I started in KEGS in as a year 7 and stuck through to year 13 and I cannot condemn enough the blatant culture at KEGS especially pre-y12 that objectifies women and girls, bullies LGBT students and perpetuates racist remarks.
I will not pretend that I was ‘one of the good ones’ and that I have been a paragon of virtue throughout my time at KEGS. I was always one of the unsavoury ones on the fringes, being outspoken about my disregard for courtesy and clear uncouthness, and partook in the humour to try and fit in. It took many months of self reflection and insight into my own actions and words for me to finally overcome years of poisonous beliefs
The school staff absolutely fail in their duty to educate young men and boys in how to be a good person. In 6 years of being surrounded by staff who should have been role models, I can safely say that I have only seen one teacher who has challenged students outright on their ideas, and been an example of what it is to be a good person.
KEGS prides itself on being academic, but neglects its responsibilities to raise young men to be good human beings, not only in the way they treat others but in their beliefs about others. Having a PSHE lesson on how to have safe sex and being told to not bully others does not constitute preparing the next generation for society, nor does it challenge their beliefs about issues such as sexuality, racism, and interpersonal relationships. It is not enough to tell teenagers, not to do a certain thing, and it is certainly not enough to have three sex ed lessons in 6 years. By failing to provide good role models and mentor-like relationships, KEGS allows its students to discuss amongst themselves what is constitutes as acceptable and what is wrong to do. In 4 years of from year 7 to 11, I was never picked up on my frankly disgusting beliefs, perpetuated by the lad culture of the classroom, nor did a teacher attempt to teach us moral values.
Racism in KEGS is a topic that I do not feel that I can discuss the effects of, only the way that it was present in the student population. While I personally have never felt racially discriminated by from the staff, what occurred in year 10 and 11, was myself and others being exposed to a slurry of racial abuse from members of all races to all races. What was seen as ‘cool’ was to verbally abuse minorities with remarks that weren’t specific to that group. For example, a common insult was to call another student a racial slur pertaining to those of African descent, or alternatively simply accusing one of being of the Jewish faith. At no point did the staff ever step in to reprimand the abuser, or take steps to prevent it. There were certain social groups in which slurs and homophobic sentiments were spoken as if it were nothing, and if you ever were to criticise them, a relentless barrage of abuse was certain. I personally tested my teacher’s selective deafness with a friend, by intentionally moving within earshot of them, and exchanging remarks with him. We noticed that while the teachers would occasionally make an indication that they had heard us, but never pursued it further.
Homophobia and anti-LGBT sentiments are prevalent in the younger years, and I’m sure that the very vast majority of long-term KEGS students have engaged in ‘banter’ that commonly used ‘gay’ as a synonym for ‘bad’ or to describe something or someone feminine. Homophobic slurs were not uncommon, and one member of my class engaged another in a debate about whether homosexuality was unnatural and therefore bad. The party defending the LGBT community later came out and I can only imagine the amount of pain and hurt he felt when being attacked vehemently for simply being who he was. To this day, I regret just being a bystander on the table as what was hate speech was spewed for the majority of the lesson, and not intervening. I personally was outspoken against the community in Y10, because I was part of the social circle that encouraged anti-LGBT remarks, and it was after I left that group, that I stopped. My personal U turn in that regard was due to becoming best friends outside of school with a gay girl, and beginning to actively challenge homophobes and support the community. KEGS is a cesspit where you can expect students to be bullied for their sexual orientation or presentation in the younger years while the teachers turn a blind eye and spout anti-bullying rhetoric, only speaking of the consequences and never the moral values. I feel ill-suited to describe the effects of misogyny in KEGS as I never suffered the consequences or felt the emotional turmoil of being objectified. I can only speak to how the all-boys environment and constant sexualisation of sixth form girls in the younger years falsed impressed onto me the importance of sex in the real world, and skewed the ways in which I viewed not only women, but the girls my age. The constant discussion of porn preferences, certain actors, rating girls in terms of attractiveness from simply an instagram profile all serve to fuel the sexually aggressive nature of the younger years, which is then expressed in the changing rooms or corridors as groping, spanking. In one case, a member of my class hooked his fingers and attempted to shove it into my anus, causing me distress and since then, I have never talked to or trusted him. Another incident that springs to mind that illustrates the extent of misogyny, was the spread of intimate pictures that allegedly belonged to an attractive girl in the sixth form. A male member of the sixth form had saved these pictures obviously without her consent and shared them with his friendship group and from there it spiralled out of control to the extent that I saw year 9’s discussing it and sharing the pictures. It makes me sick to the pit of my stomach to remember how thrilled they were and the glee at which they expressed, and to now put myself in the place of this girl and to have the whole school snicker and gossip about your body. It makes me sick to remember the indifference of the students to her privacy, and to only concentrate on how her attractiveness somehow made it ok to discuss her. Every time I remember this incident, I curse my own lack of action to speak out about how wrong it was.
The all boys environment with no supervision of the younger years allows hateful speech and harmful beliefs to flourish and spread. Eventually these become ingrained into the students as being acceptable to think or to hear and not challenge. I blame the all boys environment into creating a belief that sex and sexual acts was the most important thing in the world, and forcing these beliefs into the students. The environment that these boys create is the one they are surrounded with and eventually change them.
I spend a lot of time struggling with facets of my own personality, and I credit KEGS with corrupting my views of sex and racism, to the point that I have suffered with an obsession with sex for all of my teenage life, and it is within the past two years that I’ve been able to recognise my failings as a man and take steps to become better.
While I struggle to read the testimonies and the accounts that other students have given, to me it is abhorrent that at no point did I say, this would never happen at KEGS. I assumed that everyone was able to overcome the beliefs and culture of the younger years when we became Sixth Form students, but it’s clear that it’s simply adapted and present in the actions or inactions of the students.
It is not enough for us, the students of KEGS, to just say that it is wrong, and blanket blame the school for these issues. We must reflect on our own failures in acting, or our inaction and turning a blind eye to our friends saying dangerous things. We must not only educate ourselves but the younger years, and call them out. We must call out this behaviour when we see it and refuse to let it be swept under the rug.
We must hold the school accountable for failing to instil moral values in its students, and providing adequate education on what it means to be a good human being.