Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Milburn ##### in the Wood

Today Alan Milburn publishes a report showing that kids from more affluent familes tend to do better in society. Gee Alan, thanks for that remarkable insight.

In other news this morning, bears were seen doing number twos in the wood.

The measures Milburn proposes to solve this are to introduce more regulations and highly statist in tone. For example, universities will be told to assess family backgrounds before awarding places. It's 'quotas' by another name.

This is disappointing from a man we had been led to believe was capable of original thought.

Perhaps Gordon Brown would have done better to have asked Iain Duncan Smith to write the report.


vj said...

its not just quotas its descrimination. So if you do well, or even pull yourself up the ladder you will then be penalised or worse still your children will. Or will the research into a parents background go back a generation or 2. Isnt that what labour object to in the hereditary peerage system. Great article by Qentin Letts today on this subject

Anonymous said...

Milburn said he wanted to see poorer families have the same chance as more affluent families, to move their children out of a failing school.

He did not say how, so in the spirit of co-operation, Alan, here it is.


Unsworth said...

Milburn is concerned about 'social mobility', i.e. a movement 'up' the 'social scale'. But it's snakes and ladders, innit? What does he feel about those who slide down the snakes? Any concern there?

And can anyone clarify why 'social mobility' is such a good thing?

He talks about 'aspiration'. Well, 'aspiration' is usually inculcated - more by family background than by schools. I've worked in some pretty deprived areas, and it's parental hope and ambition for their children that really matters. It's the mothers (mostly) that push their kids on.

If Milburn is serious about all this he should be looking at what he can do to raise the expectations and horizons of the adult population in such areas. In particular he needs to examine the role models these kids have. In many cases they are not good - bling encrusted drug-dealers, petty gangsters, 'victims' of all types.

Then again, he could take some time looking at the very good work of Ian Duncan Smith. So the challenge for Milburn is to decide whether he genuinely is concerned, or whether this is just politics as usual.

Any bets?

Glyn H said...

And whose government abolished the Assisted Places Scheme as soon as they got in? And whose agenda was it to destroy Grammar schools? These despicable hypocrites disgust me. Everything they touch is soured and damaged by their baleful influence. Not a day has passed since 1997 when there has not been some story in the press concerning their mismanagement, lies, renouncements or the appalling cost of what they have done. AND ITS TAKEN 10 YEARS FOR MOST PEOPLE TO NOTICE. And no interviewer at the BBC will lay a glove on them for the malevolent incompetence with which they go about their day-to-day business.

golden_balls said...

you mention IDS

his report actually alienated the gay community equating lesbian couples with broken homes. something i wouldn't be particular proud of.

I thought the NEW conservatives were more inclusive these days.

Cynic said...

Milburn is right in some of the problems but wrong in the solutions.

As a Conservative I believe that the key factors in success should be ability and drive.

I therefore want to see that state schools are as good as they can be at helping children to maximise their own potential. At the moment, all too often, there are poor standards and a poverty of expectation by pupils and by staff who are never held to account.

On University access, ability should rule. It doesn't at the moment.

My daughter recently applied for a place at a major UK University that on the face of it is falling over backwards to recruit from a wider cross section of society. At the open day she was quite impressed until she met a senior tutor who told her 'Just one thing my dear. Before you come here you must realise that most of our students are chaps from public school. So you really do need to think through if you you would be happy here'. She took the message and withdrew.
At another over-subscribed University she was paper-sifted out. We later found out that they operated a policy of 'encouraging' children from less advantaged schools. As she went to a grammar she had to go!

Burnham is however right about the senior civil service, though the problems go much deeper than he would suggest. Class-ridden to the core, totally London-centric and filled with classics scholars who see their role as thinking great thoughts it is a a major drag on good Government and the economy.

With a culture that nothing of significance happens outside the M25, unfortunately our SCS also usually do not do science, engineering or sums (these being things for the little people) which is why our industy policy is in a mess and Government Departments are so badly run.

There is also a major disconnect between the policy making elite and the other bits of the civil service who have to try and implement their creations, developed without any sense of what will work and what will not.

Of course Burnhams proposals will do nothing to address any of this. They are just window dressing to pretend that he's still within Gordon's big tent and give the impression that Governement is doing something when, n effect, its dead in the water and sinking fast

Laurence Hodge said...

The statistic which struck me while listening to the Today Programme this morning was this:

An accountant in his mid-50's will have come from a family on an average income while an accountant in his mid 30's will have come from a family eaning 40% above the national average.

Assuming that it's desirable for accountants and other professionals to come from average rather than moneyed backgrounds what's to be done?

Only professional politicians, social engineers and busybodies would want to introduce "measures" and rush to prescribe what others should do.

The rest of us would question what has changed over the twenty year period to bring about this undesirable state of affairs and then set about undoing the damage. An accountant in his mid-30's was probably a student in 1997 so Alan Milburn ought to ask, also, to what extent he himself is culpable.

Heaping one failed policy on another - a dismal game of legislative pat-a-cake - is the New Labour way. God help us, we need all this stuff rolled back.

Stepney said...

1) Not everyone is going to become a lawyer.*
2) If the Government spent less time f*cking about with educational initiatives and more time letting teachers teach then standards would rise accordingly.
3) The only proven engine for social mobility is the Grammar school.
4) If specialist schools exist for the talented in drama, dance, athletics and music, for which entrance is by selection why is selection by academic ability deemed elitist? What does that say about a nation's priorities?
5) The only criteria for selection at University should be academic - not postcode, not Angela's Ashes statements. If you're good enough you get in.
6) Can you imagine employing someone as a pilot without any aptitude for the job simply because they come from a poor background? Quite.
7) A generation of people from poorer backgrounds gained skills, qualifications and eventually top jobs during the 50's and 60's. Without any form of social engineering. Many of you have parents who did exactly that. Ask yourself why.

* Thank God.

strapworld said...

But,Glyn H, the BBC has been neutered. By Milburn (former communist) and his ilk!

The Independent this morning has a truly fascinating article, entitled 'If the UK were a village of just 100 people"

It has many very striking facts and figures but it states:-

"That Ninety Two would be white. Two Black.Two Indian.One Pakistani.One Mixed race and two would be of other races"

"84 would live in England, 8 in scotland, 5 in Wales and 3 in northern Ireland".

Which begs the question WHY does the BBC television and radio have so few white english presenters and be far far over represented with other races and nationalities?

Should this not be of concern? Are the BBC operating a positive discimination policy in their recruitment?

Similarily Channel 4 who receive Taxpayers money!

Milburn is very quiet on this!!

Mind you does it not make the case for an ENGLISH Parliament - as Mr Dale has banged on for some time!!

Well done The Independent. I can see political parties using the statistics within this well written article for some time now.

Zuagroasta said...

Milburn and ZaNu Labour have a very simple solution - eradicate affluence.

David Skelton said...

Not entirely sure I agree with you there Iain. Milburn has brought attention to the fact that twelve years of Labour Government have made the professions more rather than less exclusive.

The decline of social mobility is a damning indictment on this Government. We need serious solutions to one of the biggest problems facing modern Britain. It has to be, and will be, one of the top priorities of an incoming Tory Government.

Anonymous said...

It always seems to me that the money spent on fighting inequality never really has an effect; it's just spending money to make us feel like we're doing something... a bit like carbon offsetting.

Chrome Diplomat said...

Some of the comments left here seem to me to be incredibly short-sighted.

For starters, of course support to less-affluent children should come earlier in life, but the ideas in this report are part of a temporary fix, to enable poorer students to get just some of the top jobs (and thereby be better able to support their own kids/ be a role model for their community leading to better prospects and support for children in a few decades time).

As to the actual report, I do not believe that someone who is manifestly worst than another should get a University place purely based on their background. However, there are plenty of instances where 'worst' is a circumspect term.

Quite frankly I do not understand how you can judge a pupil from a wealthy family, who attended an independent school, was given special one-on-one tutoring and gained 3 A's at A-level can be judged to be 'better' than someone who comes from a low-income background, whose parents work two jobs and so rarely get to see them and offer their support, who themselves works a weekend job to earn some extra money (giving less time to study, do work experience in a profession etc), who attends a run-down school with a high proportion of unruly and potentially violent kids and who gains 2 A's and a B.

To my mind the academic achievements of the second child far outweigh those of the first, yet if you simply judge them on their paper scores for tests designed to show academic ability then they would loose out on a place at University if put up against the first child.

Of course, one way to help level the playing field is to force all Universities to do interviews (rather than the few, such as Oxford and Cambridge who do) rather than just judge on the UCAS application system. However, even here, affluent families can pay for coaching and training not available to someone for a less well-off background.

Therefore, there has, to some extent be allowances to assist those from poorer backgrounds. No one is saying that a rich-kid with 3 A's should loose there place to a poor kid with 1 U.

On a little aside- with regards to the professions, the Government could also do well to introduce legislation regarding internships. Almost any high-class profession now demands an internship, usually in London and usually for no or next-to-no pay. This bars kids whose parents cannot afford to support them independently, or who come from (heaven forbid) outside London from ever getting the experience demanded of them.

This debate isn't about stopping people who are bright but have parents who happen to be rich, but supporting those who are equally as bright but without the inbuilt social advantage money can bring in our society.

Man in a Shed said...

Maybe the lefties would like to consider the impact of Darwinism, genetic inheritance in a population with no barriers to social mobility might produce the results of low social mobility and that this would be the most just result.

Just a thought.

Dave B said...

Could I suggest that Milburn starts with Labour MPs? How many of them give jobs to family members and then Labour Party supporters?

Tony Benn may disagree with hereditary peers but he certainly seems to favour the continuance of the Benn dynasty as MPs.

You don't have to have a relative in the Labour cabinet but it helps!

Eckersalld said...

What exactly did Milburn expect?

Labour, in general, have been destroying social mobility ever since Thatcher gave local education authorities extra powers in Circular 10/70, thus killing off Grammar Schools.

New Labour made it worse by applying targets, demolishing the quality of exams and effectively dumbing down UK GCSE's to the point that international GCSE's are now preferred. Then they started the same process on further education.

Four decades of a left-wing assault on grammar schools, and ten years of New Labour style-over-substance, have left the poorer end of the nation in something of a rut. This is Labour reaping what they have sown.

Anonymous said...

I this why that crusader for equality, Harriet the Harperson, made sure her children did not go to local schools. She decided that the state funded 'independednt' schools ala 'London Oratory' for the influential socialists are the schools for her.

Dr Evil said...

When I went to university in 1971 only around 10% were deemed able enough to cope with a degree course. They just selected the best or those deemed the best by their schools then waited to see if you got the A level grades that they 'offered' you a place on. No quotas, no social grading......we were all equal as wwe went into the hall and the exams sorted us out. Isn't that how academe should work? These evil Labour bastards are going for quotas and Harman's Equalities Bill is the exact opposite. It will be quotas for women, for ethnic minorities and religious minorities? Equality? in a pig's eye.

Anonymous said...

Grammar schools. Grammar schools. Grammar schools.

Only when I say the words three times, I mean it, as opposed to when Blair gave his infamous 'education' speech.

For me, grammar schools are synonymous with social mobility. They discriminate between people on the one acceptable ground for discrimination: merit.

If you give intelligent pupils the right to test themselves against one another, in a high-achieving environment, the effect will be felt rapidly. With good teaching, these pupils can compete with the expensively educated. A clever child from the humblest of backgrounds can the compete with with those fed with silver spoons. That is entirely as it should be.

The tragedy is that Labour seems to hate this vision of equality, the Tories are for some reason to scared to bring the issue up, and the views of the Lib Dems are, as always, utterly irrelevant.

*On an aside, I see that Milburn mentions 'law' as a profession which doesn't provide equality of opportunity. This is not entirely true, since his terms are to broad. Becoming a solicitor is by no means impossible for a child from a less affluent family or minority background (indeed, disgracefully in my view, some firms set aside a number of internships for students from backgrounds deemed 'underrepresented). The problem, which is calamitous, is at the Bar. Successful barristers (particularly commercial) and judges (particularly Court of Appeal and above) are almost exclusively public school and Oxbridge educated. The Bar is very much an old boys' club; indeed, it operates openly as such and no-one does a damn thing to stop it.

Anonymous said...

100% IHT: after a few generations all children can make their way in the world on merit then rather than jumping ahead of their more talented peers because great uncle Ebeneezer got away with some form of financial scam

Michael St George said...

What else would you expect from a 100% berk like Milburn, whose only exposure to life outside politicking was running a radical bookshop called "Days of Hope"?

But which was so chaotic and disorganized that it was universally known as "Haze of Dope"?

But, as other commenters have said, what really has one reaching for the sick bag is the sheer breathtaking hypocrisy: one of Blair's first acts in government was the abolition of the assisted places scheme, which enabled bright kids from modest backgrounds to go to good schools (i.e., grammar schools, are you listening out there, Right-On Dave?).

Remember how vehemently Milburn opposed this? No, me neither.

Penfold said...

No doubt this statist intervention will have no impact on the wee darlings of the ruling elite.
This is an attempt to further re-engineeer our society and a throwback to the days of Moscow's communism.
NuLab are like Ranieri, the tinker man, they just can't leave well alone.
Like all crypto-fascists they want full control over everything, they want to micro-manage thus ensuring their continued monopoly on power.
It is time Iain that education was taken out of the hands of politicians and left well alone. If we do not watch out, intensive class awareness will be introduced as a needed lesson, similarly to the proposed sex education for 5 year olds.

Dimoto said...

Hows about looking at real cause and effect - that people who care about education, and are ambitious, generally do well in 'society' ?

And why is it, that everytime Milburn (yet again) announces that he's leaving politics "for good", he then immediately makes some pompous and vacuous "policy statement" ? Confused.

lavrentiy beria said...

This is how all socialist societies develop, because they must. Class enemies must be eradicated, and the sins of the parents must fall on their children. If your father had the temerity to own a cow he becomes a kulak, to be crushed. And as the child of a class enemy, obviously you cannot be allowed to succeeed in life. Grey mediocrity for all is the socialist way.

john miller said...

There are three reasons this lot are in power:

The huge client state they have manufactured with jobs for life and the best pensions in the world.

The handouts they give to their electorate.

There are many tribal Labour voters who will vote Labour because their parents and everyone they know did.

It is not possible for Cameron to convert these voters. They are the reason why the Labour share of the vote never falls below 20% in the polls.

So he should ignore these people, establish an English parliament, where Labour would have a couple of seats, and leave the Welsh and the Scots to provide their own socialist society. I think they could probably manage that for about 3 years, before they went bankrupt.

The "Angry Aberdonian" said...

Was Milburn referring to the Blair's "dilettante" offspring?

Only the best schools for them, followed by an internship in Washington and more recently a well paid position in Morgan Stanley (under Jonathan Powell).

How many (better qualified) working class people got a look in there?

Anonymous said...

@Oliver Drew. 100% correct, the only thing missing is preventing the lesser talented offspring of the priviliged taking positions of power and influence away from cleverer but poorer peers. 100% IHT? Nationwide grammar system and ban on private schools?

At the moment it's as if we're picking the 100m olympic squad and filling it with athletes who, because of their priviliged backgrounds, start 50m further up the track. They achieve amazing performances with average ability, while potentially higher achievers are starting from the blocks a long way back.

Who will give us a true meritocracy? Not Labour's dumbing down for all or perpetuation of the priviliged classes.

Roger Thornhill said...

From the outset, Milburn appears to be denying the assertion that ability is in any way inherited.

I think I am fairly safe in saying that ability (intellect, creativity, some attitude and aptitude) is to an extent inherited.

If quotas or other levelling (down) measures are introduced, it would be tantamount to holding some bright kids back just because their parents did well so that not so bright kids of parents that did well are prevented from nabbing certain jobs.

This punishes the innocent along with the guilty. Pure Socialism.

I am not surprised.

The net result will be a degrading in the quality of the professions. It will weaken this country and make good people leave.

Maybe we should experiment to prove the mechanism before inflicting it on the wider economy. NL can put its stolen wealth where its orifice is and ensure that children of MPs do not get favourable treatment in "the system" of politics...

Cynic said...

"high-class profession"

Chrome Diplomat

That phrase just about sums up the culture especially in the civil service. The rest are the plebs.

But if the Conservatives are to prosper we need policies to level up able people from all backgrounds by giving them opportiunitiws to succeed.

Alex said...

Anonymous said...
"@Oliver Drew. 100% correct, the only thing missing is preventing the lesser talented offspring of the priviliged taking positions of power and influence away from cleverer but poorer peers. 100% IHT? Nationwide grammar system and ban on private schools?"

Does it not strike you as being entirely possible that the offspring of the "Privileged" might be equally or perhaps even more talented, perhaps having inherited the intelligence, athletic ability, social skills and general winning ways of their equally successful parents. Biologists call it natural selection.

Anonymous said...

Good point Alex but how can we get rid of these untermenschen that are dragging us inherently superior and richer people down?

Anonymous said...

Alex you're right, but the problem remains that not all of the "Priviliged" are blonde haired and blue eyed. Until we can deal with that issue effectively we will never bring back the glories of the thousand year Reich.

Keith Elliott said...

What is really disturbing bout social mobility in Britain is that it has slowed to a virtual standstill. Last century it was still possible for my grandfather, the son of a Durham miner, to enter the professions.

Today, that is virtually unheard of, and not simply because there are no Durham miners left!

There is no evidence that comprehensive schools are to blame, although that is always the favoured Tory attack. I have no doubt that improved educational chances are crucial...but raising aspirations amongst the young really matter too.

I used to work in schools and what really determined if a child was going to succeed academically or not, was not simply their intellect but the determination and drive to succeed.

Unsworth said...

@ Oliver Drew

So your definition of 'superior' is what?

Anonymous said...

I agree with Alex - I thank God, or Darwin, that "biological natural selection" has enabled my biological betters to take all the priviliged positions in society.

Us lower orders will just tug our forelocks and be grateful. Thanks Alex.

Nibbler said...

Keith - it's not just desire to succeed though. What about all the "Hawkings" out there who don't get to Oxford because it's full of Tim "Nice But Dims" who get there on the back of privilige.

Nibbler said...

Oliver the question isn't one of respect, it's one of opportunities.

Are opportunities being given to those who merit them or those who can afford them.

Although if Alex is right then these two groups are the same.

Interns Anonymous said...

It’s surely not right that to get a bog-standard entry-level position (having got a good degree from a good university) you have to work unpaid for months and months doing internships just be considered.

This section of the report is clear. To get an entry into a profession you have live in London, be able to afford to work unpaid for months on end and know the right people. For the thousands upon thousands of graduates without jobs at the moment, its right and fair that Milburn raises this issue. Proper discussion should not be dismissed so easily Iain.


lavrentiy beria said...

Clearly the problem here is the family, an uncontrolled anti-social unit. All children must be brought up by the state in conditions of strict equality. Only then will perfect socialism be achieved.

Anonymous said...

Interns Anonymous that's easily solved. Just get Mummy and Daddy to bankroll them.

After all people from rich families have been naturally selected to be more deserving of the post anyway.

Anonymous said...

lavrentiy it works for rich people: Cf. boarding schools.

Hot crumpet anyone?

Anonymous said...

There is alreay social engineering in many top universities and in medical schools thanks to Gordo govt's underhand "affirmative action" approach. Folks you may be facing a cardio thoracic surgeon who would like to operate on you in a few years who would have got qualified under this strange affirmative action. I know a friend who has been a pensioner for years and in the case of his son who went to the school shunned by Blair, he worked with him to get him expertise and knowledge to pass his A levels with very good grades and he had to opt for another course when he and his class mates were not selected for medicine because the parents in question understood that all of them as parents had at one time university education, and the selection comittee had to allocate places for sons of working class people like plumbers and electricans all of whom earned much more than my friend's pension.

Anonymous said...

It works both ways, whether it's Barry the builder's son artificially promoted to courses beyond his grades, or Bertie Wooster with artificially inflated grades getting a place he doesn't deserve, you still end up with a cardiac surgeon you wouldn't want doing your triple bypass.

How about bringing back grammar schools and forcing private schools to prefer students with the highest IQs?

Anonymous said...

You missed the point completely. The students who did not gain admission did not go to Eton/Winchester public schools but to the underperforming school in Islington. They were as much underprivileged as the working class sons were. In this situation there is no way their grades were artificially inflated as the exam boards keep a watchful eye on inflated coursework grades from such schools and I know many cases where moderation was redone if coursework is found to be inflated from such schools. The affirmative action which this case clear was, to give places to students with lower grades augmented by a social engineering criterion points based on their working class background. The total points
thus obtained were higher in effect. Grammar schools alone may not do much as one gets into nebulous situation of entry tests and the consequences that follow.
My next door neighbour, a Labour Party supporter, drives a Mercedes and I take the tube train. No point in levelling both of us or giving me a lift in Mercedes saloon everytime I step out of home!

Anonymous said...

Norman, no you missed my point completely. As I said it works both ways. Social engineering by Whitehall diktat or by bloated bank balance means those with natural ability who do not happen to be in either camp are unjustly left behind.

Both the social engineering you complain of and the social engineering of perpetuated privilige running down generations holds back talented children.

If we had a truly meritocratic system then neither Daddy's wallet or Gordon's box tickers would be needed to make sure the best people are in the most important roles.

John Woolman said...

I am reminded of a story that came back from the Medical Student exchange between Zagreb and Edinburgh in the late 60's - When Gordo was of course an an Edinburgh Student.

Street Cleaner to Surgeon: My son will be a surgeon and your son will be a street cleaner.

Surgeon: That's true, but my grandson will be a surgeon and your grandson will be a street cleaner....

Anonymous said...

I think that the social inequality argument is always used to deliver more controls over people who live on low incomes, more taxes, more intervention. This report appears to me to be within a social context where the legal system is being moved out of the ambit of lawyers who have parasiticised a living out of the dna labelled and excluded in their fees and their 'buy to let empires' of ex council houses, the NHS which is now just a lobby for big pharma and small start up companies providing personalised medicine for the professional middle classes who can't conceive and who can pay for their flu jabs, police services who linked themselves up with smart water, tagging and security companies to protect the homes and property of the wealthy who felt they had the right to demand an instant response at the expense of the rest of the neighbourhoods, where it's now acceptable for police to 'know' of issues, individuals, of 'crimes' for many years but not act on them in any way that might enable restitution or inclusion, schools who with the consultants and companies who inspect the lives of everyone through the Criminal Records System, now having 'won' the right to 'groom' the children of the very poor for a better life where they will be embarrassed by their homelife and 'anti-social' parents....and this is where the problem lies.

We have a real issue and it really is the class system, compounded by the norm of nepotism in our everyday working lives where the child of a cricket player, for example will be invited into an inner city project run by a quango binded by the 'celebrity' of the parents, to work on the inner city project for his or her work experience but that noone will even think it's possible that the same courtesy and succesful outcome be extended to a child of the same age and the same ability from a poorer backgorund or an ethnic background be 'shown the way' to enjoying the world with such 'straightforward' grace.

Anonymous said...

12 years of New Labour and we still have the Old Labour platitudes being belched that New Labour were belching 12 years ago.

New Labour is Old Labour not working in new ways.

Anonymous said...

Nowt wrong in social justice though where the legal, social and moral capacity of the few becomes the aspiration of the many...

Anonymous said...

Disgraceful. Yet another attempt to reduce everyone to the lowest common denominator.

Anonymous said...

the problem is that everyone experiences to some extent by the end of their lives just what it's llike to have 'your capacity' removed by committee which is what it's like to be a child growing up in a family on a low income.

Anonymous said...

I do not know what you do for a living, I am an academic and if anything when it comes o univesity places in our best universities, bank balance plays its part considerably less, thanks to the student loan system. During my visits to Oxbridge, Imperial and UCL the 4 top universities, it is less and less bank balance playing its part and more and more of students abilities. Meritocracy is working and it is best to nurture this. By the way, isolated IQ scores are of no use and also is simplistic recalling of grammar schools (just like recalling matrons in NHS wards, when the NHS model is totally outdated) Social engineering is a bad idea at this time and there is no need to carry out the "affirmative action" as Milburn advocates. Where the ugly heads of privilege, racism and sexism raise is in the City brokerage houses and in the legal profession. No quick-fixing is going to cure this.

Anonymous said...

Norman, Gotcha.

Tens of thousands of pounds of debt not putting off poor children.

Grammar schools are like Matrons.

You're an academic.

All is tickety boo.


Anonymous said...

Just to correct your misconception on an important point. Loans become grants in the case of poor students who go to universities. As loans are means-tested. Only the middle class students suffer from the loan system as they fall between 2 stools. Your argument is so far removed from the reality of what is happening at the universities today. No need for social engineering or quota system or affirmative action. What was lost was the parental responsibility ( single parent or two parents or gay parents, it does not matter) which alone ensures the acquisition of 3Rs at the primary stage, which is critical to the success of a child at a later stages in life.

Anonymous said...

I think that all schools, colleges and universities should use every research tool neccessary to design entrance exams that genuinely encourage all comers of all backgrounds and ages to contribute to the academic project.

Teachers who can speak to everyone and privilege none. We're not training to do that, we're training to produce one template for life.

And more: proper relationships with the communities should be central to education rather than paper relationships for funding and perpetuating often nepotistic access to government funds and projects at the expense of the poor.

Testing in real time, breaking down the acronymic, language and cultural barriers and obstacles to understanding what the arguments are. Not fragments of science encourage debate, insight contributions about the structure of DNA for example.

Ask questions about why? Encourage problem solving, allowing participation, welcoming participation through innovative ways of using either the self (bricoleur, perhaps) or the varing manifestations of the technology (bricolage?) that are currently in the hands of young people who are not integrated into the academic disciplines.

Ways of testing that are really about the curiosity, engagement and ability to understand, reflect and synthesise: that make young people feel that they are really gifted with the opportunity to be themselves. This happens at Oxford and Cambridge and their processes are much more thorough than those of other universities in this respect. They really give each candidate a fair chance.

However, Oxford and Cambridge are bastions of one type of privilege, history, background that doesn't see itself as needing to really understand the history, culture and legacy of wider social organism. Reciprocity, rather than one way relationships in a mass culture.

Maybe the silo culture of technological 'pressure' (in reality the desire to be better than America at making money)needs to be balanced against the hidden potential in our society of the poor (not just their children! not just as guinea pigs or scapegoats!) for 'mass society projects where they become acclimatised to dealing with a machinerather than a human being, for example.

We need to make every primary, secondary, college and university a place where the human being learns about the social structure and can contribute to its development rather than them feeling real injustice and that there's no point in admitting interest, as there's no point throughout their education.

What I think is that really, inequality is now a siloed continuum, we all feel a bit of it.

Anonymous said...

We need initiatives from people with some privilege to enable others, either less or more privileged, to make a real time contribution to thought and then for that to be the pathway that they develop in discussion with peers, tutors and the wider community during the course of their education.

This is normal for upper class and even some middle class children but it's not normal for the just as bright and just as highly technologically aware children of other backgrounds.

It must be so frustrating to want to have a real understanding of what you learn but noone has cottoned on to the fact that the contribution of technology is to everyone in society.

You are poor but you have considered the problems of the world, wondered about DNA, wanted to ask ethical questions, wanted to contextualise them....but no, not now, we're living in a world that won't let you participate and will confuse you and call you stupid and then blame you for your unhappiness and frustration.

The inequality of access to education, health, work has never been more distinct and it has nothing to do with the credit crunch. It's to do with practices of exclusion of poor people to agency work for the last thirty years and the mopping up of social housing by professional classes who themselves haven't the capacity to create a reciprocal relationship of protection and stability for their tenants.

At the moment, universities do lots of community activity but structurally it can be seen as the things the ambitious (and in most universities, these are the upper class students still) have to do to be seen, or marketing for the local economic quango in terms of carefully planned 'pieces of activity' done by a chosen few for the latest funding bid.

I think the interviewing process needs to be a really exciting time, (not a financial calculation time) in the academic year.

We take too much money from overseas students and hype our educational institutions at the expense of genuine cultural reciprocty and the production of dissertations that really make a difference.

It's really shocking when you go into some universities and read their 'highly marked' dissertations and you begin to realise that noone has really interrogated these marks, another cohort has 'got through', the sameness of these 'products' is really a long way from the potential of the community in which they've spent three, four or five years at £10,000(?) a year?

oooh, if it were real business entrepreneuship in government, in schools, in the health service, in IT, then I for one, would applaud it. Business is about real, meaningful busyness. What we have in this country is meanminded busybodiness, bullying and stasis.

The poor (as Faulkner notes) endure. Yet every one of us will experience something of what the poor are born to in our lives and I think, we'll regret our smugness, our lack of understanding and ability to say we don't know, we're wrong, we've made a mistake.

Unsworth said...

@ Oliver Drew

It depends on what you might mean by 'farliy define'. Perhaps you're now coming to the realisation that the term is a comparative, not an absolute.

And as you seem unable to define 'superiority' you cannot (logically) declare that "Nobody is superior to anybody else....."

I guess you are trying to say that everyone is (or, maybe, should be) 'equal'. Well although you might regard that as desirable it is also patently not the case.

Anonymous said...

You seem to know a lot about higher education funding so I'll take your word for it. Are you an academic by any chance?

My point is we already have social engineering. You described one kind in your initial post. The other kind is based on wallet size where those who come from rich families achieve more than their equally talented peers from relatively disadvantaged backgrounds. Either that or Alex is right (above) and children from rich families are inherently superior (sorry if that upsets Oliver).

So on the assumption that Alex is not right my contention is we need a system that allows people to achieve according to their merits not their wealth. Some kind of Grammar school system would surely be a step on the right road. That way perhaps the daughter of an independent trader from some midlands town might one day rise to be Prime Minister.

Anonymous said...

In my humble opinion, the 11+ which I took decades ago should not return as it was invidious and very prematurely threw many pupils out as rejects. One of whom my mate, fortunately escaped the fall out as he later went to a school in Europe, his father was asked to move to his company's headquarters in Europe when its branch was shut in England. This mate now is a well known scientist. Many pupils are late developers and any grammar school-like selection system will work against them. Oxbridge is mentioned. I was visiting Cambridge university last month and had to meet an old friend who now works in the old building where the famed Cavendish Lab was located over a century. During lunch, we had this discussion of education for the less privileged. He asked me to come with him and in a cafeteria nearby, he stopped at a group of 10 or so students who obviously knew him, and asked each one to say something about their family ground. All of them were from comprehensives, a few from London and none had bankers/lawyers/doctors as their parent/s. It was not a large sample but from my own experience within the last 6 years
more students from so called disadvantaged background are entering good universities not through creative social engineering but on their own merit.

Cynic said...

I passed the 11+ but my parents couldnt afford the extra costs at a Grammar so I went to a Secondary Modern school.

There we were rigorously streamed. Top 2 streams had passed the 11+. Second 2 streams had failed the 11+ but have real potential. Next 3 streams had failed the 11+ and were streamed into more technical programmes.

This would induce horror in many modern teachers but nothing was written in stone. We were all encouraged and carefully evaulated at the end of each of the first 3 years. Some moved up streams and some moved down as teachers saw how they were developing. This applied at every level. Progress and achievement were valued and we were challenged. Those who did well were pushed on and up the traditional academic route through Junior Certificate, then GCEs and A levels towards University. Others were supported down different routes depending upon their skills and interests.

My cohort in that school now include doctors, a prominent local surgeon, a dentist, a brace of nuclear physicists, a lawyer. several accountants and an internationally recognised expert in oil exploration. Others have become successful local businesspeople. While many of them had passed the 11+, many didnt.

So what? Well, it was a ghallenging system but one that did its best to support children at every level to maximise their potential and to give them the best oppiotunities to do well in life - however they defined that.

Can you say the same of what we have today in the State sector? There are some undoubted araes of excellenece but in general?

CH said...

Listen to Norman, this is why we must vote Labour at the next election, our childrens' future depends on it.

Lord Alconleigh said...

The Legal Services Act, due to come in to force in 2011, will dramatically diminish the number of solicitors in this country. The main areas of barely profitable work will be taken from the High Street solicitors by the large institutions. They will employ non-qualified solicitors to do them. There is already a huge oversupply of Trainee Solicitors and many have been forced to take jobs elsewhere. This trend will increase dramatically.

Idiots, like Milburn, will then say that the professions are restricted to the very rich, despite the fact that the policies of his government are destroying the legal profession. You will have to be very rich to take the risk of investing £40,000.000 in a legal training that could result in you getting no job.

Yet, just under 100 years ago, the grandson of a humble artisan, Lloyd George, managed to enter the legal profession and become Prime Minister. However, in those days, a humble country solicitor’s salary bought a house on Cheyne Walk. It would just about put a deposit on a flat in Romford now.

Some of the would be solicitors, who can’t find training contracts, have joined the Police, as Police Staff. There is no real promotion their, beyond Investigating Officer level one. A position carrying a salary of about £30,000.00. For promotion, such people have to become Police Officers. Peter Neyroud, Wykehamist and Head of the National Police Improvement Agency, recently claimed that there are not enough middle class people joining the police, as Police Officers. The senior Police Officers are largely from working class backgrounds. They earn very good salaries with overtime as well. No complaint about this from Milburn.

Milburn’s claim that the professions need thousands of new recruits is totally specious. It is achieved by redefining the concept of profession as widely as possible. Milburn will then be able to claim that thousands of new student places are needed. Thousands of new students will then be pumped out of universities into an already saturated work place but the purpose will have been achieved. Many youngsters will have been kept off the unemployment statistics for several years.

Milburn can, of course, agree to open up Quangos to all comers and kick off the New Labour placepersons who hold multiple lucrative posts. That would be very easy but those jobs are reserved for poor deprived Labour Lords, Baronesses and political hacks. All form hugely underprivileged backgrounds.

Paula Sharratt said...

How about this for an interesting idea:

It's now the 21st century, in the 20th we learnt how to commodify everything and began to adopt technology in all aspects of working, public and civil life.

However, we allowed some pretty beta forms of distress in our poorest communities to be compunded by our rush to make money via property ownership and the internet...

That's become the norm but to everyone, even those in the professions, the way we work now is wrong and needs evolving to encuage creativity, new business and ideas, better quality newspapers, retail businesses demonstrating the value of the technology in the new product offer! We need Beta 'Ready Made' prototype businesses to fill the empty spaces in our culture, our proerties in the city, the ennui in the schools!

Thousands of people wait, patiently, not so patiently and some really raging, at their 'lack of capacity' for some kind of 'freeing up' of the economic tempates on what work is, what professionalism is and what Health and Safety mean in the 21st century.

We're rich! Yet we haven't cottoned on to the way these riches need to be passed on and shared in the interstices, on the margins and in the inner cities and poor rural areas.

It's about visualising the speed, benefits and selfish gains in the empty spaces so that they become shared cultural processes that others can innovate and reciprocate with.

Society works for the privileged and they might think why change it? But there's a much better offer that takes us beyond 'command and control', one way relationships with call centres for everything, guinea pigging of the weak by the strong in their 'they don't shoot horses' marathon to hang on to their fiefdoms...

It's about making technology work for everyone in practical ways that move beyond the very beta (and 19th century way) of understanding economics.

We are an autistic society at the moment, locked into owning property, holding onto property, even when it's decaying in the inner city. People want to talk to landlords to really change the landscape but noone's listening.

Anonymous said...

I should disappoint you. I am a Tory voter since 1979. The Winter of Discontent changed my views on Labour. Callaghan the prisoner of the Unions ( " Crisis? What crisis?) let the Unions run riot and the dismal sight of dead not buried, refuse bags strewn all over our road, old and infirm were not allowed into A and E of hospitals etc.. showed the true colour of Labour. My neighbour an old lady developed then a severe chest problem and the Union thug manning the hospital gate leading to the entrance of the A and E section, took one look at the suffering lady, passed his pen over the pad he was holding and said " Sorry, you can't come in, your illness is not an emergency", and turned us back even after pleading with him. We pooled our money and took her to a private clinic in Harley Street but then it was too late. I would like to see this Labour Party obliterated for a generation. You only look at what your Labour MPs do- Jeremy Corbyn sent his sons to selective grammar school in Barnet and Thonberry sends her daughter to a selective grammar school in Potters Bar ( both tens of miles away from their homes). The school I referred to my earlier posting was rejected by Bliar. Milburn, the CND member of yore is a hypocrite and so are the entire Labour cabinet clowns. They wont be back for a generation.