Old boy network
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An old boy network, or society (also old boys' club), can refer to social and business connections among former pupils of male-only private schools. British public school students were traditionally called "boys", thus graduated students are "old boys".
This can apply to the network between the graduates of a single school regardless of their gender. It is also known as an old boy society and is similar to an alumni association. It can also mean a network of social and business connections among the alumni of various prestigious schools. In popular language, old boy network or old boy society has come to be used in reference to the preservation of social elites in general; such connections within the British Civil Service formed a primary theme in the British Broadcasting Corporation's satirical comedy series Yes Minister. The phrase "It's not what you know, it's whom you know" is associated with this tradition.
In Australia, the term "Old Boy" is used to describe a male alumnus of some prestigious state and private schools. The term "Old Girl" is similarly used for a female alumna of such schools.
In Australia there was academic research in 1988 to identify the extent of the "Old Boy/Girl network" among Australia's elite, using Who's Who in Australia (a listing of notable Australians) as a sample of people in elite positions. This research shows that a small number of private and selective state schools have Old Boys/Old Girls who disproportionately hold elite positions in Australian society. The 1988 study showed the top ten Australian schools for Old Boys/Old Girls were:
- for boy's schools –
- for girl's schools –
- Presbyterian Ladies' College, Melbourne
- SCEGGS Darlinghurst
- Methodist Ladies' College, Melbourne
- Presbyterian Ladies' College, Sydney
- Melbourne Girls Grammar School
- Mac.Robertson Girls' High School
- North Sydney Girls' High School
- Sydney Girls High School
- Methodist Ladies' College Sydney
- University High School, Melbourne
The term is also used in Canada, where the alumni of such schools as St. Andrew's College, Sterling Hall School, Crescent School, St George's School, Bishop's College School, Hillfield Strathallan College, Lower Canada College, and Upper Canada College are known as Old Boys. The old boy network of Upper Canada College has been so influential in the political and business realms of Canada that the book Old Boys: The Powerful Legacy of Upper Canada College (ISBN 978-1551990057), by James Fitzgerand, was published in 1994.
In Finland, the Finnish term hyvä veli -verkosto (literally dear brother network) is used to refer to the alleged informal network of men in high places whose members use their influence to pervert or circumvent official decision-making processes to the members' mutual benefit. As such, the term is pejorative.
The term derives from the salutation "Hyvä veli!", or "Dear brother!", traditionally used to open a letter to a not quite intimate friend. The implication is that since the elites of all fields are drawn from a fairly small pool of people who are mostly more or less acquainted with each other, they can and often do manage public and private affairs amongst themselves, off the record, and outside public scrutiny as they like. As the word "brother" implies, the network is usually presumed to be consisting of males, and thus the term is also sometimes used to refer to the marginalization of women and their exclusion from high positions in both the public and private spheres. There is an equivalent term, hyvä sisko ("dear sister"), used in reference to informal networks of women in high positions.
President Urho Kekkonen was notable for directly communicating with senior officials (past his cabinets) by means of letters, which famously began with the salutation "Hyvä veli". These have been published in three volumes. This practice exceeded his official powers, but he exercised his informal influence.
Former students of the Welham Boys School refer to their society as the Welham Old Boys Society. Though the school was founded in 1937, the society was not founded until 1983. The group is intended to encourage Welham graduates to aid in the school's success through their union; they have established scholarships and bursaries for deserving students. The Welham Old Boys Network has established definite membership criteria, as well as requiring a subscription fee. The Doon School maintains its own old boy society for social connections and fundraising on behalf of the School. Old boys of The Doon School are known as Doscos. Similarly the Old Boys of Sainik School Rewa in Madhya Pradesh call their Old Boys Association as "Sainwinians."
In the United Kingdom, the "old boy network" is seen as existing primarily among those educated at the fee-paying independent schools of the Eton Group and the Rugby Group and at the colleges of Oxford and Cambridge, although to some extent such networks exist for all institutions producing large numbers of "old boys" and girls. The existence of "old boy" networks is often blamed for the high proportion of former pupils of high-status schools and universities in high-status positions in government, business, and the professions. In practice, attendance at certain educational institutions is typical of the British "ruling class" and upper middle class, and where nepotism exists it may be driven more often by personal relationships than by educational networks.
An organisation called Future First promotes the use of such networks among those educated at state schools.
The term can also refer to the networks that are set up in the more elite secondary schools, such as Diocesan Boys' School, Queen's College, Ying Wa College, La Salle College and Saint Joseph's College.
- The expression old school tie has essentially the same meaning as the Old Boy/Old Girl network. This expression derives from the wearing of school ties by former pupil, to indicate that the wearer is an alumnus or alumna of a particular school or university. This practice is less common now than in former times.
- An Old Girl network has the same meaning with respect to girls' schools as "Old Boy network" has for boys' schools.
- Alumni association
- Association of Representatives of Old Pupils Societies in the UK
- Collective narcissism
- In-group bias
- White shoe brigade
- Mark Peel and Janet McCalman, Who Went Where in Who's Who 1988: The Schooling of the Australian Elite, Melbourne University History Research Series Number 1, 1992
- Ian Hansen, Nor Free Nor Secular: Six independent schools in Victoria, a First Sample, Oxford University Press, 1971
- "Sterling Hall School: Welcome SHS Old Boys!". Sterlinghall.com. Retrieved 24 June 2012.
- "Welham Old Boys Society". Welhamoldboys.com. Retrieved 24 June 2012.
- The Doon School: Our Old Boys Archived 8 March 2009 at the Wayback Machine
- Future First. "Future First". Future First. Retrieved 24 June 2012.