Everyone knows that Tilda Swinton is super-posh, right? We think of her these days as a weird alien-unicorn fully enmeshed in the avant-garde artsy-hipster life, but her upbringing was the same as many of the daughters of nobility. She actually went to boarding school with the then-Lady Diana Spencer, and by Tilda’s own accounts, she was expected to be poshly-well-educated and then marry someone with a title. In the years since then, she’s obviously gone on a different path, and she wants her twin sons to also have an individual, un-posh path. While many teenage boys with posh backgrounds would likely go to school at Eton or Harrow, Tilda enrolled her sons at a makeshift school she and some of her friends started in Scotland. The school sounds like a hippie fantasy – there are no grades, no desks and no tests. Now Tilda is talking about how she hates the very posh-British way of educating kids, which is basically to ship them off to boarding school when they’re like eight years old.
Actress Tilda Swinton criticised the Harry Potter films for romanticising the ‘cruel’ boarding school experience. The star, 56, who boarded at the exclusive West Heath Girls’ School, in Sevenoaks, Kent, said it can be harmful to separate children from their parents at a young age. She added that she did not believe children ‘benefit’ from a boarding school education.
The actress told The Scots Magazine: ‘I think they are a very cruel setting in which to grow up and I don’t feel children benefit from that type of education. Children need their parents. That’s why I dislike films like Harry Potter, which tend to romanticise such places.’
Swinton’s experience of West Heath, where she was a classmate of Princess Diana, led her to setting up a liberal independent school near her home in Nairn, Scotland. Drumduan Upper School, which opened in 2013, has no tests or exams and students spend their days building boats and planting trees rather than sitting behind desks.
She added: ‘I grew up under privileged circumstances and was expected to marry a duke. I spent a lot of time and energy making certain that I would not find myself living a life that had been preordained for me.’
Some people believe shipping kids off to boarding school is a great way to do things, and some don’t. I do tend to think of it as a cultural thing and it’s one of the big differences between how Americans view education versus how Europeans view it. There simply isn’t the same boarding-school tradition here in the US. While there are posh boarding schools here, even the wealthiest and poshest kids tend to stay at home and go to posh, exclusive day schools. But do we romanticize boarding schools? I don’t know. I think it’s a problem for Britain that Eton and Harrow-educated men basically run every part of British society. It does not speak to diversity of opinion, diversity of education, diversity of background. But that’s not the school’s fault.
Photos courtesy of WENN.