If you want to win a scholarship to the prestigious British boarding school Eton College, you'd better be prepared to think like a politician — even when politicians are committing heinous crimes and even when you are just 13 years old. This week, it was discovered that a 2011 exam to win one of 14 King’s Scholarships for the most prestigious all-boys public boarding school in the United Kingdom asked students as young as 13 to pretend to be the prime minister and to justify the shooting dead of 25 protesters as a moral and necessary decision. The question was based on a passage from Machiavelli’s The Prince that centers on whether it is better for a ruler to be feared or loved. While the ability to think critically and to look at events from different angles should be fostered in education, when one takes into consideration the fact that many of Eton’s graduates will go on to be world leaders, and, having barely reached puberty, are at a very impressionable age, one can’t help but question the moral grounds and motives for choosing to pose a question of this nature.
Eton College is far more than a boys' boarding school — it is an international institution. Founded in 1440 by King Henry VI, the school has educated generations of British and foreign aristocrats and more than just a few British leaders. Eton has been called “the chief nurse of England’s statesmen,” and counts among its alumni the British Prime Minister David Cameron, London's Mayor Boris Johnson, Prince William, Prince Harry, and historical figures such as the Duke of Wellington, Robert Boyle, and John Maynard Keynes. The school, which costs over 30,000 pounds per year, also boasts of its own strict set of traditions, and most would even say its own culture. To say that Eton is a training ground for the elite would be a gross understatement. No wonder Britain’s ruling elites are so detached from the rest of society!
The question’s discovery quickly caused uproar across the internet. People immediately began to question whether an Etonian education is the root cause of many of the British government’s repressive policies over the years. The fact that the exam question was posed the same year that riots broke out across the United Kingdom, seems to be more than just an unfortunate coincidence. If students are being taught that as long as your argument is spun the right way, it is possible to justify as moral and necessary the murder of civilians, what other lessons are they bound to learn behind Eton’s closed doors?
For a copy of the full exam click here.