My Life in Books: The Naughtiest Girl in the School

Changed the cover image because this is the one that featured on my copy of this book

Enid Blyton apparently was unapologetic about slanting her books with her own political views. At the time I didn’t think about this – well, you don’t, as a child. But thinking retrospectively about THE NAUGHTIEST GIRL IN THE SCHOOL series, it’s quite clear there’s a political agenda to it.

The main character of this series, Elizabeth, is a spoiled only child who is packed off to boarding school and resents it. She makes up her mind she’s going to be naughty, and get expelled. This being Enid Blyton, Elizabeth eventually decides she rather likes it there, stops trying to be naughty and develops a loyalty to the school.

As a youngster, the idea of boarding school sounded glamorous and exciting to me, though people I’ve talked since to who experienced it have a very different take on it. What appealed to me about this book was the way the students ran the school. A student council was overseen by a Head Boy and Head Girl, elected by the students, and any school decision or policy had to be voted in by the student council. The school council hands out pocket money every week to each student. Anyone who gets sent money by their parents must relinquish this money into the pot – after all, the student council says, it’s not fair for some people to ‘have’ while others ‘have not’, and so the fairest way is for everyone to be given the same amount. One of the objections Elizabeth has at the start of the novel is that being rich, her dad sends her lots of money, which she is then forced to relinquish.

As a child, this seemed like a very fair system to me, and I think it coloured my view of politics for quite a long time. And I desperately wanted to go to a school with a student council. Years later, in high school, we did have a school council, elected by the students, but I realise now that it didn’t have any real power at all – the teachers always had the final say on any controversial decision.

I’m a lot more cynical these days. Sometimes I miss that idealism of youth.

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