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 Post subject: Mistresses and Prefects
PostPosted: 03 Feb 2012, 15:17 
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I'm sorry if I'm posting this in the wrong place, I've never been very clear about the difference between Special Sixth and Lemon Biscuits. Please move if necessary.

I've been looking at Theodora and I'm interested in OOAO in this passage:

Quote:
"It's this way. There's something wrong between the Maynards, and Ted Grantley is mixed up in it. So," she [Mary-Lou] added, "are Rosamund Lilley and Odette Mercier. I have an idea what it is and I want to put a stop to it if I can."


She says a bit later on in the same conversation:

Quote:
"If I can only get hold of Margot and make her understand that if you don't share you end by losing, I think she'll take a grip on herself and then things will improve."


I know Mary-Lou has the best of intentions, and often CS teachers express the opinion that girls will take tellings-off better from people near their own age (and I think it would be undoubtedly far more interesting for children to read about what other girls do rather than watching mistresses meting out punishment time and time agan), but this situation has always puzzled me.

I think it should have been left to the mistresses to deal with. This isn't just a case of teenage bad temper, it's nastiness, bullying and blackmail, as is explained in the very long conversation between OOAO, Mademoiselle and Miss Ferrars. Shouldn't they have thanked Mary-Lou for coming to them but explained that now it should be left to them do deal with?

Also, isn't it supremely arrogant of Mary-Lou to think that she alone is capable of dealing with this situation?

What role are the prefects supposed to play in CS-land? They often take matters entirely into their own hands. Yes, we see the Abbess doling out interviews that make the culprits feel like worms, and all the girls live in wholesome fear of Matey, but it seems to me like the majority of the discipline is left to the prefects.

The school wants to keep the pupils young, as has been discussed in another thread, but clearly not in terms of responsibility. A lot has been said about how much pressure is heaped upon Len by her parents, but is the CS also not equally culpable?

ETA: It ultimately ends in failure for OOAO anyway, because everything does come to a head and there is a massive bust-up. Perhaps she would have been wiser to leave it to the mistresses after all...


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 Post subject: Re: Mistresses and Prefects
PostPosted: 03 Feb 2012, 15:26 
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I don't have my copy of Theodora available so I can't verify this, but am I right in thinking that at this stage Mary Lou is unaware of the full extent of what's going on? She knows the triplets have been quarrelling amongst themselves and she's guessed it's because Margot is jealous of Len's friendship with Ted, but she has no idea about the blackmail. I still agree with you that it is rather arrogant of her to think she can resolve the situation single-handed where no-one else could, but I don't think when she says this that she quite realises what she's dealing with. Later on, when it's all come out and she's dealing with the fallout, she advises Margot to go and talk to an adult about her struggles.


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 Post subject: Re: Mistresses and Prefects
PostPosted: 03 Feb 2012, 15:32 
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You're right, when she first asks she doesn't know what's really going on. But in this conversation with the two mistresses, they inform her of the full situation and still let her do it.


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 Post subject: Re: Mistresses and Prefects
PostPosted: 03 Feb 2012, 15:38 
I don't have a copy of Theodora, although I have read it, so will have to drag this out of my memory. I think that this particular episode encapsualtes Mary-Lou's character perfectly. She's always shown as being 'the only one' who'll either identify problems not noticed by anyone else, and the only one who'll try to put those problems right. Sometimes this is good, in RL. But a lot of the time it certainly isn't. Generally peers are less likely to have such a complete picture as the adults around them and this shows here.

Mary-Lou acts on what she thinks are the full facts, but they turn out not to be and ... This, however, is seen as Very Good generally by Elinor.

I think that in this event, Mary-Lou's place is firmly embedded as Butter-In Extraordinaire, and for Elinor, this is good. But in reality the sitaution would have been better handled by the adults - and probably best of all by Joey herself! But that would never happen ...

And es, why does Elinor say that keeping girls young is good, and then have them act to sort out problems which are much more adult? It makes me wonder in what ways is it best to be 'young', and in what ways is it best to be precociously responsible?


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 Post subject: Re: Mistresses and Prefects
PostPosted: 03 Feb 2012, 15:55 
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Karita wrote:
I know Mary-Lou has the best of intentions, and often CS teachers express the opinion that girls will take tellings-off better from people near their own age (and I think it would be undoubtedly far more interesting for children to read about what other girls do rather than watching mistresses meting out punishment time and time agan), but this situation has always puzzled me.

I think it should have been left to the mistresses to deal with. This isn't just a case of teenage bad temper, it's nastiness, bullying and blackmail, as is explained in the very long conversation between OOAO, Mademoiselle and Miss Ferrars. Shouldn't they have thanked Mary-Lou for coming to them but explained that now it should be left to them do deal with?

Also, isn't it supremely arrogant of Mary-Lou to think that she alone is capable of dealing with this situation?


I think there are several things going on. First, as you say, it is more interesting for girls to read about other girls solving problems, rather than adults always becoming involved, even though it sometimes results in 16/17 year olds acting with unnatural maturity.

And, as others have said, ML didn't know the full extent of what was going on. And leaving it to the mistresses to sort out would have made it official, which ML was trying to avoid.

I don't think ML is arrogant, but her subsequent lecture to all those involved does come across as officious (unintended on EBD's part, I'm sure). Quite a lot of what she criticises Len, Con and Ted for is frankly none of her business. But she is driven chiefly by concern for Joey, who is having a difficult pregnancy, rather than self-aggrandisement.

I don't think Kathie can be expected to have squashed her. She's still a very junior mistress, and doesn't have the inside knowledge of the Maynards that ML has. And she's perhaps a bit wary of doing so, given her early history with ML. Perhaps Mdlle should have, but maybe this is the sort of thing which mader her unsuitable to be Head in Hilda's absence?


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 Post subject: Re: Mistresses and Prefects
PostPosted: 03 Feb 2012, 16:14 
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In some ways I think EBD actually shows us (without realising it!) that having left it to OOAO it actually made the situation much worse. This could have been a good opportunity for EBD to get Hilda to explain to us all the difference between telling and reporting, and judging whether one can adequately deal with something or not, using it as a moral in a way! But nevermind, OOAO did the right thing...

julieanne1811 wrote:
And es, why does Elinor say that keeping girls young is good, and then have them act to sort out problems which are much more adult? It makes me wonder in what ways is it best to be 'young', and in what ways is it best to be precociously responsible?


It's best to be young by not having a perm or wearing lots of make-up and not even thinking about boys (except as play fellows :D) whilst at the same time ignoring hormones and teenage angst and acting with a maturity far beyond your years and experiences. :lol:

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 Post subject: Re: Mistresses and Prefects
PostPosted: 03 Feb 2012, 17:11 
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I think that way too much responsibility's put on the prefects, as exemplified by that scene where Con and the others are told that they should have supervised the younger skiers properly because otherwise they'll make bad mothers :shock: . Mary-Lou in particular gets lumbered with a lot: why should she, who already had a lot on her plate as HG, have had to sheepdog Naomi when Barbara Chester knew Naomi already and was in the same form as her?

It isn't Mary-Lou's business to intervene in the row with Margot, but at least she tries to help, whereas the mistresses never seem to want to get involved in the girls' problems. They're all well aware that Odette is very unhappy, that Jessica (who's refusing to eat) is very unhappy and that Yseult and Joan aren't fitting in, but they don't try to talk to the girls concerned about what's going on. Kathie Ferrars apologises to Maeve for asking Jane to wash her car, instead of disciplining Jack for being a bully!

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 Post subject: Re: Mistresses and Prefects
PostPosted: 03 Feb 2012, 18:05 
Alison H wrote:
... the mistresses never seem to want to get involved in the girls' problems. They're all well aware that Odette is very unhappy, that Jessica (who's refusing to eat) is very unhappy and that Yseult and Joan aren't fitting in, but they don't try to talk to the girls concerned about what's going on. Kathie Ferrars apologises to Maeve for asking Jane to wash her car, instead of disciplining Jack for being a bully!


Yes, this is the crux of the matter, isn't it? While readers of the time would, as someone said up the thread, have preferred reading about girls putting things right, what that means is that the Mistresses have to be shown as ignoring or being completely unaware of very serious problems happening right under their noses. And this makes them look highly negligent!


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 Post subject: Re: Mistresses and Prefects
PostPosted: 03 Feb 2012, 18:43 
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I find this discussion very interesting since I have never found the depiction of the responsibilities the prefects are expected to bear in any way unusual.

The things they do are exactly what was expected of us as prefects. Our school was divided up into boarding houses, headed by a housemistress and a matron. Each house had from four to eight prefects, depending on house size, and they carried substantial responsibilities. There were no "school staff" in the houses and all they were concerned with was the actual teaching. Pastoral care within the school environment, as opposed to the house one, was very limited. I suppose if a girl was failing badly academically her form teacher, along with the subject staff involved, might have sat up and taken notice and some action, but in general no.

Within the houses it was the prefects who saw that there was no bullying, that girls took care not to run into dangerous situations (not that there were any mountains or lakes around of course) and who were largely responsible for discipline. Passing something over to the housemistress because you could not deal with it yourself would have been regarded as an admission of failure - by both her and the other girls, let alone how you would feel about it yourself.

So to me most of these episodes are as realistic as one could get in a work of fiction.

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 Post subject: Re: Mistresses and Prefects
PostPosted: 03 Feb 2012, 19:07 
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But if the staff were to address Margot and Ted, what do they have to go on? They know something is up with Margot because she was rude to Hilary the games prefect and Kathie Ferrers saw her having a spat with Con. But if I remember rightly, only Mary-Lou has witnessed her meanness to Ted. Once she tells Mdlle and Miss Ferrers, they fill in the gaps with Ted's past, but they can't say for sure Margot knows about it. Mary-Lou hears Margot make a dig at Ted about her old school, but because Mary-Lou herself doesn't know about Ted's past, she can't connect any dots through it.

What could Miss Annersley say to Margot: "It's come to our attention that you're probably aware of Ted's past and are using it against her"? That's not a very strong statement. If Margot didn't know the details about Ted, it would confirm there's something to know if she digs deeply enough.

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 Post subject: Re: Mistresses and Prefects
PostPosted: 03 Feb 2012, 19:10 
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mynameisdumbnuts wrote:
But if the staff were to address Margot and Ted, what do they have to go on? They know something is up with Margot because she was rude to Hilary the games prefect and Kathie Ferrers saw her having a spat with Con. But if I remember rightly, only Mary-Lou has witnessed her meanness to Ted. Once she tells Mdlle and Miss Ferrers, they fill in the gaps with Ted's past, but they can't say for sure Margot knows about it. Mary-Lou hears Margot make a dig at Ted about her old school, but because Mary-Lou herself doesn't know about Ted's past, she can't connect any dots through it.

What could Miss Annersley say to Margot: "It's come to our attention that you're probably aware of Ted's past and are using it against her"? That's not a very strong statement. If Margot didn't know the details about Ted, it would confirm there's something to know if she digs deeply enough.


Yes, at this point it's all supposition, and I agree they couldn't just go up to Margot and confront her. That's not what Mary-Lou does either. She simply goes on their half-term excursion with them, keeps an eye out and rushes in when it all goes pear-shaped. Could the mistresses in charge of the trip not have done that?


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 Post subject: Re: Mistresses and Prefects
PostPosted: 03 Feb 2012, 19:29 
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Karita wrote:
Yes, at this point it's all supposition, and I agree they couldn't just go up to Margot and confront her. That's not what Mary-Lou does either. She simply goes on their half-term excursion with them, keeps an eye out and rushes in when it all goes pear-shaped. Could the mistresses in charge of the trip not have done that?


The blackmail still hasn't come out when everything explodes on the trip; all that happens is Margot strikes Ted and reveals her jealousy. I suppose the mistresses could get involved on the grounds of the physical violence alone; Mary-Lou could have reported it when they got back to the school. But I think it's in character for her and the prefect system in general to want to find out what's going on first. And that's when the blackmail comes out.

Then again, the staff seem to shrug their shoulders when the girls are physically violent toward one another. I don't recall any stiff penalties for Jack when she attacks Jane or Eustacia when she strikes Kitty. I can't remember if there are any such incidents while Mary-Lou is in school, but if she's aware that the staff aren't that bothered by them and expect the prefects to sort it out, no wonder she doesn't report Margot.

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 Post subject: Re: Mistresses and Prefects
PostPosted: 03 Feb 2012, 19:35 
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mynameisdumbnuts wrote:
The blackmail still hasn't come out when everything explodes on the trip; all that happens is Margot strikes Ted and reveals her jealousy. I suppose the mistresses could get involved on the grounds of the physical violence alone; Mary-Lou could have reported it when they got back to the school. But I think it's in character for her and the prefect system in general to want to find out what's going on first. And that's when the blackmail comes out.


The blackmail hasn't officially come out by this point but they do suspect it. In the conversation Mary-Lou has with the two mistresses, well before Margot slaps Ted, they discuss Ted's background and then Miss Ferrars says this:

Quote:
"If Margot is holding it against her, then it's little short of blackmail and I'm horrified."


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 Post subject: Re: Mistresses and Prefects
PostPosted: 03 Feb 2012, 19:51 
Thinking about this, yes, my experience as a Matron in a boys' school was very similar to the one cestina tells of. In-house the Prefects dealt (very thoroughly) with any misdemeanours that were house-based, and there was a structure called 'collective responsibilty', where if someone didn't own up, the whole year group was punished. And surpisingly, it worked well. As a year group inevitably knew who was at fault, they would bring about very heavy pressure for the one in the wrong to confess, and usually they did.

A good set of prefects could make a huge amount of difference in terms of general discipline within the house.

But if it came to fisticuffs, or blackmail, or threats such as we sometimes see in the CS, it would be passed on first to me as Matron, and then to the Housemaster. The Prefects knew their boundaries and worked excellently within these, but also knew when to involve adults.

Platonic-SLOC was Head of House and was the best ever while I was there. He has a great deal of wisdom and gentleness and a very male way of handling things, although I can't explain it anby better than that.


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 Post subject: Re: Mistresses and Prefects
PostPosted: 03 Feb 2012, 19:58 
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I'm not sure if Mary-Lou connects the dots between blackmail and Margot's declaration that she won't let Ted take her sister from her. Maybe she should considering her famed insight, but I think at that point she's more concerned with keeping everything calm and contained. Ultimately, all Mary-Lou knows for sure at this moment is that Margot struck the girl and that doesn't necessarily warrant reporting.

She could have reported the incident to Miss Ferrars, but again, I think it's in keeping with Mary-Lou's character and the tradition of the prefects to find out what's going on before getting the staff involved. If anything, Miss Ferrars should have made inquiries. She's the one who suspects Margot of blackmail and she sees on the train that everything has come to a head. She may be a junior mistress, but she still outranks Mary-Lou; or she could have told Mdlle.

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 Post subject: Re: Mistresses and Prefects
PostPosted: 03 Feb 2012, 20:07 
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I don't mean to sound pedantic, but Margot hadn't struck Ted at this point. The problem was generally between the triplets, Con had 'blown up', Margot had been very bad tempered, she had eavesdropped and was being nasty to Ted which Mary-Lou had overheard. The two mistresses inform her of the full story about Ted's background and all three of them connect the dots.

After Mary-Lou leaves the conversation, Miss Ferrars says:

Quote:
"I hope she'll do something... I don't want Ted to be upset now."


Completely leaving the entire situation to Mary-Lou despite knowing how serious it is, with so many things at stake - Jo's health, the stability of a trip away, Ted's wellbeing and the triplets' relationship. They don't get involved at all.

Now, this is in my experience quite realistic. At my school no teachers bothered about the pupils' welfare at all, never intervened in cases of bullying. But this is the Chalet School.


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 Post subject: Re: Mistresses and Prefects
PostPosted: 03 Feb 2012, 20:47 
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I think we're talking about two different points in time. My point is that before the trip, the mistresses couldn't have done anything because they had nothing to go on. They don't know that Margot has eavesdropped; they suspect she knows something about Ted's past, but they can hardly confront her about it. Well, I suppose they could have asked outright, "What do you know about Ted's past?" but that's risky. They know that Margot dislikes Ted, but if Margot hadn't known about Ted's expulsions, that sort of question just screams there's ammunition out there. You have to be absolutely sure before you accuse someone of blackmail, and they aren't absolutely sure.

The only way the mistresses could have gotten involved is by keeping as close an eye on Margot as possible, but Margot likely is canny enough not to be mean to Ted when they're around. In a way, the staff's hands are tied: They suspect something terrible is going on, they can't prove it, broaching the subject is too risky and their involvement could result in a lack of proof to solve the problem anyway. Deploying Mary-Lou isn't a bad course of action, all things considered. She knows what's going on, she's sensible, and the girls respect and trust her.

After the trip, when Margot has struck Ted, I think Miss Ferrars at least could have gotten involved. She's the one who suspected blackmail in the first place and she sees on the train that things have exploded. But she leaves it to Mary-Lou anyway and that I can see as being unfair and inappropriate.

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 Post subject: Re: Mistresses and Prefects
PostPosted: 03 Feb 2012, 20:49 
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Karita wrote:
Now, this is in my experience quite realistic. At my school no teachers bothered about the pupils' welfare at all, never intervened in cases of bullying. But this is the Chalet School.


Well, the Chalet School doesn't have a good track record of intervening in cases of bullying, either. :wink:

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 Post subject: Re: Mistresses and Prefects
PostPosted: 03 Feb 2012, 23:40 
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Another factor that is perhaps relevant here is that Mary Lou isn't just acting as a prefect here. She is also like an older cousin or sibling to the Maynards, so there is an element of this being a "family matter"

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 Post subject: Re: Mistresses and Prefects
PostPosted: 03 Feb 2012, 23:50 
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Beecharmer wrote:
Another factor that is perhaps relevant here is that Mary Lou isn't just acting as a prefect here. She is also like an older cousin or sibling to the Maynards, so there is an element of this being a "family matter"

Yes, I agree. I think ML is driven more by concern for Joey than she is by her role as Head Girl. And a lot of it is a family matter rather than a school matter. Margot accepting the clock from Emerence isn't, I think, against school rules, but it is something Jack and Joey wouldn't have approved. It's Con pointing that out that sets Margot off. The clock is something for Jack and Jo to deal with, and the rest is a squabble between sisters, not really school business. It's only when Margot turns on Ted that it really becomes a school matter.


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