Social Justice -v- Justice
Saturday, March 17, 2007
Link: University education could cost an arm and leg | Dt Opinion | Opinion | Telegraph.
A young man grew up in a Labour constituency in the North. None of his ancestors went to university. One grandmother, admittedly, went to teacher training college and taught at a primary school until marriage. Another was a piece worker in a textile factory, the muscular operator of a steam press. One grandfather worked as an unskilled labourer in the Rolls-Royce factory. Another lived on a disability pension.
His father was a small-town builder, a time-served apprentice. His mother left school at 15 to work as a book-keeper in a factory, was then a housewife and later kept the books in a menswear shop.
Our young man attended a comprehensive school and was taught in mixed-ability classes. He was the subject of modern educational experiments, learning maths - for example - from Cuisenaire rods. A bright boy, he read extensively to supplement the educational diet on offer and obtained the equivalent of three modern A grades at A level plus a distinction (without tuition, on the basis of private study) in the equivalent of the modern AEA.
His chances of a place at Oxbridge under Labour's proposed new class apartheid would be excellent. As Charles Moore points out, there are fewer than 1000 such candidates on offer each year.
This same young man married the daughter of an unskilled factory worker and a sales assistant in a menswear chain. His wife was from the same disadvantaged part of the North. He met her at the same proletarian school. She had a talent for languages and did just as well in her A levels. She would be another shoe-in under the proposed new system.
Now consider these two young people. Their father is a partner in a City of London law firm. Their mother, formerly a teacher, is now a well-dressed woman about town; a lover of fine literature and a much-travelled cosmopolitan at ease anywhere in the world. Their parents have dedicated a large part of their resources to sending them to a major public school where they have benefited from one of the best educations on offer. Their chances under Labour's proposed system must be minimal.
The honest son and daughter of toil are my wife and myself. The two privileged scions of the elite are my children. Charles Moore therefore struck a chord with me when, in the linked article, he wrote:
...this will feel even worse for those who are first-generation graduates than for those who took it almost for granted that they would manage to get into a university. The first-generationers will remember the struggles, the sense of opening horizons, the delight of their own, less fortunate parents. They will feel bitter indeed that their success will now tend to produce their children's failure.
Dead right, mate. My wife and I also know that, while we are passably bright, we are nothing compared to our children. Yes, they have had the advantage of parents who value education above all other goods and have the income to afford the best. But they have undoubted talents nonetheless. They have the ability to add value to, as well as to adorn, any society in which they live. Punishing them for their good luck is not justice, any more than it would have been just to reward their parents for what only a nasty-minded Socialist could regard as their "bad" luck. Luck isn't the problem. Government education policy is. We know from our own experiences that Charles Moore states the simple truth when he writes:
...it is indeed the case that people from poor backgrounds have bad, and worsening, educational opportunities. This is deprivation indeed. But who is doing the depriving? A government and a state education culture which is actively opposed to everything that is meant by a good education.
A society prepared to play politics with education is doomed. Britain, for my whole life, has done little else.
Tom, this is not just unjust, it is actually criminal. To deny a section of society on philosophical grounds is playing games with education. Blair will go down as the man who put the final nail in.
Posted by: jameshigham | Saturday, March 17, 2007 at 03:57 PM
The politics of envy and the manifestations of political policy that follow are very difficult to break. These are very similar issues from when I went to school in the 1970s. Nothing much has changed. Or has it?
Posted by: Colin Campbell | Saturday, March 17, 2007 at 11:04 AM