Green Paper


David Davis

This is a day of minor observations about small things. I feel I want to say things about education this afternoon.

This matter which I will relate was commonplace in the early 1960s. Even in “State” schools, whose teachers still thought they were there to pass knowledge on, or at least some of them did.

When I was a young teenager at school, if you did a piece of either homework (it was actually called “prep” then by us, and you did some between 6.15 and 7.30 pm at school, before going home if you were not a boarder, to do the rest before tomorrow am) or classwork that fell below your recognized usually-achievable standards – and you were /told/ what these would be as required-  you would be commanded to redo the work on “Green Paper”, perfectly, for resubmission to the relevant master. Otherwise, you would not be classed in your class ratings for the “Tri-Weeklies”. There were four of these per term. If you missed a “Tri-Weekly” in all subjects fully…..

“Green Paper”, which was of a particular shade and was lined and punched and of Foolscap size – so you could not buy it at Pullinger’s “the stationers” in the town – could only be collected, in individual sheets of the prescribed number for the work, from your Housemaster. He would note how many sheets you were commanded to ask for, which master it was for, and which subject, and by when (usually tomorrow) and would note your marks from the failed-piece. You had to sign for these sheets.

If you “got” three Green Papers (over all subjects) in one tri-weekly, you would then go on “Satis”. You might be beaten as well by the Housemaster or the House Tutor, at his or his discretion, especially if you were thought to be “intelligent and lazy”. (Boris Johnson types please note.) Potential officers in the Prussian Army would have jumped over the wall by this time and buggered off to their favourite peasant-girls, in disgust, at their views of this attempted humiliation. “

“Satis” meant that you had a brown _Blauschein_ thingy handed to you, with all the lessons you had to go to marked on it in a grid, for the next three weeks (tri-weekly) and each master (all of them, for all subjects) had to sign it to the effect that you had performed “satis”factorily in his lesson. Each time,  it made you late as you had to queue up to see him at the end-bell of each lesson, before moving on to another building: (The boys moved and the masters stayed put then.) It identified you to the other boys as a person who needed watching. Some would withdraw the hem of their garment from you, especially the clubbable popular convivial not-very-bright-but-politically-able-boys, whom everyone wanted as their friends.These boys, who are now in their 60s all very rich and relaxed in their old age, did not want to be associated visibly with other people’s failures: that is only right and natural. It was a lesson in life.

It bloody made you perform.

If your “Satis” card was in order at the end, and you had not acquired any more Green papers, then the record of the previous Green Papers you had obtained was expunged.

I am not suggesting that a libertarian education system – if that is not indeed a tautologial notion – would invoke such a thing as this system for making people remember things learned. But if there was a Free Market in Schooling, then some places might go for this method, as in a “That’ll Teach-’Em!” strategy. I fully expcet that the children of people like Tony Blair, the Milibands, Peter Mandelson (he has children, but he is just dissembling for the camerae) and Harriet Harman would go here.

The problem today of course is that there is no failure and no success. Everyone has to be equally “advantaged”, and as well the “curriculum” contains no content of actual factual use or relevance. So I suppose they don’t need Green papers then.

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One response to “Green Paper

  1. They had this sort of thing at Dulwich College when I was there. One lesson marked “Bad” and you would be caned. To get off the thing you had to get a whole day of “Good”s; so any malicious teacher could keep you on it regardless of your “Good” performence. Dulwich existed to create a Lieutenant Class, obedient enforcers of the will of the ruling class; and to create administrators for the (vanishing) British Empire. I was glad to get out of the place, having made the mistake of “winning” a scholarship there. Enough to make anyone a Gramsciwhotsit…

    Tony