Shower Scenes
Elsewhere (17)

A Great Big Socialist Heart

Time for another Classic Sentence from the Guardian. Or rather the Guardian’s Sunday sister paper, the Observer, where Kevin McKenna attempts to convince readers that a one-size-fits-all comprehensive education is all that any young person could possibly want. Indeed, should Mr McKenna get his way, it’s all they’d be permitted to have:  

The ultimate iniquity, though, is that independent, fee-paying schools are allowed to exist at all.

Savour that for a moment. Ponder the big, generous heart behind those sentiments. It offends Mr McKenna that private education should be allowed to exist. How dare some parents want the best for their children when the best is something not everyone can have, or indeed benefit from? Notice that smell? It’s the funk of socialist arrogance and nasty urges to control. By Mr McKenna’s reckoning, it would be less iniquitous to deny parents the right to use their own money to benefit their own offspring in a private and legal transaction of their own choosing. According to this moral calculus, parents who view the comprehensive system as inadequate – perhaps because of their own first-hand experiences – are by implication wicked. And so they should be stopped. Sadly, the details of how private education would no longer be permitted remain mysterious. Would parents daring to venture outside the state sector be imprisoned or merely fined? Would private education become a black market phenomenon? Nor is it clear whether these totalitarian urges would extend to after-hours tuition, home coaching or the punctual doing of homework.

However, McKenna does convey to us the full horror of the private schooling he “narrowly escaped”:

The school occupies a lofty position in Glasgow education, sitting atop one of the highest of the hills in the heart of the city. It is where affluent and aspirational Catholics send their children and as you wander around the city centre of a lunchtime, little Sebastians and Julias in their lovely green blazers traipse desultorily among Sauchiehall Street’s gaudy emporiums.

Truly the stuff of nightmares, I think you’ll agree.

But let me share with you a flavour of my own, more recent comprehensive education at a school where aspiration was less common than graffiti and no Sebastians dare set foot. The school blazers weren’t green or particularly lovely, but they were a routine target of vandalism and theft, along with any other belongings of small but discernable value. My other half, whose state education was similar to my own, has shared a number of stories in which students who were not called Sebastian or Julia would attack each other’s uniforms with razor blades. It was quite the thing, apparently. While Sebastians were in short supply at my local comprehensive, there were plenty of teachers whose egalitarian leanings were at least as pronounced as those of Kevin McKenna, resulting in a conviction that the teaching of grammar was insufficiently progressive and therefore superfluous. (This ideological omission made the learning of German and French rather challenging, especially when confronted with alien things called subordinate clauses.) I’ve previously mentioned the unusual skills I developed during my secondary education, including some proficiency in throwing chairs in order to deter random lunchtime assaults. And I recently learned that one of the school’s two main buildings had been burned to the ground, possibly by a disaffected student.  

However, Mr McKenna would have us believe that an aversion to learning environments of this kind is the preserve of people we shouldn’t like. 

One of the most popular parlour debates among the middle classes after climate change and disciplining children is the state of our comprehensive schools. There is a collective whine as you walk through Newton Mearns and Morningside at 10 on a Saturday night after a pert Chablis from the Sunday Times wine club has just been served.

It’s just uppity middle class folly, see?

A sympathetic Observer reader echoes McKenna’s sentiments, albeit more directly:

Ban all public schools then see how quick Mummy and Daddy with money want to get involved in raising the standards for all rather than just their little darlings.

Which helpfully makes clear the expectation that parents should sacrifice their own children on the altar of society. Such ideas are not uncommon in the pages of the Guardian. Readers may recall the ostentatious slumming of the socialist actress Arabella Weir, whose definition of a “good, responsible citizen” entails trading educational opportunity for conspicuous mingling with students for whom English is, at best, a second language. And we mustn’t forget the delightful Zoe Williams, who amused herself with ways to humiliate “privateers” who’ve fallen on hard times. Ms Williams was happy to share her motives: “As for vindictive, ha! Good.” Note too the trademark urge to coerce. Those who’d rather not put socialist ideology before the wellbeing of their progeny should be stripped of any choice and made to comply.

Feel the love, people.


Mr Eugenides

I have a friend who had a modest upbringing on a council estate on the outskirts of Glasgow, which I won't name but which is synonymous with urban decay and the slow metamorphosis of the Scottish working classes into the Scottish non-working classes. He won a scholarship to the aforementioned private Catholic school, a degree from the aforementioned law school, and now lives in a nice big detached house in the commuter belt with his wife and kid.

In one generation - no, in fifteen years - he vaulted the equivalent of what would, in the old days, have been a whole stratum of the class structure. If it weren't for supporting Celtic, he'd be a reputable citizen. But it is fair to say that had he attended the local high school - or even, for that matter, the local Catholic state school - he would probably not be within a light-year of where he now is.

I had a not dissimilar path, though from a more privileged starting point - the scholarship to the private school, the law degree from the university. My own family's East End Glasgow roots are a generation further back, my salary more modest, and my rented flat comically small in comparison, but the equation is exactly the same; work hard, make a few sacrifices, do the best for your kids and try to give them what you didn't have.

Nice of c***s like Kevin McKenna to pull up the ladder after them. I'll not forgive them if they succeed.


McKenna claims it’s “an insidious lie” that comprehensives are substandard and often stifle children with ability. But my experience says it’s very much true. The demoralised atmosphere, disorder, vandalism, the routine theft and bullying – all of it seemed pretty much standard practice and certainly no worse than other comprehensives in the area. And it’s important to note that a large part of the failure of comprehensive schooling is driven by ideology and sentiments like those of Kevin McKenna. I remember one exchange with my form teacher and head of year, during which I complained about the demoralised atmosphere and unchallenging work. I said it made school boring, which was why I was losing interest. I was told that I should shut up because my education, such as it was, wasn’t about what I wanted – it was, and I quote, “for the good of society.”

The moment I complained, it became collective property.

carbon based lifeform

Comprehensives fail because they're crawling with socialists.

R. Sherman

Here in the States, the desire to eliminate private, parochial or home schooling is gathering steam as well. I chalk it up to the fact that test scores are uniformly higher among parochial school students, who make do with less money per pupil than state sponsored schools, with a minimum amount of the problems you cite from your own experience. And of course, the canards about "exposure to diversity" do not wash, given that most parochial schools here have liberal scholarship programs for the disadvantaged to allow them entrance and provide support to succeed. (Indeed, in my hometown, the Catholic schools integrated 10 years before the US Supreme Court decided Brown v. Board of Education.)

The bottom line is private, parochial and home schooling stands as irrefutable evidence that modern educational philosophy has been weighed in the balances and found wanting.



"It’s the funk of socialist arrogance and nasty urges to control."

Duce McKenna is the sort of man who gives the divine right of kings a bad name.

The desire to control others is the primus inter pares of human desires; it has priority over food and sex.

Mary Jackson

Labour will never abolish private school since they - hypocritically - send their own children to them.

The biggest act of educational vandalism was the abolition of the grammar schools. In the days of the grammar schools, private schools were going out of business.


As per MrE and his friend, I was lucky enough to grow up in a place with a very good state Grammar school, and even luckier to pass the 11+ and get a place at it. Only because of the environment it provided was I able to go to a good University and make rather more of my life than I would otherwise have done (not being much cop at carving out a path through adversity). It was shortly afterwards destroyed by Margaret Thatcher. I never did understand why.

Not everyone could have that opportunity, but I think the solution lies in making schools more like that one, rather than banning the schools that show up the failure of education policy.


This seems relevant.

“The main effect of outlawing grammar schools has been to deny clever children from poor backgrounds the chance to excel at academic work and to go on to take well-paid jobs. A study by the London School of Economics recently showed that Britain has become markedly less socially mobile since the advent of comprehensive education. It is the absence of academic selection which leads to a class divide: because when schools cease to select their pupils on the grounds of intelligence they end up selecting them on their parents’ intelligence and financial means.”


It doesn't surprise me in the least. (David's comment at 19:09). Comprehensive schools, if not actually designed to prevent achievement and entrench mediocrity, were easily manipulated so that this was their effect. They keep the working classes in their place, which is what middle-class socialists most want of any system.

BTW: I wonder if Mckenna's own educational background is quite as uncompromisingly egalitarian as he would have us believe.

Jim S.

While Sebastians were in short supply at my local comprehensive, there were plenty of teachers whose egalitarian leanings were at least as pronounced as those of Kevin McKenna, resulting in a conviction that the teaching of grammar was insufficiently progressive and therefore superfluous.

This reminds me of C. S. Lewis's The Abolition of Man. The first part of it begins by critiquing a textbook on English grammar that has virtually nothing to do with English grammar. Instead, it asserts (but does not argue) a very controversial philosophical point. You can read it at



I don’t know about McKenna, but a number of his Guardian colleagues have been willing to hide or distort their own educational backgrounds. Arabella Weir, mentioned above, proudly told readers she wasn’t educated privately. In fact, Weir attended the Camden School for Girls - a voluntary aided school whose alumnae include Emma Thompson and Eva Germaine Rimington Taylor. It’s hardly a rough-and-tumble establishment, thanks largely to parental donations. The CSG is one of the few *technically* comprehensive schools that are only comprehensive in name, and to which well-heeled socialists send their offspring in order not to feel like the hypocrites they are. It’s not the kind of place where students throw chairs or carry razor blades.

Likewise, Zoe Williams makes sneery noises about “privateers,” towards whom she’s happy to be “vindictive”. It’s no great surprise that Williams attended the elevated Godolphin and Latymer School - another voluntary aided school whose list of extracurricular activities includes visits to the Sinai Desert. So again, not too many razor blades.

Stephen Fox

I wonder how McKenna can have been involved with socialism all this time and not noticed that it is primarily run and pervaded by the 'middle classes', and that the 'parlour debates' of climate change and discipline he mentions are overwhelmingly dominated by believers in AGW and tender souls who think telling Johnny not to punch Susan will cause irreversible trauma.
Perhaps the Glasgow version of the left is more genuinely proletarian.
Or perhaps he's lying through his teeth.

Wm T Sherman

Naw, see, your experience is not instructive. Just like Communism, the superficial appearance of government scholing being a gigantic wasteful fuck-up should be disregarded, since "it's never been properly tried." As always, next time will be the charm.

How would these deeply concerned elitists continue to send their children to special schools? Maybe it'd be like the Mao suit: everybody wore the same suit, but the workers wore ones made of burlap, and the top echelon wore ones made of silk.

Mary Pat Campbell

I went to U.S. public schools up til grad school, but the thing was... I learned far more at home. I learned to read at home before I got to the public schools, my dad gave me math books and programming books to learn from at home... and there ain't nothing any statist could have done to stop that. Heck, my parents used to let me hang out in the library for hours at a time on the weekends; I just sat in the nonfiction section and read all the science stuff I could get my hands on.

For all these people's Harrison Bergeron dreams, they can't keep those who value education down. What they can do is pull down the marginal and mediocre students who will not get such encouragement at home. Every conscious effort to "narrow the gap" by pulling the top down blows up in these people's faces.


Here in the States, the desire to eliminate private, parochial or home schooling is gathering steam as well.

Private and parochial schooling can be eliminated through means more subtle than outright bans and accreditation requirements. To wit, planning and zoning. Public schools are usually exempt from zoning regulations, but private schools are not. It is quite easy in most cities to deliberately create zoning and building code rules that make impractically expensive, if not outright impossible, to site a private school anywhere in the city. It's one of the (usually unintended) reasons so few private schools exist, there are no sites to build them.

Most people pay attention to direct regulation, but few understand the importance of land use regulations on their environment. That's why you hear so many people in California whining about "greedy developers" when talking about housing prices, but you will never hear them speak about the impact of building permit availability or $100k/unit "impact fees" on housing prices. UK "green belt" regulations have similar effects, keeping housing expensive, tiny, uncomfortably dense, and most importantly far from from their betters' country estates.


I seem to recall reading somewhere that Lenin believed in selective education. He said that, when Marx called for a policy of "from each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs", he wasn't suggesting that everyone had exactly the same abilities or exactly the same needs. Certainly in the old USSR children with specific talents (gymnastics, chess, concert pianism) were separated out from the herd very early.


I wonder why people like Mr. McKenna don't go after all the other ways that the rich benefit from their riches, like expensive clothes, jewelry, music, art, organic and exotic food, sports (e.g., golf, skiing, and yachting), books (now an indulgence for people with real bookshelves), second homes, and expensive vacations? Perhaps because these items are produced by people who also belive as he does, and this would be threatening fellow travelers.

But starting with education allows him to focus on the young, and the results from the great enviro-indoctrination of the young point to education as the best way to capture hearts and minds...


While my own state schooling was pretty dismal, it never occurred to me that alternatives should not be “allowed” to exist. I didn’t feel that no-one should be “allowed” to escape. Which seems to be the sentiment being aired in the Observer.


via JuliaM this excellent post about the merits of a particular comp:



Thanks for that. From the article:

“...his ‘teachers’ – who often weren’t teachers at all, but teaching assistants - were so busy trying to keep the levels of aggression down in their classes and the ‘easiest’ kids to shout at were the ones who wouldn’t shout back. [...] Members of staff who seem to have strange titles such as ‘Achievement Coordinators’... Their role, it would seem, is to smooth things over when the crowd control of the supply teachers and the teaching assistants fails to work properly.”

Bingo. One of the most demoralising features of my comprehensive schooling was the tendency to tolerate disruption in class. Indiscipline was routine and it sometimes took 15 or 20 minutes for a lesson to begin. There didn’t seem to be much difference between what happened in corridors during lunch and what happened in class. Persistent disruption sometimes – eventually – resulted in the culprit being *asked* to stand outside; though often the culprit simply refused to leave and the lesson carried on halfheartedly with a background hum of sniggering and laughter. The more discernibly leftwing the teacher was, the worse the indiscipline seemed to be. Maybe it was just incompetence or fear; or maybe it was an ideological thing about not wanting to seem disciplinarian.


"The more discernibly leftwing the teacher was, the worse the indiscipline seemed to be. Maybe it was just incompetence or fear; or maybe it was an ideological thing about not wanting to seem disciplinarian."

I little uncomfortable with the term left wing in this context. It's well to constantly remind ourselves that the progressive movement suffer from convenient amnesia. Discipline being bad is a post war development connected with child centred learning and everyone must have prizes. If you go back a bit in history, the attitude of teachers (progressives then as well) was quite different. I guess they knew that ill discipline hurt the kids who did want to learn.

If you read the biographies of any Labour figure from Atlee's era who rose from less illustrious backgrounds, school discipline is rarely taken as an unmitigated evil. They celebrate self help and admired the civic institutions created by the workers movement such as night schools. There's a sense that the institutions they created or supported expected the students to take advantage of the opportunity, be grateful and be respectful.

In contrast the likes of Richard Crossman, son of a judge and privileged upbringing has all the answers to secondary education.


Tiresome. As always, for Mr McKenna and others, the test is what one does for one's own children. In the USA, the most liberal parents do not hesitate to send their own little darlings to the very best schools which they can afford. This starts even with nursery school, which can cost tens of thousands of dollars per annum in liberal enclaves such as New York and San Francisco.


"Ban all public schools then see how quick Mummy and Daddy with money want to get involved in raising the standards for all rather than just their little darlings."

So Mummy and Daddy will succeed in raising standards where the Education Establishment, Teachers, Councils, LEAs, Central Government and every other parent has failed? Oh well, good luck with that.


The fervour of support for comprehensive 'education' among bougeois socialists is in direct proportion to their self-loathing and guilt at having a superb private education.

Also the Left was happy to abolish Grammar schools because they were the only ways their off-spring could be challenged - if your kids were thick you could get them into private school, or a school in a wealthy catchment area by buying property, but it was difficult to get a thick kid into Grammar school. It was a brilliant way of pulling up the ladder while also appearing egalitarian, brave and good.


"Which helpfully makes clear the expectation that parents should sacrifice their own children on the altar of society. Such ideas are not uncommon in the pages of the Guardian."

David - Deborah Orr (in the Guardian):

"Clever children don't need to be in a class, or a school, made up exclusively of eggheads in order to achieve their potential. But there does need to be a critical mass of similarly gifted children among their educational peer group in order for them to feel relaxed about trying hard and doing well. What's more, the presence and influence of a group of very bright children in a mixed-ability school raises standards among all pupils in the school, not by boosting statistical averages, but by making everyone else also feel more relaxed about trying hard and doing well... The simple presence of clever children is an asset to a school and to all the pupils within that school."

Assets - for the greater good!



“Assets - for the greater good!”

Hm. Ms Orr seems to be teetering on a contradiction. She admits that “eggheads” tend to benefit from a “critical mass” of similarly able and motivated peers, where lessons aren’t routinely disrupted and where cleverness isn’t seen as something to be mocked, discouraged or physically punished. Yet she maintains this should be done within a mixed ability comprehensive system. Which is precisely where the mockery, discouragement and physical punishment is most likely to occur.

It’s interesting that she frames the issue in terms of clever children being an “asset” to mixed ability schools and says this “asset” should be used for what she regards as the collective good. I.e., shared out equally by decree - supposedly inspiring effort in other, less able souls, regardless of any inconvenience to the “eggheads” concerned. I tend to think of clever children as ends in themselves, with their own preferences, not as tools for social engineering. But hey, that’s just me.

Dr. Westerhaus

But how do the vast majority of children from working-class families get to experience this wonderful private education, given it's so expensive, and that places are, by definition, very, very limited? The whole point of private education is that only a wealthy minority get to try it.

My experiences at a shit, Catholic comprehensive in the mid-70's showed me that 'non-state', 'non-private' education was possibly even worse than the state version, and the prejudices I encountered were doubled, due to the extra religious element involved. I got beaten up by state-educated AND privately-educated non-Catholic children. Lovely.

Additionally, when I took my degree, I was one of five students still receiving a full grant, as my parents were too poor to contribute anything at all to my further education. Given that many, many families in Britain are still in this situation, shouldn't we also be looking at why being able to 'buy your way out' is considered OK, when most can't do that? Because that means every 'Sebastian' I ever met is guaranteed to be doing better than me, which is probably still the case.

I don't believe that private education would have done me any good at all, and possibly turned me into a psychopath. It's precisely the experience of attending a terrible, dysfunctional school that has made me the 'well-rounded, temperate and intelligent person' I am today.

Ironically, the school I attended is now considered on of the best in the city, with people converting to Catholicism to try and get their kids in. My dad became a governor years ago, partly as he was so horrified at my tales of woe, and decided to see if they were true. They were, and they fixed it.

Karen M

Dr Westerhaus,

"shouldn't we also be looking at why being able to 'buy your way out' is considered OK, when most can't do that?"

Are you saying private education isn't okay unless everyone can have it?


Dr. Westerhaus,

"The main effect of outlawing grammar schools has been to deny clever children from poor backgrounds the chance to excel at academic work and to go on to take well-paid jobs.... It is the absence of academic selection which leads to a class divide: because when schools cease to select their pupils on the grounds of intelligence they end up selecting them on their parents' intelligence and financial means."

Grammar schools were an escape route for smart kids from poor backgrounds. Parents didn't have to pay fees or buy a house in the 'right' area. The Tories have gone cold on grammar schools but the biggest enemy of selection is the left. Remember Roy Hattersley, Barbara Castle, David Blunkett... "Read my lips. No selection under a Labour government"?

Dr. Westerhaus

What I'm saying is that private education, is, by definition, exclusive, and only available to the wealthy. Ergo the children who are able to benefit from their parent's wealth are more likely to succeed on a non-meritocratic basis than children from poor backgrounds.


“The whole point of private education is that only a wealthy minority get to try it.”

I think the figure in the UK is currently around 7%. But it’s worth bearing in mind that - despite McKenna’s stereotyping - private education isn’t the exclusive preserve of toffs and people called Sebastian. A growing number of families with fairly moderate incomes are scraping together the cash to give their kids an alternative to comprehensive education. Others are scraping together the money for extra tuition, etc. (While also paying via taxes for the upkeep of a comprehensive system they no longer regard as adequate or, in some cases, fit for purpose.) That’s implicit in the premise of Zoe Williams’ article in the Guardian, linked above, which you’d think might undermine her class war rhetoric. But instead she sees it as a license to sneer at people who can’t *quite* afford something better for their children. The moral basis of her argument isn’t obvious to me.

Despite what McKenna and Williams would have us believe, people who want to escape the comprehensive system aren’t evil and they’re not taking anything away from the rest of us. They’re actually paying twice. And if I had kids, I wouldn’t want them to go to a school like mine, where being whipped across the face with a bootlace was an occasional break time hazard.


The Zoe Williams article is nasty as well as stupid. Some parents want better for their kids – they pay twice - how DARE they! They must be PUNISHED!



Yes, it’s nasty and vindictive. And revealing. There’s real imagination in Ms Williams’ vindictiveness, if not her argument, which evokes the Soviet Union of the 1920s. Gloating at people who’ve fallen on hard times and rehearsing how to humiliate them is particularly unattractive. And taken at face value, Williams’ idea of “civic duty” means making do with substandard schooling and resenting anyone who escapes it.


“The whole point of private education is that only a wealthy minority get to try it.”

Rather sweeping statement. Seems to me there are numerous points, each of which appeal to some parents in various permutations/combinations. Lower student to faculty ratios, discipline, dress codes, discipline, higher ethical standards, discipline, motivated teachers and administrators, a focus on education, and not to mention discipline. Now possibly the whole point of wearing top name designer clothes, fine jewelry, and driving luxury automobiles might be that only a wealthy minority get to try them, but if you think that is the "whole point" of a private education, perhaps you still went to the wrong school.

Dr. Westerhaus

I meant 'the whole point' with reference to this particular discussion, not to the parental choices that might have to be made. I don't doubt that many, if not most parents who choose private eduucation for their children have excellent motives, and far beyond merely removing them from state education - indeed, you pointed out one or two above.

But you also point out some that to me seem distinctly odd - 'dress codes', for example, 'higher ethical standards' and 'motivated teachers', as though they are the exclusive province of paid education. Not to mention a strange attraction to 'discipline'. I got plenty of that at a cheapo comprehensive, so I'm not sure what 'special' kind of discipline you might be referring to which clearly only comes with a higher price tag than any my parents paid.

How can 'higher ethical standards' be quantified via a simple comparison of 'paid or unpaid education'? Surely they are dependent on a vast number of other parameters than just the fees paid, like location, the relative number of career options to school leavers or a better-printed brochure? Maybe it's a kind of special satisfaction that can only come from large expenditure. I don't know, as I'm not wealthy enough, nor do I know many wealthy enough to pay for their children's education, even if they wanted to.

The point I was making was not that state education is to be supported any more than private education is to be derided, but that most people simply cannot afford it, and therefore the thrust of the argument will be lost on them, as will the real or imagined benefits that may accrue to someone else who does have the opportunity to pay for/experience it. And also that wanting a better education for your children should not be 'graded' according to one's ability to pay, as that makes the richest the most morally perfect, and we all know where that leads.


“Not to mention a strange attraction to ‘discipline’.”

Indiscipline is one of the most common reasons cited for distrusting comprehensive schooling. I can’t speak for KRW/WTP, but I’m guessing “discipline” doesn’t necessarily imply a fixation with spanking, ball gags and nipple clamps. Intriguing as such things may be.

I take discipline as also meaning self-control. I.e., not disrupting class for 20 minutes just because you can; not stealing other people’s possessions because you’re bored or envious; not whipping other children’s faces because you’re a budding sociopath; things like that. It’s the expectation that thievery and acts of random violence will be much thinner on the ground and dealt with effectively when they occur. It may also apply to the teaching staff in terms of not letting kids get away with repeated misbehaviour, or just making sure the lessons are properly prepared. (Neither of which could be taken for granted at the schools I attended.)

I suppose what people are paying for is an ethos of achievement and a level of competence. When you’re paying for education directly, you generally expect – and can to some extent demand – a fairly civilised environment. When parents are paying directly for their children’s education, they have more leverage in getting what they expect. Money talks. This applies to the school and staff, who don’t want parents taking their money elsewhere and trashing their reputation to other potential customers, and it also applies to the students themselves. If ma and pa have forked out a mountain of cash for your education and gone without holidays, cars, whatever, you’re less likely to screw about because you’ll be wasting their money and they’ll have something to say about it.


Dr. W,
OK, this is one of those things that really twists my knickers. I of course meant discipline in the sense of self-control, as David states, or as Webster says "training that corrects, molds, or perfects the mental faculties or moral character". Perhaps OED says differently, I don't know. In fact, Webster's etymology states "from Latin disciplina teaching, learning, from discipulus pupil". David also speaks for me in regard to your other points raised.

As I said before, perhaps you went to the wrong school. While I admire that you arose from modest circumstances to achieve a doctorate degree, I am curious as to what (forgive me) discipline it was in? I'm guessing psychology/sociology? While I will to some extent agree with you that some issues are not public or private education, I totally disagree that they have to do with money. Many public school in the US (and I assume from other comments here, the UK) function as well or even in some cases better than some private schools. Money is more an indication of the concern the parents show for their children's education. The focus must be on the parents. If enough of them are concerned enough to put pressure on their schools to maintain some sense of order in the classroom, many of these problems will take care of themselves.

The Thin Man

I couldn't help rather LMAO this morning when I read

"Avowed aetheist Divid Milliband sends son to CofE School"

"Foreign Secretary spurns a successful primary just 80 yards from his house for an even better church school two miles away."

His Violinist wife, apparently, started attending a church attached to the school two years before their 5 year old gained his place.

"Last night, Cecile de Toro Arias, a parent-governor at Primrose Hill Primary, said: ‘I know Mr Miliband did consider Primrose Hill school. He attended a winter festival in 2008 and did a tour of the school."

The Millibands attended a "Winter Festival" at the local comp in 2008 - I have to say that I too would refuse to allow my kids to attend a school that substituted "Winter Festivals" for Christmas.

I suspect that Ralph Milliband is currently furiously rotating in his pine box.

To paraphrase Instapundit, I'll believe in comprehensive education when those promoting it start acting like THEY believe in it.


Heh. But of course.

For some reason I’m reminded of the late Barbara “Baroness” Castle, Labour’s “Red Queen,” who railed against private health care and denounced it as “immoral” and “obscene”. Curiously, this adamance evaporated when her own son needed medical treatment and was discreetly admitted to a private hospital under an assumed name.

You’d think people might spot the pattern.


"And taken at face value, Williams’ idea of “civic duty” means making do with substandard schooling and resenting anyone who escapes it."

Because some people pay taxes for state education that their kids don't use -which frees up places and resources for other people's kids- we're supposed to hate them and call them selfish.

That's socialism's moral compass.


This seems relevant. Fabian Tassano compares Gordon Brown with Tony Blair:

“Brown and Blair are probably similar in terms of innate abilities. Their different levels of success in the public arena can be attributed partly to the differences in their schooling. State comprehensive schools, like the one Brown attended, purvey a mediocratic ethos. The individual is unimportant: he should regard himself as no better than anyone else, and as subordinated to society.

Blair attended a private school, where teachers are paid to generate an ethos according to which individual pupils are entitled to feel good about themselves. This is much better preparation for a leadership role, or indeed any role which involves interacting with other people. It is also far better preparation for a role in which you have to endure a lot of pressure, scrutiny, criticism and downright hostility.”


"Because some people pay taxes for state education that their kids don't use -which frees up places and resources for other people's kids- we're supposed to hate them and call them selfish. "

What amuses me about the public schools' arguments in the US concerning vouchers was that even when the voucher amount was far less than what the school district was receiving from taxpayers per pupil, they still objected. That they were effectively going to get paid to NOT educate a number of students and they still objected indicated to me that the issue was more about how many young minds they could control than about any financial considerations.

Peter Daniels


Thank you for a great post and an interesting discussion. I've added your site to my favourites.



Happy to oblige. Please feel free to join any discussions that catch your eye. That’s one of the reasons this place is here.

The “greatest hits” may be of interest.

Chris S

Here's another interesting tidbit on how your betters are making school more equitable.

Should make Mr. McKenna happy though. Best of both worlds, get all children into comprehensives to make it equal, then don't let the 'advantaged' kids go on school outings.


Chris S,

"New Labour. New Britain."

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