Knock, knock; who's there?; Eamonn; Eamonn who?; Eamonn Old Etonian, who are you.
It's the way I tell them, isn't it? And, guess what, that's not even the worst joke I know. However, it is the most relevant to my current preoccupation with the state of youthful behaviour and the problems of education, as revealed by a BBC documentary series about young teachers.
In this context, I came across an interesting insight from a Hungarian who became a refugee in Britain in 1949. It is included in Comrade Baron by Jaap Scholten, an intriguing book that seems to be very difficult to obtain outside of Hungary. Scholten asks the man what it is that allows Eton to, as he puts it, "calmly go on producing adventurers and eccentrics in this egalitarian age". This is the reply he receives:
"'It's very simple,' he said. 'At the average school you don't learn manners. You're put into a mould and taught how to think. At public schools like Eton you learn how to behave ... you learn how to greet someone and how to get along with all kinds of different people, those formalities that seem so pointless. In short, although you learn manners, you're left completely free in your thinking. That's why those schools produce students with true freedom of mind, whereas the state schools turn out people who think in the obligatory cliches: perfect bureaucrats.'"