Recovering Boarding School Trauma Narratives
Christopher Robin Milne as a Psychological Companion on the Journey to Healing
Recovering Boarding School Trauma Narratives: Christopher Robin Milne as a Psychological Companion on the Journey to Healing is a unique, emotive and theorised narrative of a young girl’s experience of boarding school in Australia. Christine Jack traces its impact on the emerging identity of the child, including sexual development and emotional capacity, the transmission of trauma into adulthood and the long process of recovery. Interweaving her story with the experiences of Christopher Robin Milne, she presents her memoir as an exemplar of how narrative writing can be employed in remembering and recovering from traumatic experiences.
Unique and powerfully written, Jack takes the reader on a journey into her childhood in Australian boarding school convents in the 1950s and 1960s. Comparing her experience with Christopher Robin Milne’s, she interrogates his memoirs, illustrating that boarding school trauma knows no boundaries of time and place. She investigates their emerging individuality before being sent to live an institutional life and traces their feelings of longing and loneliness as well as the impact of the abuse each endured there. As an educational historian, Jack writes in a ground-breaking way from the perspective of an insider and outsider, revealing how trauma remains in the unconscious, wielding power over the life of the adult, until the traumatic memories are recovered, emotions released and associated dysfunctional behaviour changed, restoring well-being. Engaging the lenses of history, life-span and Jungian psychology, feminist and trauma theory and boarding school trauma research, this book positions narrative writing as a way of reducing the power of trauma over the lives of survivors.
Personal and accessible, this book will be essential reading for psychologists and educational historians, as well as students and academics of psychology, sociology, trauma studies, ex-boarders and those interested in the life of Christopher Robin Milne.
Table of Contents
Acknowledgements; Introduction; Prelude; Chapter 1: Going Somewhere; Chapter 2: The Lure of Boarding Schools; Chapter 3: Leaving Rituals; Chapter 4: The Dormitory; Chapter 5: A Strange New World; Chapter 6: Hidden Longing; Chapter 7: Resistance and Acceptance; Chapter 8: Abuse and Torture; Chapter 9: Shame; Chapter 10: A Normal Life?; Chapter 11: An Arduous Journey; Chapter 12: Out of Silence; Chapter 13: Confrontation and captivity; Chapter 14: Restoration; Conclusion; Index
Christine Jack spent thirty-five years as an academic in the field of teacher education, including holding the position of Head of Primary Education at the University of Canberra. She is a respected and well-published Australian educational historian and is currently an honorary researcher at Charles Sturt University.
"Richly engrossing, this is a multidimensional, multidisciplinary, integrative memoir that reveals life-long, even intergenerational, impacts of traumatic elements embedded in the boarding schools’ systems, leading the reader to easily surmise the author’s preventive recommendations. Not only courageous in the revelations along its personal journey, but in challenging what has been considered a culturally desirable standard for the societal elites." – Yael Danieli, PhD, Director, Group Project for Holocaust Survivors and their Children; founder, International Center for the Study, Prevention and Treatment of MultiGenerational legacies of Trauma, New York
"In this brave and engaging book, Christine Jack offers a witness account of the life-long psychological consequences of sending children to boarding school. In a rare combination of academic research and personal testimony, Jack chooses Christopher Robin Milne as a travelling companion. The compelling narrative offers a searing indictment of the boarding school system. This book is a significant contribution to the history of education, as well as the literature on the hazards of leaving children in boarding schools. It will interest a wide range of readers including educational theorists, ex-boarders and psychotherapists." – Professor Joy Schaverien, PhD, Jungian Psychoanalyst and author of Boarding School Syndrome: the Psychological Trauma of the "Privileged" Child (Routledge, 2015)
"This is a remarkable book that crosses the genres of memoir and historical and other forms of exposition. It needed to do so because its ambition was to describe and analyse the experience of children abandoned by their families to school boarding houses, from their point of view, and to understand the possible and probable impacts that the traumas involved might have on later lives. The range of theoretical reference the author brings to the work is astounding. This work marks a highly significant addition to the literature on the impact of school boarding on children and youth." – Craig Campbell, Associate Professor History of Education (Honorary), University of Sydney; co-author of Jean Blackburn: Education, Feminism and Social Justice (2019) and A History of Australian Schooling (2014)
"Christine Jack has presented us with a courageous, evocative and theoretically-grounded memoir of the subtleness of attachment-related trauma. Although set in the boarding school experience, this trauma can be generalised to other childhood abandonments. As Christine explored her feelings of devastation and agony, she was able to reach a level of clarity about her trauma and find, in utilising her "undamaged part", a sense of hope towards the notion of recovery to an "earned secure attachment" and finally to self-acceptance. This beautifully written book will be a gift to my clients!"– Paulette Calabro, PsyD, Clinical Psychologist and Relationship Psychotherapist, Mindcare Centre, Sydney, Australia
"This is a first-class piece of research using a novel way to get us to think about the horrors at Pooh Corner. In other words, Christine Jack argues tightly and cogently that we should take note of the peculiar and damaging attitude to children that results in normalised neglect, which the British spread to their colonies and which is now coming back to bite them in the form of a delusion politics, based in esprit de corps rather than empathy and creativity." – Nick Duffell, psychotherapy trainer and author of The Making of Them: The British Attitude to Children and the Boarding School System (2000) and Wounded Leaders: British Elitism and the Entitlement Illusion – a Psychohistory (2014)
"A gripping and moving study that puts flesh on the dry bones of the terrible psychological disorder we know as 'attachment-related trauma'. Christine Jack juxtaposes vivid personal memoir with the true story of one of literature's most famous innocents to sum up the experience of neglect and abandonment that is for so many the reality of a boarding school education. The lessons drawn are important. Firstly, that this dominant culture of parenting, the one devised for and by the most privileged people in the world, was profoundly wrong. Second, that by shining the clean light of contemporary psychological understanding on this history we can find a way forward for the many who suffered and still suffer as a result of their time in industrialised residential care systems. Most important of all, this book takes a place among the essential literature that will guide us to giving children, whatever their circumstances, the love and protection they need and deserve." – Alex Renton, author of Stiff Upper Lip: Secrets, Crimes and the Schooling of a Ruling Class (2017)
"Christine Jack has written a very thoughtful memoir documenting the traumatic effect of her own childhood boarding school experience interwoven with the story of Christopher Milne’s parallel experience. It is not a memoir meant to shock the reader but to validate the survivors and to inform all those adults who influence the course of children’s lives." – Janina Fisher, PhD, international expert on the treatment of trauma, author of Healing the Fragmented Selves of Trauma Survivors (Routledge, 2017)"Christine Jack brings together memoir and academic research with graceful ease as she explores the impact of boarding school on the lives of young children. The warmth and poignancy of her own experience gives powerful substance to the breadth and depth of her theoretical frameworks. It is a "must-read" for educators, parents and anyone who has been to boarding school." – Patti Miller, award-winning memoirist and author of Writing True Stories: The Complete Guide to Writing Autobiography, Memoir, Personal Essay, Biography, Travel and Creative Nonfiction (2017)
"As a young child I read British children’s novels about boarding school, and fantasised about the delights of that adult-free world. Then, when my parents suggested I might like to go to a such a school, I sensibly refused to go. I suspect children know intuitively that boarding school is always the wrong choice. This book explores these issues, in parallel narratives: one addresses Christopher Robin Milne’s experience of boarding school, and its profound impacts on his life, speech and personality; the second is Christine Jack’s own experiences of boarding school and its effects. Though her history is thirty-plus years later than Milne’s, the stories are disturbingly similar. The language used refuses despair, and the stories are told in an inquisitive, tender voice that, says Jack, comes from ‘a deep pool of hope that through it we may find fellowship with our imagined community of readers’. This book combines hope with the anguish of memory, in language that never swerves away from trauma, but throughout shows vividly how one can build resilience, and craft a life worth living." – Professor Jen Webb, Centre for Creative and Cultural Research, University of Canberra; co-author Creativity in Context: How to Make a Poet (2018)
"This insightful and well-written book is a most welcome addition to a growing body of work on the trauma that is inevitable when young children make the transition from family life to the institutional life of a boarding school. The effects of this trauma can be long-term and are often carried over, as baggage, into adult life. A major strength of this book is its breadth of perspective. The author examines the trauma, and indeed the path to recovery, through an educational and historical lens, in addition to highlighting psychological and social issues. She uses a narrative approach, courageously and sensitively exploring the effects of boarding school on both her own life and that of Christopher Robin Milne, as a companion on her journey to healing. Sending young children away to board is a particularly British habit and it is helpful that the author is able to shine a light on the practice in Australia and, in doing so, also illustrates clear links between the UK and Australia. This book is relevant to educationalists, teachers, historians, sociologists, psychotherapists, psychologists, mental health workers and indeed anybody who has had the experience of living in a boarding school." – Thurstine Basset, former Director of Boarding Concern and co-author of Trauma Abandonment and Privilege: A Guide to Therapeutic Work with Boarding School Survivors (Routledge, 2016)
"A theoretically-grounded, autobiography/witness account of the trauma inflicted by a boarding school experience that is an elegantly written, personal narrative of pain, resilience, and the power of literature. A tour de force!" –Professor Elizabeth Smyth, Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, University of Toronto