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School 'prefect' in story?

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Hi everyone,

I have a question regarding school monitors or prefects as we call them in Australia and in the UK I believe.

These are older students designated to look after the younger students and encourage some decorum in school behaviour.

Do American schools have an equivalent? If I was to use the word 'prefect' in a story would other countries know what was meant?

I get conflicting results from researching on the net.

Any suggestions gratefully received. :icon1:

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Hi everyone,

I have a question regarding school monitors or prefects as we call them in Australia and in the UK I believe.

These are older students designated to look after the younger students and encourage some decorum in school behaviour.

Do American schools have an equivalent? If I was to use the word 'prefect' in a story would other countries know what was meant?

I get conflicting results from researching on the net.

Any suggestions gratefully received. :icon1:

It's been forever since I attended high school, but we didn't have them then and for the most part we don't now that I'm aware of. I'm talking public high schools: private ones probably all have their own idiosyncrasies.

Do they have them in state-run (I don't think I can use the word "public" as it has a different meaning there) schools in Australia and England? I know they do in boarding schools, but I don't know about regular schools.

Here I think it would be a problem. We've become quite litigious, and I can imagine lawsuits emanating from one kid, under the color of a questionable authority granted him by school officials, bossing another kid around. I can imagine abuses, real or spurious, that wouldn't be tolerated. I can imagine jocks being remonstrated by officious nerds and how that would play out. I think you'd have to have a very accepting school population for that to work, and our school populations tend more to the rebellious and independent than compliant.

As an American who reads about the goings on in English schools, I've always rather wondered how the prefect system worked in practice, as I have grave misgivings about it working here. Here, boys take advantage of weaker boys. I would think, boys being who they are, giving some authority over others is like letting the wolf loose in the sheep pen.

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Cole,

Thank you. You have confirmed what I thought was the case in the US.

The Australian system is somewhat different to the British, though it is also a carryover from the British boarding school. Like a lot of things in countries that originated from settlement by the British only an imitation remains. There were and are abuses in the Australian system but not as demeaning as those I have seen referred to in the UK.

On the whole it worked fairly well when I went to school, but that was a different era.

It was a little like scouts I am told, where slightly older boys look out for the younger.

We are talking age range from 13 to 17. Any sexual behaviour was not tolerated in any way unlike the references I have seen to the British system.

I will have to either work an alternative for my story or supply an author's note I suppose, unless I get clever. :icon1:

Thanks again for the help.

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On a story note, I think you'll be fine. Remember, the term 'prefect' is included in the Harry Potter stories, so a lot of American readers WILL be familiar with the term, even if they don't understand all the ramifications.

Just my opinion. The schools I went to didn't do this, but the one I'm sending my boys to, do.

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Graeme,

Thanks for that insight. I had forgotten about the educating value of Harry Potter.

I will keep it in mind and hopefully choose the best scenario.

It is only going to be a short story so I guess is not too important.

:icon1:

Thanks again,

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Do American schools have an equivalent? If I was to use the word 'prefect' in a story would other countries know what was meant?

When I was in school 100 years ago (OK, maybe it just feels like that long ago), we had "hall monitors" in elementary and sometimes Jr. High school. Nowadays, they'd have to give those kids bulletproof vests.

Hall monitors basically stopped kids from wandering around the halls once the class bell had rung, and also checked to see if kids had permission slips to go to the bathroom, etc.

I think in Britain, a Prefect has more responsibilities, particularly at boarding schools (based solely on my reading of J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter novels.) The concept of boarding schools is usually reserved mostly for the children of very wealthy people, at least in the U.S. Certainly, there's no equivalent for a "head boy," as they have in British boys' schools.

I'm sure you're already aware that in America, "public schools" are free, taxpayer-supported schools open to the public, and "private schools" are paid by the parents (and are often expensive). I seem to recall that these terms are swapped in the U.K., or have radically different meanings.

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Thanks Pecman,

The idea of a 'head boy' would have Australian kids rolling on the floor with laughter.

The Aussie system is a mix of various ideas from the American and British systems.

British being derived from their colonisation of Australia and American by influence of movies and music.

For the purposes of my story it seems like I will need to be careful to make it clear what the monitor or prefect does without being too concerned with cultural differences.

Thanks again.

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The idea of a 'head boy' would have Australian kids rolling on the floor with laughter.

J.K. Rowling touches on it several times in the Potter books, and I can tell you from an American perspective, it does kinda make us do a double-take. "Head what?"

The kids in the various houses at Hogwarts are always being chastised by various "head boys" here and there, and it seems to be taken pretty seriously there. Bizarre as the concept may be, it hasn't stopped Rowling from selling a few hundred million books. :icon1:

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J.K. Rowling touches on it several times in the Potter books, and I can tell you from an American perspective, it does kinda make us do a double-take. "Head what?"

The kids in the various houses at Hogwarts are always being chastised by various "head boys" here and there, and it seems to be taken pretty seriously there. Bizarre as the concept may be, it hasn't stopped Rowling from selling a few hundred million books. :smartass:

Begs the question: does he give or receive?

Back on topic, in my town the intermediate schools (grades 6 through 8) have hall monitors who are students, usually 8th graders. Elementary schools and high schools do not have hall monitors.

Colin :icon_geek:

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My boarding school in the UK was split into houses.

Each house had a House Master and a deputy who were adult teachers.

The House Master appointed House Prefects (HP's - like Lords) out of which one was a House Captain, and House Officials (wannabee's and generally disliked). The House Officials (HO's) had next to no power, whereas the House Prefects could give detention, lines, or both - and send you to the House Master who could slipper or cane you ... mine only used the slipper (thanks be).

The House Prefects voted on and elected School Prefects (SP's - like Gods) who could do virtually anything. The HP's could give you four pages of lines, the SP's six pages.

If you got sent to the Head Master (who caned very hard) it was BAD NEWS!

We also had fagging. Juniors who got paid to work for House Prefects.

No prefect could physically hit a boy, though the House Captain could recommend it to the House Master.

For some arcane reason private fee paying schools in the UK are called 'Public Schools'.

I hope this helps. *shudder*

Camy :icon_geek:

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Now there's an interesting concept we should have in America... :icon_geek:

I don't about that Pecman. From the stories I have read I really find it difficult to imagine the football jocks being prepared to pay some younger kid to go "fagging" for them. :smartass:

(Yes I know the meaning is different but I couldn't resist saying it.) :icon1:

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Hi everyone,

I have a question regarding school monitors or prefects as we call them in Australia and in the UK I believe.

These are older students designated to look after the younger students and encourage some decorum in school behaviour.

Do American schools have an equivalent? If I was to use the word 'prefect' in a story would other countries know what was meant?

I get conflicting results from researching on the net.

Any suggestions gratefully received. :icon_geek:

Beg to differ.

Public schools (free education available to all, theoretically, but actually based on housing/residential patterns and school quality varies widely) don't have them in higher grades (where they'd be more needed) but often have 'monitors' or safety assistants (can't think of the term) in lower grades. US private schools of some kinds do have them but don't use terms like 'head boy' and 'head girl'. 'Prefect' I'm less sure about and wouldn't be surprised if some non-parochial private schools used that title, particularly boarding schools in the northeastern United States. I think it would be hard not to have designated older students with authority, in some form, at any boarding school. I do also know of private, non-parochial day schools that have them.

Unofficially, of course, all schools have them, students who have authority over other students simply because they are granted it by the students themselves. This can be good or bad but, speaking from experience, it's useful for a teacher or coach to use such students to help meet goals.

I think most of the 'no' responses you're getting are based on typical public high school experience and are not an across-the-board answer for American schools, public and private, parochial and non-parochial, boarding and day. Americans get twitchy when you talk about class, and what kind of school one attended is most definitely a 'class' question.

Just my thoughts.

TR :smartass:

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Thank You TR,

Your thoughts are most revealing of a wider perspective into "class" sub-cultures.

These variations are most useful.

Australians don't have class structures. We just have whole groups in our society which don't think they are good enough to talk to each other. :icon_geek:

I now have sufficient information to deal with my story.

I think if anyone dares publish it you will all kill me after the effort you have all put in to answering my question.

Never the less I really am grateful for that effort. All your answers have given me much thought.

It is only a short piece and I hope to post it soon.

Thanks again to you all

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Australians don't have class structures. We just have whole groups in our society which don't think they are good enough to talk to each other. :icon_geek:

I know you're joking but...

Many Americans will tell you that we don't have class structures, either, it's a very twitchy subject and one which people tend not to see clearly.

Almost all Americans, of whatever income and background, consider themselves to be 'middle class', a patent impossibility that doesn't detract from its popularity as a belief. To suggest that anyone else is not middle class, either upper or lower, is regarded as highly insulting in this country. There is no sense of worker solidarity, of class pride in the 'lower classes' or other ideas that are visible in, for example, England.

The theory in America is that no one is better than anyone else, by birth or breeding, and that money can be obtained by anyone who works hard and is thus, at most, only a temporary barrier.

That this is not true is not widely accepted in America and that tenet, of alleged equality, lies under much political manipulation and general consensus opinion. This likely stems in part from our Revolutionary War and the idea that we are different from Europeans and their traditional class distinctions, this despite the fetish fascination royalty and nobility have for many Americans. Probably also in part from our western expansion history that includes ideas such as 'rugged individualism', 'manifest destiny' and idolizes larger-than-life figures like Teddy Roosevelt or John F. Kennedy (I won't delve into the irony of American choice in idols).

The idea that one person has better breeding, while in fact is a primary force in economics and ordinary life, will be hotly denied by most Americans except those in the actual upper classes (and they wouldn't mention it publically :smartass: ). Better blood is simply denied across the board by Americans, even those of upper classes who take care to 'breed' within 'good' bloodlines and those of lower who 'breed' only within color, religion or class lines.

Obviously, what is said and what is understood are two different things.

TR :icon1:

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Thanks for that TR,

I am glad you got that I was joking, I appreciate the points you make very much.

In Australia, we are somewhat aware of what you have described so well.

In fact what you have written is both marvelous in that you dare to write it and that it shows that there is an understanding about it in America. (No offense. I have always believed Americans are good people.)

Our own class structure in Australia is bizarre. We are moving towards the American model you describe, but dividing into a middle class and all the rest divide into two classes, the inherited wealthy (old money I think you call it over there) and the Aussie battler (read: 'struggling worker.')

This leaves a middle class of learned graduates who think they are middle class in search of 'new money' but are in fact workers, manipulated by the old wealth structure. Let me expand on that a little.

Australia did not have the benefit, such as it was, of a war of independence from the English, so we never had a formal revolt against our origins.

But we did have all our regions settled by convicts except one, that one being South Australia, where I live.

(My ancestors were Scottish gentry as well as convict Welsh/English origin.)

Being gay I end up being the black sheep of a black sheep of a black sheep...for at least five generations. :smartass:

South Australia was settled by "the Landed Gentry" of Britain. No convicts for us. Yeah right! We just ended up with English and Scottish upper class criminals instead. They just hadn't been caught before they got here.

This has forged an element of elitism in our state that is denied by all and sundry except Australia's indigenous Aboriginal population.

The notion remains that the Scottish descendants think they were born to rule Australia. The Irish descendants along with the European immigrants think they were born to be unionists and the rest of us are under the delusion that we're all equal.

Our regard to breeding is much the same as you describe for Americans.

However, we tend to ridicule or 'send up' those who "think their shit doesn't stink" as we put it with our Australian humour. Our humour is our substitute revolution. We have had to learn to laugh at ourselves as well as our "masters" which I find is difficult for other nationalities to comprehend. Humour is the Australian's great leveller and we use it with conscious self deprecation... well most of the time; Politically Correct forces notwithstanding. You can probably see that humour evident in some of my comments here.

Add to this an education system that is for all intents and purposes selling degrees in Nazi business management and you can see where the new middle class is coming from.

"Things aren't meant to be like this.." -quote from the movie: Grand Canyon.

Overall however, I think we do have a better multicultural society than most places in the world at present.

I also think the Internet despite all its dangers and faults, is helping the human race to become better informed about each other, even tolerant and one day even more accepting of the differences that we may yet learn to respect.

Of course we are not perfect. We do have some people in our government who "think" similarly to Bush but that can't last forever can it?

:icon_geek:

Hugs,

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What an interesting subject for us to disagree upon! Does America have classes, and if yes, how important are they, and how conscious of them are Americans?

I can't say I entirely agree with TR, if I'm reading what he said correctly, and I may not be. I get the sense from what he wrote that he feels there are strong class distinctions that play a role here. I disagree with that. Certainly it would be naive to say we are entirely classless. There is old money here, and there is power inherent where there is old money. But I don't feel this is a defning element in this country. I feel it may be so in England with their peerage and history, far, far more than here.

I think opportunity exists here for those who will work. Nothing really holds any of us back accept how willing we are to do what we must to be successful. I think the sky's the limit here. I think one can begin here with a very humble background and by sheer effort become anything one wants. I think there are stumbling blocks in England that don't exist here. I don't know, but my guess is there are less limits on personal success in Australia than in England. I do know that in America, if you want something and are willing to work for it, in almost every instance you can attain it.

I think TR is right that most of us here put ourselves in the middle class. But I also have the feeling that whatever class we put ourselves in, there is pride there, and a feeling that the class we assign ourselves to is somehow superior to other classes. I think there are working class people who DO feel a solidarity with others like themselves, and somehow feel they are a rung above those who sit at a desk or in front of a computer all day. This isn't surprising at all. I think there's a human need to feel important, to feel worthy, even to feel superior in some ways to those around us. I haven't met very many peole who don't have a feeling of personal pride.

People talk of the American dream, of being free to be able to make a success of themselves. I think this is still very true. I think this is one of the distinctions that sets this country apart, that makes us special. In that regard, I think we are less bound by class than perhaps anywhere else.

Cole

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My own two cents worth....

Australia has classes, but has a very weak class structure. England's class structure is a lot stronger, though it is weakening. By this I mean that migration and interaction between classes in Australia is normal and accepted (with the possible exception of the extreme ends of the classes), while in England it is less common.

One simple example would be when looking at holidays/vacations. In Australia there are vary few holiday destinations that don't cover a wide gamut of 'classes'. My understanding is that in England there are destinations for some classes, and other destinations for other classes. The younger generations tend to ignore this, which is why I said above that the class structure is weakening.

So, for an upper management executive to mix socially with a factory worker is something that would raise few eyebrows in Australia, but would raise lots in England. I'll leave it to others to indicate where the USA falls in that spectrum.

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Cole, TR.

I only wanted know about school prefects. I have no desire to start a class war here. <-- example of Aussie humour to defuse the situation.

Seriously guys, there is no need to argue or disagree, I think we are just seeing our worlds from different perspectives.

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My own two cents worth....

Australia has classes, but has a very weak class structure. England's class structure is a lot stronger, though it is weakening. By this I mean that migration and interaction between classes in Australia is normal and accepted (with the possible exception of the extreme ends of the classes), while in England it is less common.

One simple example would be when looking at holidays/vacations. In Australia there are vary few holiday destinations that don't cover a wide gamut of 'classes'. My understanding is that in England there are destinations for some classes, and other destinations for other classes. The younger generations tend to ignore this, which is why I said above that the class structure is weakening.

So, for an upper management executive to mix socially with a factory worker is something that would raise few eyebrows in Australia, but would raise lots in England. I'll leave it to others to indicate where the USA falls in that spectrum.

Really! That's completely new information for me. Separate holidays for different classes! How starnge! I had no idea! Here, holidays are entirly egalitarian except of course where economics are the controlling phenomenon. I just assumed it was that way everywhere.

As for your other point, here it's very true that intermingling between workers and management is not only done, it's encouraged. That's socmething that's changed in the past 50 years. In the 1950's this was the exception rather than the rule. Today, company executives much more regularly meet with hourly and lower-level salaried employees. In the case where an operation is in many locations, even many states and cities, it is usual for top execs to travel to these locations and have open meetings, open Q and A sessions, to disseminate information and engender unity. At these sessions, the execs go out of their way to show themselves to be cut from the same cloth, to have the same goals, to be as down to earth and interested in the same things as the laborers.

How well they succeed is dependent on to what degree they belive this themsevles. Some of them don't, and it shows.

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Careful Cole. I think you may have mistaken the vacation / holiday issue. I believe it is vacation destiinations that were different, not holiday dates. In the USA it is pretty nearly always vacation for those days you get off from work that are accumulated based on your time with the employer, whereas holidays are those days of celebrations that everyone (almost) takes off equally. In Canada 'holidays' is used to mean the same as vacation, but not in the other direction.

Cost is pretty much the only factor in vacation destinations in Canada. If you can pay for it, you can do it, if you want.

I think the most hilarious thing is watching an uncomfortable CEO wearing steel toed shoe, a hi-viz vest, and hardhat when he or she has never worn them before. They look SO uncorfortable; completely the opposite of what is intended, which is to show how 'down to earth' they really are.

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Really! That's completely new information for me. Separate holidays for different classes! How starnge! I had no idea! Here, holidays are entirly egalitarian except of course where economics are the controlling phenomenon. I just assumed it was that way everywhere.

Abre los Ojos :smartass:

If you'll allow me...

Imagine the people, their clothes and income and background and habits, who might reasonably be expected to choose each of the following different destinations for a holiday:

Smithsonian

Jamaica

Coney Island

Aspen

Mt Rushmore

C?te d'Azur

Hawaii

St Croix

DisneyLand

Gettysburg

Aren't they very different sorts of people entirely?

Aren't there Americans who would never bother going to Coney Island or Mt Rushmore? Aren't there Americans who would never dream of a holiday in C?te d'Azur or even St Croix? Isn't it telling what Americans choose to spend holiday time wandering the Smithsonian, which enjoy skiing in Aspen or perhaps a jaunt to the French Riviera, and who buys kitschy souvenirs at Civil War battlefields?

Take a moment to look at things you've understood and accepted without question...

Some Americans 'summer' (a verb to the higher classes) while others just go on vacation, yes? Some Americans own 'summer houses', while others book rooms online along Holiday Inn routes, or just round up the kids and hitch up the trailer come vacation time. Still others go nowhere on 'vacation'; if they get any time off from their jobs, it might be spent resting or cleaning house.

In addition to class, many destinations are segregated by color and ethnicity, or more rarely by sexual orientation, so that persons accidentally booking time with a group or at a place (resort, travel group, hotel, spa, seaside, etc) where their ethnicity or sexual orientation is an unwelcome minority will unquestionably be aware of their error. Imagine a West Virginian hetero family of eight showing up, with trailer in tow, at the White Party, or a family of Ashkenazi Jews joining the DAR (or United Daughters of the Confederacy) on a sultry springtime walk through an historic American battlefield.

And, of course, there are Americans who never 'fly' anywhere (or use that verb for human travels), whether holiday or not, and there are Americans who fly constantly but only via business class and probably save up their customer 'miles', and then there are other Americans who wouldn't dream of flying via commerical airlines outside of First Class (just ponder those designations, btw), and would be far more likely to charter a plane or perhaps even fly their own (or their family's or their company's) aircraft, calling up the pilot on the spur of the moment.

These distinctions are all evidence of class differences in the holiday and vacation 'choices' and destinations of your fellow Americans.

Class is the unspoken defining element in American life, politics and, even more definitely, in economics. Even more than color, though usually entwined with color, class distinctions determine every facet of our lives. That Americans don't acknowledge it is one of the truly odd facts about this country.

We are a country of men (and now women) who are all equally equal, we like to say, but of course, some are more equal than others. No one is outside the day-to-day operation of class awareness...even if they're wilfully unaware.

Kisses... :icon1:

TR :icon_geek:

Wikipedia has a good entry for class: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_class

As societies expand and become more complex, economic power will often replace physical power as the defender of the class status quo, so that the following will establish one's class much more so than physical power:

*occupation

*education and qualifications

*income

*wealth or net worth

*ownership of land, property, means of production, slaves, ...

Those who can attain a power position in a society will often adopt distinctive lifestyles to emphasize their prestige, and as a way to further rank themselves within the powerful class. In certain times and places, the adoption of these stylistic traits can be as important as one's wealth in determining class status, at least at the higher levels:

*costume and grooming

*manners and cultural refinement. For example, Bourdieu suggests a notion of high and low classes with a distinction between bourgeois tastes and sensitivities and the working class tastes and sensitivities.

*political standing vis-?-vis the church, government, and/or social clubs, as well as the use of honorary titles

*reputation of honor or disgrace

*language, the distinction between elaborate code, which is seen as a criterion for "upper-class", and the restricted code, which is associated with "lower classes"

Finally, fluid notions such as race and sexual orientation can have widely varying degrees of influence on class standing. Having characteristics of the majority ethnic group and engaging in marriage to produce offspring improve one's class status in most societies. But what is considered "racially superior" in one society may be exactly the opposite in another, and there have been societies, such as ancient Greece, in which intimacy with someone of the same gender would improve one's social status so long as it occurred alongside opposite-gender marriage. Also a minority sexual orientation and, to a far lesser degree, minority ethnicity have often been faked, hidden, or discreetly ignored if the person in question otherwise attained the requirements to be high class. Ethnicity is still often the single most overarching issue of class status in some societies (see the articles on apartheid, the Caste system in Africa, and the Japanese Burakumin ethnic minority for examples).

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Ok. That was a spirited, informed, and well thought contribution, TR.

The Wikipedia reference you provide is excellent with a notable exception of the class structure of ancient Rome. In particular the Spartacus revolt against being in the class of Roman slaves. Spartacus' revolt was notable because it dared to seek freedom on the basis that men should not be enslaved to other men. Of course Roman civilisation was built on a class of slaves who did not have access to the "democratic" rule of the Roman Senate.

The real moral of the Spartacus revolt is not the revolt itself even though it is significant, it is rather that so many of his followers were prepared to die in his place. That allegiance was not only to Spartacus himself, but also to the ideals of freedom from being a member of the slave class.

Today we have replaced slavery with indentured servitude. We sign a contract to work for an employer that in effect stipulates conditions which place the employee in a subordinate class to his or her employer.

That subordinate class carries over into the social context of our existence.

There are benefits and compromises to such arrangements. I have no doubt whatsoever that ethnic and other minorities are marginalised under these agreements and contracts, despite attempts by unions and some governments to protect people.

We have the ability to not sign such a contract, that is true. However we must accept the consequences of declining to agree to the terms of the contract. That is fast becoming our modern form of revolt for which we will suffer. That is another much lower class of existence often misunderstood by the idea that everyone can find work if they want it. Some conditions of employment are unacceptable for a variety of reasons which I will not expand on here.

The managers of any company employs workers. Regardless of pay and conditions, this automatically creates class structure. Then there are police, military, politicians, judiciary and others all of whom have power over others. That is another class.

We are supposed to have protections in place for the individual to retain some autonomy over their personal freedom, its thoughts and expression. Those protections are under attack from within, as well as from outside our societies .

Class is about exerting control over others. We have different types of control over others today than existed in Spartacus' time, but it can be no less demeaning and sometimes for far less honourable ends than the Ancients' practised. How many of us are prepared to fight for not only our own liberty but that of others. How many of us are prepared to stand and shout "I am Spartacus?" just so that someone we disagree with has their right to not be enslaved by these controls of class, let alone lose their personal freedom of thought and expression.

No I am not trying incite a revolution or encourage martyrdom. I am trying to show that we need to be constantly vigilant about maintaining our hard won conditions of our individual human rights, responsibilities and freedoms.

Do I dare add that a good school prefect might encourage those freedoms to develop in other students?

A bad one maybe trying to get their lunch money...or worse.

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This is quite the fascinating discussion.

Des, one thing you said made me want to speak out. (Actually almost everything everyone has said makes me want to speak out, but then, I'm prone to rambling on about everything, even when I don't know what I'm talking about, so I'm self-censoring mys ... SHUT UP NOW BART ... elf, sorry.)

"Class is about exerting control over others." I think the point of class is to do this but without seeming to exert control. It is supposed to be so automatic one doesn't even think about it anymore. It is either 'right', or 'invisible'.

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"Class is about exerting control over others." I think the point of class is to do this but without seeming to exert control. It is supposed to be so automatic one doesn't even think about it anymore. It is either 'right', or 'invisible'.

Good point Trab,

I do agree with your statement Trab. Actually I find I am agreeing with most of the replies, and like you I want to speak out and ramble...Damn, now you have got me doing it.... :icon_geek:

I might say that where the invisible control operates it is covert, surreptitious and sinister.

On the other when class is used as I would maintain that it can, with beneficial purpose for both society and individual then it and its agents (contracts, conditions Etc.) must be transparent, approachable, negotiable and above all, compassionate.

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