Saturday, October 12, 2019

The Index

In my third year at Prep School our form-master Mr Johnstone laid down a system via which we would record, in a not entirely voluntary manner, every book we read in his centralised notebook, where he would duly score them 1-5. 

It was a fairly simple system. Dickens earned you five points - maximum wholesomeness - a Doctor Who novel by Terence Dicks would barely scrape you one. 

Until fairly recently I took this initiative at face value. Mr J wanted to incentivise us to improve our reading habits. But then I read the first part of Norman Sherry’s biography of Graham Greene set in the recognisable world of a minor public school in the opening decades of the last century. (Greene’s unworldly father was the headmaster at Berkhamsted, and by all accounts a veritable Mr Chips.) 

It now seems that I had naïvely never considered the possibility that the reading league was part of a complex system of observation, control and censorship. Posh schools are part of the deep state. Who knew?

No comments: