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June 14, 2012

Comments

Greg

Ah yes. The moral giants of the revolution who see we can't because they stand aloft mountains.............of human bodies both living and dead.

Jacob

Still, Zoe’s personal resentments are the important thing

Socialism in a nutshell.

Henry

"Socialist Hearts Are Just Bigger Than Ours"

Ah, the moral superiority complex pervading the pages of the Guardian. Many of these journalists may truly believe they are the only ones who care.

Yet one wonders if it's a case of loving humanity, but not being able to stand people...especially toffs, Daily Mail readers, euro-skeptics, "white middle-class men", readers of The Sun, Lady Thatcher, readers of the Telegraph, etcetc. Because occasionally we see just the tiniest hint of irritation and scorn coming from these saintly Guardian-types:

The thoughtful Barbara Ellen: Still living with your parents at 30? Get a life

Here is Barbara Ellen again, on depressed fathers:

"..the mothers in question were having to put up with such exhausting narcissists as partners – men incapable of hiding their sulky self-absorption."

A ray of sunshine from Bishida:

"I wouldn't be above some impromptu castration, either. Last December German Helmut Seifert cut the knackers off the 57-year-old "boyfriend" of his 17-year-old daughter with a kitchen knife. That's the way to do it, sir: grasp the issue at its root. Don't telephone the man and sound him out. Just saw off his nuts"

Deborah Orr:

"many Zionists believe - that the lives of the chosen are of hugely greater consequence than those of their unfortunate neighbours"

And a final salvo from Barbara Ellen. The piece entitled 'Smile love…' Not if you're a leery, sex-obsessed snivelling creep

How can we not have these people of conscience in charge of everything??

David

Henry,

“…the tiniest hint of irritation and scorn…”

Deborah Orr has a history of barely-veiled anti-Semitism. And Tim Worstall has spent quite a bit of time parsing her idiocy on economic matters. And she doesn’t seem to understand, or like, children much smarter than her. As with so many of her colleagues, there’s often a whiff of petty malice to what she writes. Likewise the chronically unhappy Bidisha, who writes angry but self-refuting articles, rails against a hallucinatory “cultural femicide” and doesn’t believe that white people can be victims of racial bigotry. Oh, and who defines “being political” as being leftwing, such is the scope of her imagination. Apparently, those who disagree with Bidisha “have no politics.”

It’s all quite confusing. But it makes a little more sense if you think of these outpourings as a kind of rationalised vindictiveness. Which is, I think, often a key component of a leftist worldview.

[ Added: ]

For people who like to impose their will on others – to hector, frustrate and interfere - egalitarianism is an ideal vehicle. They can even pretend to be virtuous while doing it. They can demand that the state confiscate even more of other people’s earnings or abolish private schools, all in the name of altruism and “social justice.” And, like Bidisha, they can harangue people for not meeting the approved racial and gender ratios, and accuse them of being bigoted, regardless of the particulars in any given instance. All because they care. As a license for resentment and petty malice, it’s a go-to ideology. (See, for example, this.)

Tom Foster

Bidisha's star seems to be waning, and there isn't much from Bellos or Bindel these days, so I'd like to nominate Emer O'Toole as the Guardian's new rising star feminist-leftist to keep an eye on. Her contributions so far include the claim that Shakespeare is rubbish (and the current Globe to Globe festival is 'cultural imperialism') and that austerity in Ireland is anti-women because 'as women make up 72% of the country's public sector employees, it affects women disproportionately.' (It didn't of course occur to her that women occupying nearly three-quarters of public sector jobs might be, in some way, unfair to men.)

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/may/21/shakespeare-universal-cultural-imperialism

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/jun/08/irish-feminist-zeitgeist-challenge

Henry

Emer O'Toole - we discussed her opinions on Shakespeare under a previous post. And I humbly submit a piece of my own casting a somewhat critical eye over the Shakespeare link. Just ignore the title, for which I must take responsibility.

Tom Foster

Henry,

"Emer O'Toole - we discussed her opinions on Shakespeare under a previous post."

Ah yes, I'd forgotten she'd come up here before.

"And I humbly submit a piece of my own casting a somewhat critical eye over the Shakespeare link. Just ignore the title, for which I must take responsibility."

Fine piece. Thanks.

"But I fear Ms O’Toole is only getting started."

Sadly, I believe you're right.

Adam J

For people who like to impose their will on others – to hector, frustrate and interfere - egalitarianism is an ideal vehicle. They can even pretend to be virtuous while doing it

Well said, David.

David

Adam J,

Statist compassion, a contradiction in practical terms, offers endless opportunities to screw with other people and infantilise the public. And the urge to infantilise and foster neoteny doesn’t seem at all altruistic or compassionate, whatever protestations to the contrary. A person who’s been suitably infantilised – and told that even the idea of self-reliance is wicked and that nothing is ever their fault - is unlikely to prosper or raise children who fulfil their potential. Yet Polly Toynbee, an arch-proponent of such thinking, wants the state to assume the role of an eternally forgiving but rather negligent parent. She says the state should be a “nanny… to all babies.” She says private education should be banned, supposedly on the basis that wanting the best for your children is selfish. And she claims that obesity is caused by a lack of socialism.

But waiting for a socialist utopia doesn’t seem a great way to drop those extra pounds.

sk60

Society made me fat.
True story.

Bart

"And she claims that obesity is caused by a lack of socialism"

I guess it kind of is. Historically, one thing Communist nations have been a little too successful at is ensuring few of its subjects are in any danger of eating too much.

Steve

"She says private education should be banned, supposedly on the basis that wanting the best for your children is selfish."

Much as it hurts to speak up for PT this is not necessarily the case. I have always disliked the existence of private schools because they offer another opportunity for segregation on top of the natural segregation which results from disparities of income, distribution of industrial wealth, academic ability, religious persuasion etc. What makes it worse for me is that this segregation is 'inflicted' on children as young as 3. In my everyday life I regularly deal with people who in their entire lives have never had to speak to a 'working-class' person except when they go to Waitrose; I'm not sure that anyone could reasonably believe this to be a healthy state of affairs. I don't think it is selfish to believe that the country would be less divided if there was more opportunity for mixing betw

My own experience was that my education was 'saved' by the handful of 'middle-classed' kids that still found themselves in my small town comprehensive school. Those 'middle-class' kids have mostly gone now as fear of state education, brought about largely by terrible government policies, has forced more and more people to withdraw their children from the state education lottery. Consequently my own dislike of private education lasted until my daughter reached school age and I discovered that the only available state primary school was one dominated by new immigrants and carrying the inevitable failure status.

If state education was done properly then private schools would not be necessary. In my opinion this could only be done with Grammer schools for the academically bright and good technical schools for the more practical children. This appears to be poison to the political classes but is this not the way things are done in Germany where engineers and academics enjoy similar status?

AC1

I think the opposite. The state should withdraw from education. Every school should be private and parents should pay for their own child's education.

State schools are a failure, they must end.

David

Steve,

“Much as it hurts to speak up for PT this is not necessarily the case.”

The point being that parents are generally a much better judge of their own children’s interests than Polly Toynbee. Or her Guardian colleagues Kevin McKenna and Zoe Williams. Parents (who get feedback from their children) can judge what suits their needs and preferences. Toynbee, who thinks private schooling should be “scrapped,” would leave parents and children with no choice at all, supposedly for their own good. Because she knows what’s best for all of us, obviously. Not only does Polly wish to shut down avenues of escape from her one-size-fits-all educational model, she also wants to raise the age at which it’s possible to leave. Apparently we must all suffer together and for as long as possible. Not that this stopped the Open University from awarding Toynbee an honorary doctorate for “her notable contribution to the educational and cultural well-being of society.”

Well-being, indeed.

Steve

David,

The point is that if the schools, which our tax dollars are paying for, were run properly and without interference from the likes of PT then there would be no need to divide up children into those whose parents can afford to give them the opportunity of an education and those whose parents can't. I'd genuinely like to know why you think it is a good thing to separate children at 3 based on nothing other than their parents financial circumstances. What this country needs is not more Camerons & Osbournes with virtually no experience outside of their own social 'class'.

I lived with a French girl for around 8 year, an intelligent and well-read woman who, like me, had minimally educated parents and no family history of higher education but nevertheless had been well-educated by a Parisian state school. According to her the French, at that time, generally had total confidence in their state education system and considered private schooling to be for 'thickies' who needed additional tutoring to get them up to standard. She was amazed at the English obsession with particular expensive schools. From the little that I know now it seems that this system is currently also being destroyed by political interference and excessive immigration. It doesn't have to be so.

David

Steve,

“If state education was done properly then private schools would not be necessary.”

Well, the odds of state education ever being “done properly” seem somewhat remote.

“I’d genuinely like to know why you think it is a good thing to separate children at 3 based on nothing other than their parents’ financial circumstances.”

It isn’t about what I think is a good thing. (A good thing for whom?) It’s about what parents think is a good thing for their own children. It isn’t for you or me to say what kind of education other parents should find adequate. On what basis should you or I tell Mrs Smith that her daughter shouldn’t be able to opt out of a state education system that she, Mrs Smith, found substandard and frustrating? She’s not taking resources from the state system; she’s paying twice – for her daughter and for a system she doesn’t regard as fit for purpose.

Steve

David,

"Well, the odds of state education ever being “done properly” seem somewhat remote"

Do they? I was state educated in the 60's & 70's to a reasonable standard. I am certainly able to think for myself which is possibly one of the most important skills. I also know lot's of younger people who have been state educated and are smart and well-rounded. Do you really think these people are rare?

Is it not true that the post-war grammer school system created more social mobility than has happened at any time in history? Or did I dream that up?

David

Steve,

“Do they?”

My own comprehensive school experience was pretty dismal and not at all unusual for the area; others may have fared better. I know of some who fared much worse. But are you saying that our hypothetical Mrs Smith should ignore her own dismal experience – and her own judgment - and risk it? To what end?

Steve

David,

Perhaps you should be asking yourself why were you educated in the comprehensive system? Was it because your parents didn't care about your education or was it because they were unable to afford private education?

My own parents had 3 children and a very low income which could not possibly pay for private education. What people like AC-1 (above) are effectively saying is that people from backgrounds like mine are not worth educating.

Some may argue that if the state didn't take money from you to pay for schools then this money could be used to pay for private education but this is patently absurd. People on very low incomes (like my family) hardly pay any tax, certainly not enough to cover a decent education. This is not like health insurance where a relatively small premium is paid IN CASE health isssues arise. With education you need it now and you need it for at least 18 years if you are to have any reasonable job prospects. How is the woman at the Tesco checkout or the lad that cuts my hair going to afford private education for their children? Government subsidy?

Steve

David,

By the way, those of us that have studied some history, state-funded or not, know exactly what happened before the state took responsibility for educating its children, and it didn't lead to large numbers of farm labourers going to Oxford!

Incidentally, since the Guardian appears to almost exclusively employ privately educated people isn't this pretty decent evidence to suggest that it is the private schools where the real educational failure occurs?

David

Steve,

“Perhaps you should be asking yourself why were you educated in the comprehensive system... How is the woman at the Tesco checkout or the lad that cuts my hair going to afford private education for their children?”

You seem to be bundling several different issues. (AC1 can speak for himself.) Are you suggesting I should feel resentful at not being privately educated? Who should I be resenting? Even on the grimmest days at school it didn’t occur to me to be jealous. Nor did I ever want to thwart others - perhaps people much like me - whose circumstances were better (by my estimation at least). That’s not how my mind works. The fact that not everyone can afford - or for that matter, equally benefit from - private education doesn’t mean that no-one should be allowed to buy it. And yet that position is remarkably common on the left, as is the aforementioned urge to thwart. (See Zoe Williams, Kevin McKenna, Polly Toynbee, Arabella Weir, et al.)

“Incidentally, since the Guardian appears to almost exclusively employ privately educated people isn’t this pretty decent evidence to suggest that it is the private schools where the real educational failure occurs?”

I assume your joking. But if not, you shouldn’t blame private education as a whole for the psychodramas of some of its leftwing customers.

Steve

David,

Of course I was not suggesting that you should resent your parents, quite the opposite actually; I assume that most people like to think that their parents do the best parenting job that circumstances allow.

As I thought I said in my first post, since having my own child my view on this has become conflicted; whilst I really dislike the segregation and distortion of opportunities caused by private schools (religious schools too are unnecessarily divisive), I now fully understand the dilemnas faced by people with limited resources living in areas where the state schools are dreadful.

Where I apparently differ from you is that I feel that schools for people who cannot afford private education should be able to offer a good standard of education. The really tragic thing is that, in the South East at least, it seems that the better off people have it all ways; they can of course choose private education for their children if they wish but, as the best state schools are usually in the wealthiest areas, they often don't need to make that choice.

I have said before that I think your writing is superb (I am currently reading Thomas Sowells' 'Intellectuals & Society', and it could really use a bit of your wit). Are you suggesting that none of this writing skill can be attributed to your 'pretty dismal' comprehensive education. It seems to me that your education was a great success, even if I would conceed that it may have been even better had your parents won the pools and sent you to Harrow!

My own comprehensive school education was also pretty poor but was vastly improved by the fact that my best friend at school was the son of a dentist who lived in a big house, had 3 brothers at university and demonstrated to me that not all clever posh kids were dorks. I fear that the middle-class flight from state education means that I would not have such a friend if I were to be starting my comprehensive education today. And that's a shame for all the sons & daughters of welders, waitresses and wig makers out there who would like to see their children fulfill their potential.

David

Steve,

“Are you suggesting that none of this writing skill can be attributed to your ‘pretty dismal’ comprehensive education? It seems to me that your education was a great success…”

Yes, I am saying that. (See below.) And no, it wasn’t. I don’t mean to suggest my experience was entirely awful. Mostly, it was just boring, undemanding and demoralised.

Regarding the issue of resentment and envy, which is generally directed at people who can afford to escape state schooling, and perhaps just barely afford to escape it, there’s a problem. The shortcomings of comprehensive education aren’t just a matter of funding so much as an issue of intake and ethos. Money won’t change the bell curves of ability and aptitude and it won’t shift egalitarian ideology, which, in my experience, was one of the major problems. If, for instance, the prevailing thinking in a school is a bit like this, in which children are basically vehicles for propagating an egalitarian worldview, then the biggest problem facing those kids, especially bright kids, is the thinking itself. And if pupils aren’t being taught English grammar or even spelling on ideological grounds, then not teaching grammar in a slightly nicer classroom won’t make much of a difference.

Steve

David,

My original point was that it is not necessarilly resentment that makes people dislike the idea of private schooling, I am merely uncomfortable with the notion of totally segregating children on the basis of their parents wealth. (Although if I am being completely honest I would say that if I had any resentment at all it occurred after I left school and found that when applying for university places, jobs etc. I was in competition with a lot of un-impressive individuals whose parents had artificially raised their educational achievements with the use of large amounts of cash: It took many years of work for my poor comprehensive school grades to become irrelevant and my inherent abilities, which existed in spite of my education, to have a proper bearing on my employment opportunities). Anyone who genuinely believes that it would be desirable to live in a country where the best people are given the best opportunities would feel uncomfortable about the fact that really average individuals can be coached through exams and given the chance to attend the best universities and get the best jobs in place of more gifted children.

Is it of no relevance that Arrabella Weir was also privately educated? Is this not more evidence of feeble-minded people being given opportunities that they do not deserve in part because their parents were able to get them into the right school? It should be you getting her kind of coverage David. Does it really never occur to you that you could be writing for a larger audience than this blog offers you if the top writing jobs were actually given to the best people rather than to the people with the richest and best connected parents?

David

Steve,

“…my inherent abilities, which existed in spite of my education,”

Amen, brother.

“…feel uncomfortable about the fact that really average individuals can be coached through exams and given the chance to attend the best universities and get the best jobs in place of more gifted children.”

But if I were the parent of a child with average abilities, I might do whatever I could to give her the best possible start in life. That’s what parents do, isn’t it, ideally? Would this make me a bad person? Would it make her a bad person?

“It should be you getting her kind of coverage David.”

Heh. As I said, I’ve plenty of shortcomings but I don’t think envy is one of them. And besides, the kind of coverage such views get – their cultural propagation – very much depends on the nature of those views. If you’re mouthing a certain kind of fashionable conceit, it’s much easier to find a sympathetic editor and a sympathetic audience. As noted here a while ago, you’re not likely to hear an hour of Thomas Sowell on the BBC. You will, however, get plenty of Laurie Penny and Owen Jones.

Steve

David,

In 'Intellectuals and Society' at one point Thomas Sowell talks about the arrogance that grows from overly-educated people constantly being told that they are special and how this leads them into areas where they have no right being. I think he is referring to Laurie Penny. (Should I resist the temptation to point her out as another example of private educational failure? - Nah!)

BTW I am all for education being a consumer product. Since competing my under-graduate degree I have personally financed my Masters Degree, a GCSE in French and I am currently learning the piano (Grade II exam this week). As adults we can choose to enhance our own life experience / chances, however I remain uncomfortable about the segregation of opportunities to children even whilst COMPLETELY understanding any parents wish to improve their own childrens' chances. Like all of life this is not a simple issue.

I always thought it was the left that liked to turn isues into black & white, good & evil. I hope this doesn't also become the modus operandi of the 'right'.

Henry

There are egalitarian dreams about fairness, but there is also the fact that under-performing state schools probably contain a good deal of untapped talent that is not being channelled into national competitiveness. And we need it to be.

France is an example of what could things could be like with a very big-spending, state-heavy overhaul. But currently, state schools are not providing high quality education. So it would need to be a big overhaul, and a lot of money. At the moment they are not looking like a good investment for any government – private schools are simply doing better on the whole. So I see little practical chance of that solution to problems of fairness.

But even if we conjured up a brilliant state sector in education– a long way off – it would be anti-competitive (for parents and for the nation as a whole) to make it impossible for people to seeking a better education for their kids. We ought to be wary of sacrificing the pursuit of excellence because we’re worried about ‘inequality’.

The ‘segregation’ Steve talks of bothers me less, personally. The “Camerons & Osbournes with virtually no experience outside of their own social 'class” have been elected into office all the same. We’re free to vote for someone else. Toynbee – well she is similarly lacking in experience but we didn’t elect her. A few people read her mutterings and disastrously, may be influenced by them…I don't think a less segregated school system is a fix for the silliness of what is written and read in the newspapers

Steve

Henry,

Whilst there might be systemic problems with state education that might take time to address, you might be surprised to discover how quickly the performance of individual schools can be transformed, particularly by the comings and goings of head teachers.

Two local schools near to me illustrate this pretty well; a primary school that lost its exceptional head went, in the space of a year, from 'outstanding' to threats of special measures; meanwhile an exceptional state comprehensive school (just about the only one in this part of SE London and in enormous demand), having had its right to select on 'ability' removed, suffered a subsequent collapse in results which was entirely reversed within the space of 1 - 2 years apparently by the good work of the head teacher. It seems to me that with the resources already in place, decent teachers can provide decent outcomes if they are allowed to. (And I speak as someone who had nothing but bad teachers and does not adopt the default position that all teachers are necessarily great)

APL

Steve,

I'm puzzled by two seemingly contradictory comments. On one hand: "I have always disliked the existence of private schools because they offer another opportunity for segregation on top of the natural segregation which results from disparities of income, distribution of industrial wealth, academic ability, religious persuasion etc." (segregation bad because separate schooling fosters snobbery. On the other hand: "According to her the French, at that time, generally had total confidence in their state education system and considered private schooling to be for 'thickies' who needed additional tutoring to get them up to standard" (segregation good because the snobs go to state schools). All I see is that the French have as elitist a schooling system as the British, but reversed in terms of state operation. Is this state schooling system of the French supposed to reduce snobbery? It seems to have failed in the case of your friend. In my opinion, the only question is: Where do the "thickies" go? England - state, France - private, either way not to the schools that concerned parents want their kids going to.

Steve

APL,

It's hard to know where to start with that!

Firstly I have already said, several times, that I am conflicted so have already admitted to a degree of what you call contradiction.

Secondly one of the statements that you quote is my view, the other was the view of my ex, offered as her view not mine. So no contradiction there.

Thirdly there is (or apparently was) no segregation in the French state system, it was open to everybody, rich or poor.

Fourthly as in the UK there is (or was) segregation in the private system which, like the UK's is / was expensive and was a 'catch-up' option only available to those that could afford it. Less bright poor kids don't / didn't have this escape route.

Fifthly, and perhaps most importantly, the whole point of my posts was that intelligence or lack of it are non-discriminatory and are probably evenly spread amoung rich & poor. It bothers me that less bright (or even 'thickie') rich kids can be 'shoed in' to good opportunities at the expense of the intelligent poor. If you think that's a good thing then say so.

BTW: My belief that intelligence is reasonably evenly distributed could, of course be bunkum. I recently read a short article in the Telegraph suggesting that this might not be the case in the US where bright people leave small towns, marry other bright people, stay in the big city and are creating intelligence gaps in small town America which is leading to some amount of poverty. Could be true, could be one persons mad theory. My own fear, un-aided by any academic research, is that the grammar school system may have already removed most un-tapped intelligence out of the labouring classes and that is why social movement appears to have halted.

Smudger

Hi. I'm one of the intelligent poor, if that isn't being too self-congratulatory.

I went to a state school. It was terrible. (The teachers should have been done under the Trade Descriptions Act). I went to university as a mature student and did very well. I now have a run-of-the-mill job. I'd like to have a better one, but I can't seem to get a break. Boo-hoo me.

There are loads of people just like me. We don't live in a meritocracy, so people don't always end up in the situations they should. Money, connections and the art of bullshitting are far more important to landing cushy jobs than possessing intelligence. (I figure this explains the makeup of the Guardian writing staff). Does that piss me off? Of course. Does it make me want the state to step in and 'fix' things with its size twelves? Of course not. It just makes me more determined to succeed.

Whatever happens in my own life, I would never succumb to the thinking of a Toynbee or a Zoe Williams - the repulsive hypocrites - and agitate to deny others the chance of a better start in life. And I would certainly never become so confused that I thought more state involvement - which is what any top-down attempt at enforcing 'equality' along Marxist lines would boil down to - could ever be a good thing.

Steve

Smudger,

You should not confuse 'equality' with 'equality of opportunity' they are not at all the same thing.

What private schools do is provide more advantages for the wealthy on top of the other advantages that they already have such as having intelligent / successful parents, growing up in a safe envvironment, having the opportunity to travel etc. (one could go on forever). Obviously only a lunatic would suggest that it would be possible to equalize the advantages but the state should at least be able to provide an education system that does not actively disadvantage the and would do so if it stuck to educating and stopped pissing about.

Steve

PS: My terrible grammar is entirely and typing errors are not at all the fault of my second rate education, that's just me being careless.

Henry

Steve,

I think a good approach to this debate is to encourage more state schools to go ahead and achieve great results - rather than the upheaval of replacing a whole system on idealistic grounds

Perhaps if state schools do prove their worth, one can conceive of an end result where they are so good that private schools are no longer worth the expense - unless they really up their game.

But my thesis again relies on competition getting the best out of institutions and people. If we undermine private schooling we undermine competition, I would have thought.

"an education system that does not actively disadvantage the [poor?]"

Is it correct to say this? People aren't being 'disadvantaged'. Agreed they don't have the same advantages as the rich - but how are we to solve that?

Rich people will always be able to pay for more of everything - are we to tell them not to buy encyclopaedias or private tuition, as that would be unfair? Where do we draw the line? It becomes a question of how much money the govt pumps into a system that produces intangible returns - and as you say needs to sort it's act out.

And these vague thoughts of a 'right' to education, in a time when you can learn a hell of a lot from the internet, and youngsters instead have sometimes used internet connections to organise riots (ok it was more often the Blackberry messaging facilty, but Twitter was also used)

Steve

Henry,

Much of what you say is sensible, some not so.

I'm not sure what you mean by 'competition' between state & private schools. Private schools compete with each other for pupils, that's true, but there can never be any competition offered by state schools, except those that I mentioned earlier that are located in nice towns with a large catchment area of middle-classed children. State schools are not permitted to select on ability, operate on relatively modest budgets that do not able them to tempt children with new swimming pools and ex-international sports masters and, in spite of the last governments absurd talk of 'choice', are left to deal mostly with the children that happen to reside within their 'catchment area'.

From my own limited knowledge of the state school system (my daughter is just 7 and only in year 2, my own school experience ended more than 30 years ago), children in state schools seem to be actively disadvantaged by poor discipline, low expectations, declining examination standards and, often, poor teaching. Added to this is the indoctrination that is considered normal these days yet seems to add little to the educational experience. (The school of a friends son recently had a 'black history month' during which time the pupils learned that it was a black man that invented the light bulb. I kid you not!)

I understand that it is not possible to even out all inequalities but is it too much to expect that in this most important of matters there is at least an attempt at equality. Would it not be better for society as a whole if it was the best and the brightest that got the education and the career breaks rather than the richest and best connected.

Who do you prefer, Pete Docherty or Julian Lennon?

Henry

"I'm not sure what you mean by 'competition' between state & private schools"

Well, competition in results and quality of education. Parents could conceivably think the extra money isn't worth it if the state school option were getting good enough results. It's rather theoretical, but so is the line of argument.

If we stick to practicalities, we have to realise that though you and I think the "black history month" that you described* is scary nonsense, there are significant voices arguing for something like it. We have to win the argument against it before any overhaul of education of this kind. I think that people paying for the education they want will actually be a useful defence against this kind of rubbish.

"Who do you prefer, Pete Docherty or Julian Lennon?"

I'm on board with getting the best people from whatever background, but can't stand PD. Julian Lennon is a nice fella. Saving the whales, I believe.

*would be very interested to know more about that - though it made me wince.

Steve

Henry,

I agree with your first point, see my point above where I mention that schools in exclusively middle class areas with a catchment area dominated by the offspring of middle-class professionals can compete in terms of grades. Not so much the case in fruitier areas like the one in which financial circumstances means I must reside, though there do seem to be some schools that buck the trend, either through the toils of exceptionally hard working staff or assisted large amounts of government finance - only one of those is sustainable.

Re: the 'Black History' story - my friend, as it happens, is an apostate Iranian and his 'non-white' status enabled him to go to the school to complain without fear of accusations of 'racism'. It turned out that the black man that 'invented the light bulb' actually was somebody who merely refined it - I can't recall exactly how, he changed the gas to make the filament last longer or changed the materilal of the filament, something like that. The head was un-apologetic and could see no problem with crediting him with invention, even after my friend pointed out that this was rather like claiming that the man who invented the martini was the person who thought to stick an olive in it (or something like that).

I would concede that Pete Doherty is an acquired taste (Kilimangiro for me is as great as any 70's punk song - see it here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ouvitGsX69Y ), as far as young Lennon is concerned, he may be the nicest chap on the planet, but that along with his family connections and swollen bank account really shouldn't have been enough to get him a multi-album record deal should it?

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