Sunday, June 08, 2008

Education Education, Education

Can you hear that noise? Yes, it's the sound of scales falling from the eyes of various columnists & commentators. On that bright sunny morning in May 1997 the commentariat flocked en masse to the reign of King Tony & Queen Cherie. A "new dawn", as Blair himself put it, had broken & the scribblers with more influence than could possibly be warranted lay themselves prostrate at the court of New Labour.
One of the latest of the deluded who's wised up is Jenni Russell in the Guardian ( ). Russell laments, "Of all the children I have known as mine were growing up, I am profoundly depressed to find I can't think of one that has escaped class destiny."
Interesting & telling phrase, isn't it? "Class destiny", it reminds us that, contrary to the fashionable nostrum that we're now a classless society, the issue of where you live, who your parents were, family background, education, etc. is as significant in the early 21st century as it was a hundred years ago.
Russell relates the fortunes of the children at her daughter's grammar school as they got older:
"At 15, 16 and 17, big class divides, in confidence and expectations, started to open up. The children of doctors and architects and senior civil servants have won places at Oxbridge and Edinburgh. The children of actors and junior managers are going to the newer universities. But the equally talented children of firemen and bookeepers and curtain-makers have, overwhelmingly, lost faith in their ability to move out of their class, and most have either dropped out or drastically underperformed."
Russell's final point touches on the question of social mobility. It is a toxic legacy bequeathed to us by New Labour that social immobility is now the norm.

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