Labour: Stamping on the faces of clever children

Top hatted sepulchres

Labour is to abolish private schools. There will be howls of anguish from conservatives and even some liberals. But the policy is merely the logical next step in Labour’s social justice agenda. All forms of privilege, discrimination and inequality must be eliminated. And what is private education but an obscene form of privilege? 

Besides, the current Conservative government has blazed the way by instituting quotas for ethnic minorities, women and the transgendered. According to social justice theory, to which Conservative politicians apparently now subscribe, any form of inequality of outcomes constitutes prima facie evidence of discrimination and is deemed ‘unacceptable’. That the seven per cent of privately educated pupils take half of Oxbridge places speaks for itself.

Talk of state schools raising their standards to match those of private schools is hogwash. Rich parents buy private education because resources are lavished on their offspring, whose places at Russell Group universities (the ones that offer real degrees) and subsequent career prospects are thereby guaranteed. The less rich but still privileged make do with grammar schools, free schools and church schools in leafy middle-class areas. Though less extravagantly resourced, these schools nevertheless manage to attain high academic standards by excluding the socially, behaviourally and intellectually challenged kids of poor parents who can’t afford to live in these neighbourhoods, can’t afford the private tuition which guarantees 11+ entry, and aren’t hypocritical enough to feign religious beliefs. Poor kids make do with sink comprehensives.  

However, those of us who believe the pursuit of social justice is a sentimental fantasy, inequality and privilege are the price we pay for liberty. People are radically different in their genetic endowments, their intelligence, their personalities, their talents and aptitudes. Genes are inherited. The interrelationships between genes and environment are complex but mostly serve only to reinforce initial genetic differences. Social and class stratification is inevitable. Assortative mating – the propensity to mate by cognitive ability – makes matters even worse. Forget meritocracy. It is inevitable that, as Herrnstein and Murray argued in The Bell Curve, a cognitive elite will emerge, and that this elite will reproduce itself.

Admittedly, this is not a very attractive picture for those weaned on sentimental fantasies of social justice. But once it is recognised that equality has no virtue in itself, that morality resides in such personal qualities as generosity, kindness and compassion, and that individual liberty – our freedom to make our own choices and determine our own lives – is the absolute precondition for any life that is worth living, then the fog clears.

We should work to improve state schools. We should scrap the pretence (another egalitarian fantasy) that all pupils can benefit from an academic education. But the abolition of private schools is nothing less than an assault on the liberty of the individual, the thin end of the wedge of those who would institute a totalitarian state.  

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14 Comments on Labour: Stamping on the faces of clever children

  1. The charitable status and tax breaks for these places are ridiculous.

    A recent study has shown no evidence expensive private education has any impact on academic improvement. Waste your money if you want to.

    The idea there is a significant genetic variation in “intelligence”, and even extraordinarily social class, amongst the human race is just nonsense. Very scary you should even think that. I don’t suppose you have any evidence, do you? Yes, I expect moggs kids to be just as supercilious and contemptuous of their perceived “inferiors” as he is, but that’s just upbringing. Separate them from his cocoon and they’d be more normal human beings.

    • “The idea there is a significant genetic variation in ‘intelligence’, and even extraordinarily social class, amongst the human race is just nonsense.”
      On intelligence:

      1 – Ask any teacher
      2 – Identical twin studies (twins with identical genes separated at birth)

      Robert Plomin is probably the world’s foremost authority on genetics. Read what he says. Also read ‘The Bell Curve’. The findings are disturbing – but that the bibliography runs to over a thousand references, mostly research studies, suggests that there is some evidence involved.

    • I paid for my sons to be privately educated, the first from the age of eleven, the second from the age of six. It was mainly not for academic reasons but because I refused to allow them to mix with people I would cross the road to avoid. Some of the pupils were nearly as bad as well. I work in state schools and the teachers I meet are often morons. Culturally their topics of interest are soaps and television reality programmes which they discuss excitedly as if they are important. I was shocked at first to hear the young teachers (both sexes) sprinkling their conversations with obscenities. No thank you.

      • I sympathise with your predicament. I don’t want my children brutalised either. Except that beneath the well-spoken façade, designer labels and private educations, and despite their professional or academic credentials, the genteel middle classes are often just as tedious, and lacking in any genuine culture or taste, as the plebs. And those who are cultivated, and frequent concert halls and galleries stuffed with avant-garde art, are quite often unbearably precious and pretentious.

        Another thought. The lower and upper classes have traditionally got along well and shared a taste for robust language, as have the military. Where would the thin red line have been without Wellington’s ‘scum of the earth’? Indeed, where would the English be without that time-honoured idiom ‘fuck off!’

        • Just been talking about your last point, having read of the experiences of evacuees in WW2. The middle classes were often least sympathetic to the raw slum dwellers from the East End. One anecdote bears out your point. A couple of cockney kids billeted in a grand house, sitting waiting for breakfast, the chatelaine at the table head, butler stiffly behind her. School time approaches but still no food.
          ‘When’s the bloody breakfast coming?’ says one kid.
          ‘I’m so glad you said that,’ said the Grand Lady, ‘I’ve been wanting to say that for 30 years.’

  2. This very topic was mentioned on Sky News Press Preview a couple of nights ago by the curiously named Stig Abell, a bright chap who graduated with a double first from Emmanuel College Cambridge according to Wikipedia. Stig revealed eagerly that Finland had already banned its private schools and its version of Ofsted. Now Finland has the one of the highest levels of educational attainment in the world.

    Of course, the implication was that “it worked for them – it will work for us”. Finland has a population of 5.5 million and a much more homogeneous society than the UK with its rampant multiculturalism. I am sure those facts will not deter our equality obsessed Lefties from citing the changes to Finland’s education system as an ideal solution which we would be fools not to emulate. The possibility that there might be other reasons for high standards than just banning schools from charging fees and getting rid of school inspectors will doubtless be given scant consideration.

    By the way, love that phrase “…equality has no virtue in itself…”. It would make a good slogan for a T-shirt but I’d probably get roughed up by socialists if I wore it in public.

  3. Don’t worry too much. One way or another the Corbyn Party will turn us all into cretins to ensure equality. Why start on the private schools? Anyone at 18 should be able to choose whichever university he likes – that cuts out privilege and inequality at the head and where else would be better to start.

  4. Incidentally. The photograph. Someone tracked those kids many years ago and found that the privilege was short lived. Can’t remember the details but one or both of the Eton boys was soon dead from meningitis or some other childhood disease. Nature, the great leveller.

  5. Hmmmm. Hard to tell if parts of article are parody or no. Our parliament and our laughably ‘independent non-political’ supreme court are the products of our public schools and Oxbridge. Nothing to worry about there?

    There’s nothing right or left wing about wanting an education system that aids national unity and produces ethical consensus as well as developing needed talents. State schooling was financed in the C19th for the former reason – to gentle the masses – not the latter. I’m not sure private/state distributions are relevant to that.

    Thomas Arnold told an assembly of Rugby School that he was concerned with three things: religious and moral principle; gentlemanly conduct; and lastly academic ability. Taking the broad view of what is happening to western civilisation, and updating Arnold’s language, maybe he was right.

    • I had the same response when I read the article. It seemed in many parts to be making a strong case for abolition of private schools and I didn’t detect any irony. If this was supposed to be a full-throated defence of private schools, it seemed to be having a bet each way and therefore failed at the first hurdle.

      • Yes, I am for and against private schools.

        Private schools cannot be abolished (any more than private piano lessons or parental reading at bedtime in case it confers an unfair advantage) for all the obvious reasons. Political indoctrination in state schools is yet another reason. But equally, our bipartite system is deeply divisive. I’ve known French, Germans, Dutch and Czechs who were superbly educated, highly civilized, and all went to state schools. They are mystified that in Britain elite schools exist mainly for the rich. It is a national embarrassment.

        It is upsetting (I speak as parent and teacher) to contrast the opportunities lavished on private school pupils to those available to the children of the average earners and poor, some of whom are highly able. Ordinary kids just do not get the same life chances. The nation suffers as a result.

        Selection as on the continent, with a two-year orientation phase, instead of the appalling all-or-nothing 11 plus exam, is one answer. So, as I think George Walden once suggested, why not offer private schools the opportunity to convert to direct grant/grammar schools (or lose their tax breaks), abolish the eleven-plus, and plough money into vocational and technical education. On the other hand, good comprehensives (yes, they do exist) keep options open for those who are borderline academic or late developers.

        There are, I fear, no easy answers.

  6. But if private schools were to be abolished, there’d be nowhere for Labor leaders send their children…

    Rich people will be unaffected anyway, as they can afford to send their children to private schools in other countries which still support private education.

    And the UK will be voluntarily surrendering one of its biggest exports.

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