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Britain’s Eton College asks teenage candidates to justify shooting protesters

Published time: May 24, 2013 21:01
Edited time: May 25, 2013 14:52
Boys from Eton college. (Reuters / Eddie Keogh)

Boys from Eton college. (Reuters / Eddie Keogh)

UK’s elite school asked 13-year old boys to pretend to be Prime Minister and justify the army shooting dead 25 protesters in a speech to win a scholarship, British media revealed.

The question, which was put to students applying for the King’s Scholarship, worth one tenth of Eton’s £32,000 a year fees, is entitled “Concerning Cruelty, Clemency and Whether It Is better To Be Loved than Feared”, and follows a passage from Machiavelli.

“The year is 2040. There have been riots in the streets of London after Britain has run out of petrol because of an oil crisis in the Middle East. Protesters have attacked public buildings. Several policemen have died. Consequently, the government has deployed the army to curb the protests. After two days the protests have stopped but 25 protestors have been killed by the army,” the question reads.

Candidates are then asked to imagine that they were the Prime Minister and to write a speech for broadcast to the nation on why the decision to deploy the army against violent protests was both necessary and morally right.

The paper was set in April 2011, just after the student riots in which the headquarters of the Conservative Party and the treasury were hit and, by coincidence, just before the August 2011 riots, which injured many and caused millions of pounds of damage. At the time David Cameron warned that the army might be deployed.

The question caused uproar, with many taking to twitter to express their disagreement:

The headmaster of Eton College, Tony Little, emailed the US paper the Huffington Post saying the question has been taken out of context and that Eton School does not favor any particular political viewpoint.

“We are looking for candidates who can see both sides of an idea and express them clearly. High ability candidates at this level are often asked to put themselves in someone else’s shoes,” he wrote.

He then compared the question to a GCSE level English question, which is sat by all secondary school 16-year olds in England and Wales as well as those from fee paying public schools, in which he imagined a question, “Imagine you are Lady Macbeth, write a diary entry to express your feelings on receiving your husband’s letter.”

He added that a similar question in this year’s paper was about a community without any government.
Both the current British Prime Minister David Cameron and the London Mayor Boris Johnson went to Eton, Boris was also a King’s Scholar.

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