Via Alex, here’s a link to Alex Massie’s takedown of the ostensibly bizarre howl of overclass self-pity from Anthony Seldon on the matter of the supposed oppression of children whose parents are wealthy enough to be educated by dubious charities.
I say ostensibly because the affair brings to mind something my stepson told me when he was at Cambridge. Our Alex – Alexes all over in this story – went to the local comp and so was seized upon by the college authorities to spread the word among feral youth that they too could have a crack at the glittering prizes if they were bright enough and maybe did a little less dicking about. No guarantees: but why not have a go?
This effort was conducted with a certain amount of discretion, he said, because the outreach folk were of the belief that if colleges were too aggressive in seeking out bright kids from state schools, the word would go out among private schools that they were ‘unfriendly’ and these schools would then encourage their own applicants to apply to other colleges. In other words, a discreet and unofficial boycott would take place.
I have no idea how true this perception was or is. But it does put this para of Massie’s into perspective:
Indeed, remove from the equation the top 30% (say) of those who gain a place and there is very little difference in aptitude between the remaining 70% of new students each year and many of those who are not fortunate enough to be admitted. There are plenty of people – from all types of background – who are bright enough to go to Oxbridge but who do not get a place. Hard luck stories abound every year and it’s not unreasonable to suppose that even the pupils of Wellington College might be expected to endure their share of disappointment.
Or perhaps not. As a statement, Seldon’s whinge makes no sense, especially as the current political environment is not exactly redistributive, except upwards. As an implied threat, however, it has a certain amount of force. And politically, it’s exactly the right time to make it.