I was confusing learning with the smell of cold stone. If I had gone to Oxford I’d probably never have worked out the difference.
Hate them because these boys and girls against whom you are to compete have been groomed like thoroughbreds for this one particular race.
Dakin’s navel, I remember, was small and hard like an unripe blackberry. Posner’s navel was softer and more like that of the eponymous orange. Posner envied Dakin his navel and all the rest of him. That this envy might amount to love does not yet occur to Posner, as to date it has only caused him misery and dissatisfaction.
You give them an education. I give them the wherewithal to resist it.
There’s no better way of forgetting something than by commemorating it.
With respect, can I stop you? No, with a poem or any work of art we can never say ‘in other words.’ If it is a work of art there are no other words.
Truth is no more at issue in an examination than thirst at a wine-tasting or fashion at a strip-tease.
TIMMS: Sir, I don’t always understand poetry.
HECTOR: You don’t always understand it? Timms, I never understand it. But learn it now, know it now and you’ll understand it whenever.
TIMMS: I don’t see how we can understand it. Most of the stuff poetry’s about hasn’t happened to us yet.
HECTOR: But it will, Timms. It will. And then you will have the antidote ready! Grief. Happiness. Even when you’re dying. We’re making your deathbeds here, boys.
History nowadays is not a matter of conviction. It’s a performance. It’s entertainment. And if it isn’t, make it so.
One of the hardest things for boys to learn is that a teacher is human. One of the hardest things for a teacher to learn is not to try and tell them.
I’m a Jew.
And I live in Sheffield.
DAKIN: The more you read, though, the more you see that literature is actually about losers.
DAKIN: It’s consolation. All literature is consolation.
I count examinations, even for Oxford and Cambridge, as the enemy of education. Which is not to say that I don’t regard education as the enemy of education, too.
HECTOR: Codes, spells, runes — call them what you like, but do not call them gobbets.
IRWIN: I just thought it would be useful…
HECTOR: Oh, it would be useful…every answer a Christmas tree hung with the appropriate gobbets. Except that they’re learned by heart. And that is where they belong and like the other components of the heart not to be defiled by being trotted out to order.
IRWIN: So what are they meant to be storing them up for, these boys? Education isn’t something for when they’re old and grey and sitting by the fire. It’s for now. The exam is next month.
HECTOR: And what happens after the exam? Life goes on. Gobbets!
HECTOR: The transmission of knowledge is in itself an erotic act. In the Renaissance…
HEADMASTER: Fuck the Renaissance. And fuck literature and Plato and Michaelangelo and Oscar Wilde and all the other shrunken violets you people line up. This is a school and it isn’t normal.
The best moments in reading are when you come across something — a thought, a feeling, a way of looking at things — which you had thought special and particular to you. Now here it is, set down by someone else, a person you have never met, someone even who is long dead. And it is as if a hand has come out and taken yours.
It is a sad fact that whatever the sublimity and splendour of the ruins of our great abbeys to the droves of often apathetic visitors the monastic life only comes alive when contemplating its toilet arrangements.
What made me piss my life away in this god-forsaken school? There’s nothing of me left. Go away. Class dismissed. Go.
Shall I tell you what is wrong with Hector as a teacher? It isn’t that he doesn’t produce results. He does. But they are unpredictable and unquantifiable and in the current educational climate that is no use.
What’s all this learning by heart for, except as some sort of insurance against the boys’ ultimate failure?
I didn’t teach you and Wittgenstein didn’t screw it out of his very guts in order for you to turn it into a dinky formula.
What has truth got to do with it? I thought that we’d already decided that for the purposes of this examination truth is, if not an irrelevant, then so relative as just to amount to another point of view.
How do I define history? It’s just one fucking thing after another.