Theresa May wants to bring back grammar schools. According to one poll 60% of the British public agree with this idea. If I’d been asked I would have been one of them. This idea, incidentally, has been a core part of UKIP’s manifesto. But that’s by the by. Experts debate about how successful grammar schools have been in promoting social mobility. But given the large support of those who went to one and even those who didn’t I suspect that the experts are asking the wrong questions. I haven’t seen the data myself.
If social mobility is what you care about, and I am happy to argue the case for and against just to cause trouble, then the problem is the nepotism of the privately educated. Law, medicine, acting, the media, are dominated by the privately educated. One of the few places where you will find the state-school educated is in music, presumably because you can be a successful and popular musician without having to rely on how much money your parents have or who your friends are. As a musician you can appeal directly to the people.
A key player in the destruction of the grammar-school system was Shirley Williams when Labour Secretary of State for Education and Science. She herself was privately educated. When her children reached the relevant age she moved house to be in the catchment area of a school that later became private.
Then in 1997 Labour Prime Minister Tony “Education, education, education” Blair made it illegal to open new grammar schools. That’s privately educated Tony Blair. His children went to a school that was criticised by a watchdog for selecting children based on ethnicity and privilege.
The Labour party is rampant with such hypocrisy. It’s the same story with one of the most corrosive politicians of modern times, Harriet Harman. And Labour MP, Emily Thornberry (a.k.a. Lady Nugee) of whom a former chief inspector of schools said “I celebrate her good sense as a parent and deplore her hypocrisy as a politician.”
My favourite is Diane Abbott. I say she’s my favourite because she’s one of those people who you can rely on to get absolutely everything wrong. Should you take an umbrella with you in the morning? Ask Diane if it’s going to rain. If she says no then you’d better take it. Her son was privately educated.
It’s almost as if Labour are afraid of a meritocracy!
Or it’s because the more left wing you are the more you inhabit a theory bubble. In that bubble you make some assumptions about how the world works, and from there you build up a model of how to optimize society. In that respect it’s like economics, or much of quantitative finance. Unfortunately the assumptions tend to be wide of the mark, and so the results are meaningless. I think that’s all you need to know about Marxism. Jeremy Corbyn left his wife because she wanted to send their son to a grammar school and he wanted him sent to the local comprehensive. Poor man, the eternal left-wing battle between idiotic ideology and blatant hypocrisy. In this case, thanks to the divorce, everyone came out a winner.
Another problem with Labour is that they are snobs (see Lady Nugee above). Tony Blair wanted 50% of children to go on to university. Presumably that’s because he looked down on gardeners and plasterers and mechanics. Champagne socialists would be embarrassed to have someone who hasn’t read Proust mend their plumbing. The end result of his policy was the utterly predictable increase in fluffy, meaningless degrees and a generation who think they can step into a top-flight career on a large salary.
I do have a worry though. The public sector has become bloated and full of ‘jobsworths.’ I have experience of both private and state education and I’ve seen a change since I was a lad. I’m not sure that the public sector any longer has the ability to deliver good education for all parents who want it and to children who need it. I believe there is too much concern with the rights of the teachers than with duties towards the children. At least in the private sector where schools are run like a business the schools live or die according to the service they deliver. State schools don’t have any such incentive. Their incentive has for twenty years been to play the exam system rather than to educate meaningfully, to play the man rather than the ball.
We shall see.