Friday, 9 September 2016

The 'anti elitists' in favour of elitist education

The true hard right nature of the post brexit tories at westminister can be seen with the confirmation yesterday that Theresa May's government will lift the ban on new grammar schools. And scores of tory MPs have this week spoken of their support for a system of education which when all is said and done is based on 'selection'. Odd to think that many of those cheering at the news yesterday - like the tory mp graham brady - denounced the Remain campaign in the EU referrendum as being run by 'elites' and the establishment'. Yet here we have these same so called anti elitists like brady championing an education system which is all about promoting 'elitism' and the advancement of children from middle class backgrounds at the expense of children from less affluent homes.

Independent study after independent study has shown that children from affluent backgrounds will do better than children from less well off backgrounds in school not because they are born with greater intelligence but because they have the resources at home that can make a difference to a child doing that little bit better in school. In a contemporary context one obvious example is the fact that virtually every middle class home will have internet access but millions of people in the poorest fifth of the population cant afford this. So given what a valuable resource the internet can be in terms of research and gathering information it stands to reason that children in homes with internet access will have an advantage on those who dont.

Another obvious example comes in the shape of access to books. Children from poorer backgrounds will live in homes which simply cant afford to buy text books - indeed in contemporary britain many families are struggling to be able to afford to eat let alone buy expensive text books. Needless to say children in middle class households will face no such problems. So guess which children from which backgrounds will have the best chance of passing the 'selection tests' which will be a requirement of getting a place at one of the proposed new grammar schools?



And it was because of nakedly unfair things like this that the comprehensive education system was introduced in the first place by the labour government's of harold wilson in the 1960s. Needless to say there were a hardcore element on the british right who never forgave wilson for progressive policies like this, and they used their contacts in the media to plant smears about his private life while deranged hard right elements in the british intelligence services harassed Wilson throughout his entire period as British prime minister.

But dont let anyone tell you the introduction of the comprehensive school system wasnt popular - it saw the introduction of a system of education which meant that for the first time in the history of the modern british state children would receive a decent education no matter what their social background. Hence by the early 1970s even the tories 'woke up and smelled the coffee' so to speak - it being a little known fact that it was Margaret Thatcher as education secretary in Heath's early 70s tory government who closed down more grammar school than any other politician.


Thankfully the new emboldened post brexit hard right tories at westminister cant get their hands on education in my own wales or in scotland, education being a devolved matter in these countries. But  people in those countries shouldnt get complacent or think what's happening in England wont affect their largely egalitarian school systems. In Wales in last May's elections to the Welsh Assembly both the tories and ukip stood on a platform of the reintroduction of grammar schools in Wales - and between them they currently have nearly a third of the seats in the Assembly.

What's really striking about yesterday's announcement on the creation of new grammar schools in england is that it's a throwback to the most reactionary kind of toryism - a world view which positively celebrates the idea that an affluent minority should do well while the majority will be left with what is likely to be an inferior and grossly underfunded education system. Now if that aint 'elitist' i dont know what is!

What was it a great Welsh socialist once said about the tories never changing and if anything being 'slightly worse than they were'? Looking at yesterday's announcement it would be hard to disagree with what Nye said all those years ago.


"That is why no amount of cajolery, and no attempts at ethical or social seduction, can eradicate from my heart a deep burning hatred for the Tory Party that inflicted those bitter experiences on me. So far as I am concerned they are lower than vermin. They condemned millions of first-class people to semi-starvation. Now the Tories are pouring out money in propaganda of all sorts and are hoping by this organised sustained mass suggestion to eradicate from our minds all memory of what we went through. But, I warn you young men and women, do not listen to what they are saying now. If you are selling shoddy stuff you have to be a good salesman. But I warn you they have not changed, or if they have they are slightly worse than they were".

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