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Saturday, 4 May 2019
Social Mobility features fairly frequently in political discussions, currently in relation to university admissions. Here is what I thought about the subject in August 2010 when the Conservative-Liberal Coalition government decided to do something about it ...
If you don't
believe in Social Mobility you probably believe in Tsars of one kind or
another. The last real one was Nicholas II of Russia which makes me think that
Alan Milburn is supposed to act as Social Mobility's Mr Stupid.
inhabitants of the United Kingdom, subjects of the Queen etc, are not very keen
on social mobility. They simply don't believe that the top jobs should be open
to all. The vast majority are in favour of a hereditary monarchy even it means
Charles III. They believe that ordinary people should be allowed to get rich,
but they aren't particularly keen on the idea that ordinary people like
themselves should be in charge of anything important, like the country. They
prefer to put their trust in those who come from good homes and good schools:
David Cameron and Nick Clegg, for example. Connections to the hereditary
aristocracy and that other well-known Tsar, the Christian God, are added
This is a big
part of Mr Stupid's problem. Then there is the other part:
In the first
half of the 20th century the biggest driver of social mobility was the Second
World War. Churchill's government realised that the war would be lost unless
careers were opened to talents. As a result, men and women from modest
backgrounds rose through the ranks, military and civilian, on the basis of
intelligence and bravery. Some of them ended up in very senior roles indeed.
Now they are are all dead.
driver of social mobility after 1945 has been abolished. Crude and sometimes
cruel as they were, the 11+ and (free) grammar schools plucked people like me
out of their class of origin and propelled them upwards towards training and
careers their parents did not even know existed.
left school without qualifications. My father rose from being a delivery boy
pedalling a bike to become a self-employed shopkeeper. My mother never worked at a higher level than general shop assistant.
I ended up
with three academic degrees and rose to a senior teaching post in a half-way
decent university. I am not so sure it would have happened had I not been put
in a grammar school environment. Our governments seem to have the same feeling
since in the past two decades they have repeatedly tried to create schools
which are not "bog-standard comprehensives".
they have chosen to do this making great use of God and school uniform, institutionalised as faith schools and academy schools.
it forward as a general Law, that making children do God is a way of trying to
keep them in their place. God and social mobility don't go together. Ditto
school uniform, though we had it in my boys' grammar school and subverted it at
every moment that we could. As a general rule, school uniform is there to
promote conformity. Faith schools and academy schools are not about challenging social conformity.