Thursday, November 19

Paternoster and St Paul's School

I am out late last night with Nick and Walid from Columbia Business School. We go to the Chop House in Paternoster Square next to St Paul's (which looms overhead, lit in foggy white).  The square once the center of London's publishing trade and devastated by German bombers during The Blitz.  Somehow the Wren cathedral survived but she did.  Today, the area modernised (glass, steel and faux-marble stone - how unimaginative) and home of the London Stock Exchange which moved here in 2004 from the wonderfully named Threadneedle Street.  Since the old adage "to make money, you have to be near money" holds true, we find LSE's neighbor Goldman Sachs - hovering, no doubt (yesterday BTW Goldman's CEO made to apologies for his firm's grubby behavior by none-other than Warren Buffet who, along with me and you, bailed their asses out. Goldman has not been particularly adroit regarding PR, before yesterday noting that "we are doing God's work" by contributing less that 0.5% of their record-setting 2009 bonus pool to charity).  Walid whip-sawed by last year's melt-down but now Ok having moved his trading to Nomura. What comes across from Walid how uncertain his life was in September 2008. And perhaps for us all, too, though we were blind to the cliff's edge.

Sonnet and I visit St Paul's School which celebrates its quincentenary this year.  Prince Charles to stop by next week and pay his respects.  Tucked into a gentle curve of the River Thames at Barnes and due South of Hammersmith, the school grounds enormous for London: 45 acres including tennis courts, football and rugby pitches, cricket grounds, fencing, basketball and 25-meter swimming pool used by Eitan and Madeleine.  The academics most impressive: 2009 GCSEs produced 79% A* and 97.5% A*/A or the second best in the school's history and the best GCSE results in the UK.  St Paul's, simply, the best academic secondary school in Britain.  Similar to Hampton, there is unimaginable opportunity here - our student-guide shows us proudly his wood-shop project which is a beautifully crafted knife wrack with child safety cover - he is encouraged to patent the thing.  From arts to the sciences, reading libraries to language rooms, world-travel, sports, music, computer programming, individual tudors and motivated teachers - this place is the bomb for geeky kids. On campus, according to the Head Master who provides the general overview, the most capable maths boy in Europe. He is 13 and probably goes toe-to-toe with Eric. Eitan would do well here, I think, but no doubt it would be a shock from his state-school; he would be at least one-year behind.  Plus he has to get in - St Paul's draws almost exclusively from the prep schools. Oh, and 46 went to Cambridge or Oxford last year - out of 159. And one kid went to Brown which, in fairness, has a higher acceptance bar.

"It is a miracle that curiosity survives formal education."
--Albert Einstein

"Your ability to learn faster than your competition is the only sustainable competitive advantage."
-- Arie de Gues