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Posted at 01:10 PM ET, 05/10/2012

Romney's boarding school days

Mitt Romney's days in boarding school offer an unflattering portrait of his character, with almost the same vividness of his infamous dog-on-the-car-roof family trip story (which should be named the “ruff roof” incident, if Gail Collins hasn’t already done that).

The thorough account in The Post of Romney’s prep days at the prestigious Cranbrook School in Michigan recounts that Romney was a lively and sometimes cruel prankster. He once was so bothered by a student's non-comformity — read "gay" — that when a student dyed his hair blond and wore it long, Romney led a posse to forcibly hold him down and cut his hair. In other words, they imposed their will on the boy and humiliated him. In interviews several years later, many of Romney's fellow perpetrators remembered the incident and Romney's leadership vividly and expressed deep regret and remorse.  Romney says he has no recollection of it.

Many prep schools of the past century were places where the extremes of character were often incubated by the heat of competitiveness, elitism and puberty. One can read the story of Romney's days at Cranbrook and possibly remember “Lord of the Flies,” which explores what happens to a group of British prep school boys stranded on an island:

“At an allegorical level,” Wikipedia states, “the central theme is the conflicting impulses toward civilization — live by rules, peacefully and in harmony — and towards the will to power. Themes include the tension between groupthink and individuality, between rational and emotional reactions, and between morality and immorality. How these play out, and how different people feel the influences of these, form a major subtext of “Lord of the Flies.” And, one might say, the major subtext of political leadership.

If you've read the book and can remember it — I had to rely heavily on Wikipedia to defibrillate my memory — you’ll probably think that Romney comes across as a mixture of the two lead boys — Ralph and Jack, with a little bit of the character Roger thrown in. Ralph is initially elected the boy's leader, but Jack uses force to challenge him. As one critic puts it, "Jack represents the irrational nature of the boys, while Ralph represents rationality." And then there is Roger, who is a "bigun" in the book. Roger likes to bully, especially the intellectual and effeminate Piggy.

I went to a New England prep school founded in 1781 a few years after Romney went to Cranbrook. There was a Latin inscription carved into the entrance of the Academy Building. I remember it translated as “Come here, boys, so you can be made men.” All kinds of men, I might add, and often aspects of several residing in the same soul.

By  |  01:10 PM ET, 05/10/2012

 
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