Not cool, C.S. Lewis

The Silver Chair begins in a fictional school called Experiment House. The school is obviously based on ‘modern’ or ‘progressive’ schools along the lines of the real life Summerhill.

In Experiment House, children are allowed to do as they like. In the book, this inevitably leads to institutionalized bullying, which isn’t punished because the Head sees them as interesting psychological cases.

Incidentally, Lewis also seems to see boys and girls attending the same school, and a female Head, as signs of a school gone mad.

However, my main problem with the thesis that ‘modern’ schooling = bullying is that Lewis himself went to the most traditional kinds of schools, and suffered bullying there.

This post points out that Lewis called his old school, Wynard, ‘Belsen’, after the Nazi concentration camp. The headmaster of this school was actually eventually criminally charged and sent to an insane asylum.

He then moved to another school which used the British system of fagging: that is, older boys being able to give orders to younger boys. This system was associated with abuse, which was generally ignored or even approved of. In some cases (though apparently not Lewis’) it went as far as rape.

For a relatively recent example of the culture of abuse in the most ‘traditional’ schools, see this article.

So Lewis must have known that thesis he presented in The Silver Chair, that bullying was associated with then-modern methods of education, was the opposite of the truth.

He seems to have lied for ideological reasons: that is, because he associated ‘modern schooling’ with skepticism about Christianity.

‘Memory’ by H.P. Lovecraft

In the valley of Nis the accursed waning moon shines thinly, tearing a path for its light with feeble horns through the lethal foliage of a great upas-tree. And within the depths of the valley, where the light reaches not, move forms not meet to be beheld. Rank is the herbage on each slope, where evil vines and creeping plants crawl amidst the stones of ruined palaces, twining tightly about broken columns and strange monoliths, and heaving up marble pavements laid by forgotten hands. And in trees that grow gigantic in crumbling courtyards leap little apes, while in and out of deep treasure-vaults writhe poison serpents and scaly things without a name.
     Vast are the stones which sleep beneath coverlets of dank moss, and mighty were the walls from which they fell. For all time did their builders erect them, and in sooth they yet serve nobly, for beneath them the grey toad makes his habitation.
     At the very bottom of the valley lies the river Than, whose waters are slimy and filled with weeds. From hidden springs it rises, and to subterranean grottoes it flows, so that the Daemon of the Valley knows not why its waters are red, nor whither they are bound.
     The Genie that haunts the moonbeams spake to the Daemon of the Valley, saying, “I am old, and forget much. Tell me the deeds and aspect and name of them who built these things of stone.” And the Daemon replied, “I am Memory, and am wise in lore of the past, but I too am old. These beings were like the waters of the river Than, not to be understood. Their deeds I recall not, for they were but of the moment. Their aspect I recall dimly, for it was like to that of the little apes in the trees. Their name I recall clearly, for it rhymed with that of the river. These beings of yesterday were called Man.”
     So the Genie flew back to the thin horned moon, and the Daemon looked intently at a little ape in a tree that grew in a crumbling courtyard.