10 August 2009

Equality and 'equality' are not the same thing

Hear the news that Mandy wants to give poorer students a two-grade advantage? - in essence those from bad schools or under performing areas will be given an advantage over their privately educated (or even grammar school educated...) peers

A scheme used by some universities (like Leeds) is based on achieving a higher than average score - i.e. therefore you are the pick of your school and could do better in a top school

It's a reasonable idea - but it has flaws, for starters just because you are a good performer at a bad school does not mean you match up to AAA students at private schools (or especially grammar schools), nor is it a solid fact that a bad school or being 'poor' will affect your achievement - I'm clever, poor, went to a private school (on the AP scheme I might add, which already puts me in the top 10% of applicants) and was lazy, so I got Bs - I could've got As, but when you only revise for the subject you might get a C in it kind of limits your potential - my point is that I had potential beyond what I got, why not give lazy, intelligent people a leg up? Start doing it by intelligence tests, because that's basically what they're doing, just for poor people

In effect they are undermining their own standardised testing system - flawed as it is, but saying, 'oh it's because you're deprived' (based on very broad statistics) and then lowering expectations, it's just asking for trouble - maybe they were just lazy, like me? Now they have an advantage - and of course, now what you will get is people abusing the postcode lottery to go to bad schools

I'll stop short of expecting degree standards to sink any further because of this - at least in important areas like medicine - they will get wheedled out at some stage if they can't handle it, but it's certainly opening the door for this sort of thing

I can understand the logic - there is an issue to address, a better background does quite clearly provide an advantage against those with talent who are poorer - but this social engineering is just an acceptance of the status quo

It is a misguided attempt to make the stats look 'right' - a good healthy number of working class people in the best degrees and jobs - only that doesn't address the real social issues at the root of this: the bad schools, it's just accepting them and lowering the standards for all concerned

It will make the equality nuts in government very happy, but they are just dressing up the situation - hiding behind their feel-good figures while the education system rots - this should only be a short term measure to help those who are suffering now - the long term aim should be to provide good education to all, not tolerate poor education, that will help no-one in the long run

(nicely balanced article from the Beeb if you ask me...will it show up in certain people's comprehensive review of BBC bias? We shall see)


Meanwhile, Mark Easton has again gone for the jugular with Hattie's mad ravings

He points out the alarming misuse of statistics, as witnessed by the ONS - this has nothing to do with my views, or Easton's, on equality, but the way in which the government manipulate figures to promote an agenda and basically lie to us - think what you want about the feminist argument, but the figures being used by the government are outright lies and it's criminal - frankly I would still care if it was the other way round, or about harmless things like soil types or some other drudgery

You know, I can understand a government trying to bury bad news with fudged statistics - governments can't admit wrong - they should, because we'd benefit, but that's the sad reality of it - this however, is just lying to make a situation look worse and get away with your own crazy ideas


Oh and Janet Street Porter has gone feminist

Attacks on women are always personal...attacks on the fat, lazy, idiotic, northern-loudmouth who is Prescott are completely valid politically, however

p.s. Minette Marrin at the Times says it better than I ever could


  1. "How to Lie with Statistics", by Darrell Huff ISBN 0-14-021300-7 is essential reading for anybody who doubts that politicians and the media use statistics to sell us porkies...

    The two-grade advantage idea will never get off the ground: the "establishment" will see to that...

    The real problem is that if nobody in your family circle has been to University before, you've immediately got a disadvantage because there's nobody to advise you on the best way forward, what courses to take, who to contact, what forms to fill in, which Universities to consider, which to avoid, the perils and pleasures of University life etc etc.

    Looking back at my own life, that's where I really had the problem. Teachers and Counsellors tend to have an 'agenda' and aren't the same as having a Father or friendly Uncle who's been through the process before. Family members are best placed to advise about University...

  2. I didn't come from a rich background by any means, but because, back in 1968, I had the opportunity to be selected by ability rather than by social engineering, I went to grammar school and on to college. If everything was still assessed in this way I would imagine that many of our present shower of politicians wouldn't have got anywhere near Westminster, except, perhaps, to post a letter!

  3. I think the evidence does quite clearly point towards grammar schools, or at least selective education - egalitarian policies such as these have been a big failure and belong in the 70s (see my old post, somewhere in there)

    TGR - I was a first generation, as we're called - myself and some friends were asked to give our opinions of university as we had no family ties to the experience - it was quite a big drive, and obviously with the massive increase in student numbers I think the situation is improving for those of us not born into a university educated family