10 times if still incorrect. Corrections usually consumed far more time than the original essay.

    She was reputedly a leading authority on Shakespeare at the time in the UK. We were convinced that this was probably because she knew him personally, as she was ancient (I think that she was in her late 80s which convinced us 12 year olds that she must have known him).

    I still remember an old classmate acting in one of those parental affirmation plays, where he had a skit doing a little bit of Hamlet, “Alas poor Yoric, I knew him well” and then turned the plastic skull towards himself and said in a totally different accent (like Sid James) “Doesn’t look a bit like him”.

    A few years ago I found an interesting book on workplace stress and noted that the author’s name was familiar and contacted him, confirming that he was one and the same as “Poor Yoric” fame. We hadn’t seen or spoken to each other in over 53 years!

  3. jguenther5
    April 19, 2022

    A good friend of mine from high skool often shared bits of the witticisms at his UK skool, including recitation of this clever pome:

    “I chased a bug
    Around a tree;
    I’ll get ‘is blood,
    ‘E knows I will.”

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