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July 31, 2005

Comments

Blimpish

As you might imagine, I don't have a problem with the idea - but it doesn't much matter. Grammar schools belong to a bygone age, when people accepted being sorted. The reason why Nick Cohen (and, sorta, me) might favour selective education - that it involves selection by merit rather than property price - is precisely why the upper-middle-classes wouldn't allow it to happen. As soon as one of their children were sent to the Secondary Modern, they'll become activists for a new Comprehensive revolution.

That's the same reason why the Tories' policy on tuition fees (no fees but fewer places) would've come undone in practice - try telling the middle classes that Fabian or Jemima isn't clever enough.

Re his original point, about aristocracies of wealth and declining social mobility, and your suggestion that this has most to do "with the kind of economy we’ve had for the last twenty five years": yes and no. The Thatcher reforms might've accelerated the trend, but that's all. Widening economic inequality is a natural consequence of the end of other, social and political, inequalities and the rise of meritocracy.

There's also something here that tends to get lost on the Left in discussions about social mobility these days - it isn't equality, at all. A society with equal opportunity is one where some people are going to be at the bottom, for their whole life, according to their knowledge and their effort. They won't even be able to take solace that this is their 'station' and that they shall inherit the earth; only that they were the losers in the ratrace.

dearieme

How egalitarian we are, according to his figures. If my parents earned 100% more than yours, I should expect to end up earning only 17.5% or 25% more than you. Well done us. Trebles all round.

Jayanne

"There's also something here that tends to get lost on the Left in discussions about social mobility these days - it isn't equality, at all."

These days, perhaps, though I doubt it. But I accept that critical discussions about equality of opportunity, from a left viewpoint, may take place largely within academia. What may have vanished from "the Left" is an understanding that abolishing grammar schools without also abolishing public schools is a near-fatal error.

Incidentally, "selection by merit" is impossible.

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