29 July 2009

Is it obvious?

Looking over this report on the widening social gap which has been doing the rounds of late, I can't help feeling there's a very obvious answer to the issue

As an example, the report shows that doctors and lawyers who are in their late-30s today are drawn from a more affluent slice of society than their colleagues in their 50s.

Why should this be the case? Why should the gap be widening

At the risk of being labelled a Tory elitist I'm going to say this - Grammar schools anyone?

It does seem to be a noticeable trend that those educated during or prior to the 70s are from a wider section of society than those in their thirties - i.e. educated in the 80s - more or less consistent with the removal of Grammar schools

I don't claim this is the only factor, I am merely noticing a rather obvious correlation between the decline of Grammar schools and the increase in privilege in the professional classes - it may be nothing to do with it, but I think it's hard to ignore when it was such an important change in schooling

I can understand some of the arguments against them, even if I don't agree - but it's pretty clear that all forcing the poor and bright into comprehensives did was worsen their chances and left the opportunities to only the wealthy...the Grammar school system may not have been perfect but simply removing them made it worse if you ask me

I never got the chance to go to Grammar school, I only had the option of my two local comps - fortunately I was eligible for the Grammar school replacement - the Assisted Places Scheme, which basically gave those who would pass the 11+ a subsidised or free entry to independent schools

Had I been a year younger I would not have been eligible for this, because Tony Blair scrapped it because it was 'elitist' (this...from a Fettes man) - so I would have gone to one of those comps

Now I'm not knocking state education as a whole, there are many excellent comps - just none of them happened to be where I lived, I would've been sent to one of the underachieving pits where my local friends went, none of whom did A-levels or went to university, only one teacher was ever murdered though..

It does sound elitist, I admit - but the government are insistent on giving the poorest of us better chances, I don't see how forcing us to go to the local comps did that - unless of course the removal of both Grammar schools and the AP scheme meant that state education considerably improved - and I'm not aware that it did?

From the few socialists that I've met they seem to think that the complete removal of private schools and total use of state education would somehow create a better system - it's a pipedream, and the rich would still use their influence to play the postcode lottery, go abroad, or hire tutors - you can never remove the influence of the wealthy, unless we head down the communist route...

All that happened was the brightest were sent to the comps, while the richest got the best education - in principle maybe it was unfair to pay for the brightest to go to 'posh' schools, but the reality was it was a much more effective system than some grandiose dream about brilliant state education - all that has happened is the rich now get more opportunities while the rest of us form part of the mediocre average

Basically the government want more people from poor backgrounds to have the best they can achieve, i.e. on merit - and yet to classify people by their intelligence (a fairly big part of 'merit' if you ask me) is 'elitist' - seems a bit of a conundrum to me - they would rather just get more poor people in, regardless of talent, to fill their quotas - seems like another form of discrimination to me, just as bad as the rich paying for their kids achievements

Two things stand out to me: Firstly look at the last two Tory Prime Ministers: both Grammar school educated and with working-class origins, now compare that to the current Tory leader and his band of Eton educated cronies, from a demographic coincidentally educated mostly in the late 70s and 80s - maybe it's nothing to do with it, but I always find it quite a striking comparison (and I didn't even need to swing at Labour's last two)

Then, on a more personal note, and I can give no evidence of this, note my school's performance after my year group - it dipped considerably and the few long-term teachers I occasionally see whinge no end about falling standards - I accept that this may well be down to the growing class sizes in the school's pursuit of money, and also the fact that my teachers are old and naturally regard everything as being worse now - but I choose to see the decline as having a link to the removal of academic qualification and the allowing of all those whose parents merely pay up, in

I don't claim it's a valid study, I may well be wrong, but that's my life experience and I'll stick to it until otherwise proved

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