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September 03, 2008

Comments

John D

Great post!

TDK

David you're so unfair.

Say there's a restaurant with a lousy reputation in your town. Will it improve its service if customers begin to go elsewhere? Clearly there's no motivation for the staff if they aren't supported. The solution is to grit your teeth and keep going because only then will it magically improve.

Herb

No. David is not unfair; in fact he is absolutely correct. A parent's job -- no obligation -- is to give their child the best education possible and use or offer them up as a social experiment.

Herb

The word "not" should appear in my note after the word "and"

Anna

The funniest thing is Weir *thinks* she's being a conscientious parent.

David

TDK,

Exactly.

Herb,

I think TDK is being a tad ironic. We need an emoticon to denote withering sarcasm.

Anna,

It’s funny, but in a grim kind of way. My own experience of comprehensive education was of demoralised staff teaching demoralised children, often badly, in a demoralised, disorderly and miserable environment. I recently discovered that the school in question had subsequently been burned to the ground by one of its pupils. And Ms Weir’s views are often held by people who are quite keen to make escape from that environment at the very least taboo and a sign of wickedness.

TDK

Herb

I should have thought the word "magically" might have given you a clue.

Lovernios

David,

You are being unfair. Haven't you seen "To Sir With Love"? It'll work out just fine in the end, with a big party and a present for Sir - Lulu (yeah, baby).

(/SARC, just in case)

JuliaM

"Reading Ms Weir’s article, it’s hard to avoid the suspicion that she regards children, even her own, not as ends in themselves, but as instruments for the advancement of an egalitarian worldview."

Well, why not. Isn't that how socialists view ALL people, at heart?

"My own experience of comprehensive education was of demoralised staff teaching demoralised children, often badly, in a demoralised, disorderly and miserable environment."

It hasn't changed any, if the blog 'To Miss With Love' is any indication:

http://tomisswithlove.blogspot.com/

R. Sherman

There seems to be a bit of a "white man's burden" sort of tone to Ms. Weir's article. Yea, verily, she is a missionary to those with these "diverse" backgrounds. Of course, in sending her children to such a school and writing about her "sacrifices," she validates her own superiority for all to see. And by the way, her kids won't suffer from her decisions because they have a large familial safety net. Thus, her "sacrifices" are meaningless gestures.

Brian H

"Here we see crystallised one of socialism’s moral inversions. By Weir’s thinking, even if you had a grim and frustrating experience at a state comprehensive you should still want to inflict that same experience on your children. Ideally, by sending them to a really disreputable school with plenty of rough council estate kids and people for whom English is, at best, a second language."

Spot on.

David

R Sherman,

“Thus, her ‘sacrifices’ are meaningless gestures.”

Well, quite. Though maybe her children may come to feel differently, assuming their school isn’t *quite* as civilised as the fashionable Camden School for Girls, which the lovely Arabella attended. (No need for free school meals or calls to the police there!) The CSG is one of those schools that are *technically* comprehensive but hardly grim or down-at-heel, thanks to parental donations, and to which rich socialists send their offspring in order not to feel like the hypocrites they are.

zL1n0x

I went to a private catholic school. My best friends at the time were a Syrian Druze and Russian Orthodox, from the same school, and a locally born chap from the local state school who is an atheist like me.

Does this make me ideologically correct enough to hang with patronising snobs like Weir? Well, I'm an eeevil capitalistso probably not.

Tom Jones

Ahh, the English! Aren't they the nice folks who make life difficult, at best, for their kids? (YOU! BEHIND THE GREAT SHED! STAND STILL, WILL YE!)
Maybe if they were nicer to their young we would never have had to hear about it in songs by Pink Floyd or The Smiths. Just sayin'.

Rob

Well, to give her some credit at least she isn't the typical Leftist hypocrite, ideologically fervent about comprehensive education and then putting their kids through private school. Compared to that, even sending your child to a dodgy school to massage your socialist ego is almost acceptable.

randian

I can't help but wonder if she sees "being targeted by local roughs" as the just due for attending private school.

Rob

"I can't help but wonder if she sees "being targeted by local roughs" as the just due for attending private school."

With a certain sexual frisson, no doubt.

Horace Dunn

“The school's intake has also begun, inch by inch, to be slightly more representative of the whole local demographic, but we are still a way off from being the school of choice for the white middle classes.”

I’m struggling a little with this.

Now, since I don’t know where this school is, I also don’t know what the “local demographic” looks like, but from what Ms Weir says elsewhere in her article we can take it as read that it is mixed ethnically and socio-culturally (but where isn’t?)

Now, she speaks approvingly of how the school is becoming “more representative” of that mix. In as much as this suggests that the school is not excluding anyone on arbitrary ethnic or socio-cultural grounds then I’d be inclined to share in her approval (this of course is a much more complex issue, but let’s leave this aside for the moment).

What I can’t grasp is why she seems concerned that they are still “a way off from being the school of choice for the white middle classes”.

Is she suggesting that the desirable mix, which matches the “local demographic”, cannot be achieve unless they have the correct proportion of white, middle class people, and that this group is, to date, following the exodus she describes, still underrepresented?

Well, perhaps, but given the overall tenor of her piece, I can’t help thinking that this isn’t what she’s trying to say. She has told us that, following some “administrative difficulties”, the middle class parents “began to leave like rats from a sinking ship”. This happened despite the fact that the children at the school, “without exception, seemed to be happy, settled and doing well". So, once those feckless middle class people left, the school struggled on and things began to improve. This improvement she tells us was due in large part to “the PTA (which is made up of representatives from the whole school community, not just a few middle-class do-gooders)”.

So she seems to be telling us that the departure of those middle class parents was not such a blow since the PTA, with fewer “middle-class do-gooders”, has proven so effective and admirable.

In which case, why does she see fit to qualify the school’s successes by telling us that it is still “a way off from being the school of choice for the white middle classes”? Is the presence of a significant number from the “white middle classes” needed to vindicate the successes of the school? Or is she gloating they have achieved so much without the “middle-class do-gooders”? Also, if she’s so pleased with the school’s current “representative” state, would it be desirable to have a surfeit of white middle class pupils to bugger up the multi-cultural Shangri-la that they’re creating?

charles austin

Seems to me Arabella is willing to make her child endure hardships just to satisfy her own self esteem. Remarkable isn't it? Darwin will deal with the ideology of such folks in due time.

charles austin

My note about Darwin is because I don't think nature will deal kindly with those who willingly don't provide the best they can for their children.

David

The “myths and facts” section following Weir’s piece is equally vacuous. It’s just a series of tendentious and/or disingenuous assertions. We’re told, for instance: “There’s no evidence that you get less bullying at private schools.” But if children are bullied at a private school, their parents have leverage that isn’t available to parents of children at state schools. In addition to the usual avenues of complaint, they can threaten to withdraw their *custom* and go elsewhere. They can talk to other parents, other customers, who may then do the same. And money talks. A commercial school with a poor reputation is much more likely to suffer as a result – and much more likely to change – than an institution which faces no immediate commercial penalty. This, of course, is precisely the kind of leverage and empowerment Ms Weir doesn’t like.

The underlying assumption is that financial leverage is unnecessary because the motives of teachers are always benign and their actions are invariably in the best interests of the children in their care. Well, I wasn’t really bullied at school*, but the most prolonged and blatant attempt to intimidate me was by two socialist teachers, who were quite insistent that my education (such as it was) wasn’t for my benefit, but for the good of “society”. And, I was told, it wasn’t my place to grumble about its shortcomings.

*
(Actually, that’s not quite true. One of the “local roughs” tried to bully me, once. I threw a chair at his face. Sadly, I only managed to wing him, but it achieved the desired effect and made him change his mind. I’m sure Ms Weir had to do the same kind thing at the Camden School for Girls.)

Rob

Re-reading that article, I would be very surprised indeed if middle-class parents did remove their children "like rats from a sinking ship" because of "administrative difficulties". Very surprised indeed. Rational people simply do not disrupt their childrens' education in this way because of something so euphemistically termed as "administrative difficulties". My guesses as to what actually did happen:

a) Senior staff changes led to a change in the whole ethos of the school - e.g. from a traditional ethos (actual education) to a progressive one.

b) Discipline declined alarmingly and the senior staff showed no great willingness to deal with the problem.

c) It had an inspection (are primary schools subject to inspections?) and found to be extremely poor.

Any of the above options would give sufficient grounds to remove your child. i.e. the protection of his/her person of the integrity of their education. Methinks Ms Weir is not telling the whole story here (gasp!).

TDK

There's another aspect here that is unexamined.

Ms Weir takes it for granted that private school kids walking home through the same area as her daughter's school friends disproportionately risk attack. The unspoken assumption is that the attacks are motivated by social justice demands. The idea that criminals target the wealthy to redistribute their wealth is extraordinarily appealing to socialists. Yet the evidence is the opposite. The greater wealth someone has the more they are able to insulate themselves from crime. Sink estate kids are not only more likely to be criminals, they are more likely to be the victim of criminals.

With that in mind, I cannot accept her narrative that her daughter has an easier life than students he did choose a private school. If it does victimise those private pupils they it is ridiculous to assume that the state school children will be "let off".

David

TDK,

Assuming Ms Weir’s children don’t ask to be moved to the better school (or master the art of throwing chairs), maybe they’ll just become accustomed to the disorder and low-level thuggery that make the school experience so… enriching. As they get older, maybe they’ll learn to rationalise such behaviour as a symptom of capitalist oppression or something. Maybe they’ll learn to blame “society” instead of their idiot mother.

TimT

Parents must make sacrifices, you hear? Not for their own children, of course, or for their peace of mind, but for the Greater Good.

Actually, parents must make sacrifices, not for their own children, but of their own children.

History is littered with examples of one generation rebelling against the educational orthodoxies of the previous generation that they suffered under. George Orwell hated his private education, C S Lewis turned against progressive/experimental methods of schooling... it's not hard to imagine the kids of today turning against this idea that public schooling is some kind of moral obligation.

David

Tim T,

“Actually, parents must make sacrifices, not for their own children, but *of* their own children.”

It does seem that Ms Weir is using her children to ease her own hang-ups about being a well-heeled media figure and the daughter of a knighted ambassador. (Incidentally, I don’t have a problem with daughters of knighted ambassadors – only those with pretentious socialist hang-ups and hypocritical instincts.) Thus, the righteous Ms Weir may pass among the proletariat, feeling pleased with herself and awaiting congratulation. Any ill-effects on her children of this self-conscious slumming will, of course, be eased by their home life, parental contacts, bourgeois background and things like gap years.

It’s the worst kind of prole tourism. Vanity writ large, pretending to be virtue.

Frank Key

I was pleased to see that the Guardian published my letter today:

"I'm surprised that Arabella Weir's children go to school in London at all. Back on May 1, also in G2, she vowed to leave the capital if Boris Johnson became mayor."

Baltar's Beard

"I live in a big five-bedroom detached Victorian house in Crouch End which I bought for £100,000 16 years ago. I won't say what it's worth now - it's a lot more. I wonder how anybody can afford houses today."

Guess who?

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/money/main.jhtml?xml=/money/2008/02/29/cmfame29.xml

CJ

The entire experiment of forced busing in the U.S. became an exercise in using children to fulfill the ideological fantasies of adults.

“Hey, let’s force busloads of poor, black kids from broken homes to share classes with middle class, white kids from middle-class homes and see what happens?”

My mom taught for 25 years at our local elementary school. She taught my two older sisters. But the violence and disruption had become too great by the time me and my younger sister hit fourth grade. With heavy heart (and heavier debt) my parents had to enroll us in a private school. Mom wasn’t going to use us in some social experiment.

Public schools reflect the community. They will be diverse when the community is. The busing experiment in the U.S. was an example of parents forcing children to do what they would not.

klipper

"Thus, the righteous Ms Weir may pass among the proletariat, feeling pleased with herself and awaiting congratulation."

Yessum!

virgil xenophon

Horace Dunn is too logical. He has apparently forgotten the "consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds" school of thought. Do he honestly think the points he makes would bother the likes of people like Ms. Weir one whit? Such people are beyond reason and logic. They should be totally ignored except for the effect on our personal lives they and their minions and their misbegotten politics often envelope us with.

Tim239

Nice fisking.

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