FROM THE 28TH JANUARY
Catching up with some TV, starting first with the BBC’s documentary, Posh & Posher.
The programme was, in many ways, Andrew Neil’s lovenote to the grammar school. The basic thesis seems to be that there will always be stratification in society, so it’s better that it’s done through academic selection, which has some semblance of meritocracy, instead of privilege. Having gone to a grammar school, I’m a bit torn over the issue of selection. It worked out for me, after all. The other day, I met another guy who failed to pass his eleven plus, and 14 years down the line he was still bitter and angry about it. He’d still done alright out of life, though.
Grammar’s, I think, help foster people into a range of professions – not just politics – but medicine, law and finance for sure. By helping people of any background chance their status, they encourage social mobility, as well as diversity (the smallest minority in parliament is seemingly anyone from ‘the working class’). How much that’s down to the school, and how much down to skimming the top 25% is the contentious point. How much value does a grammar school add?
I’ve been reading Paddy Ashdown’s biography, and while he is very clearly no saint, it did make me even more set against the idea of professional politicians. The idea of wanting that power, without having an ideology formed and tested in the real world is more than a little terrifying to me. People who can afford to intern, be SPAGS, get to the right places – and have the background to get them there – seem to me to be the least likely to be able to connect with the everyday. The documentary is right to point out that now that Labour has joined in on that merry dance, there’s a colossal number of people without a voice who may trend towards fringe parties with less than savoury agendas. At least they’ll talk to them, after all.
And the arts aren’t too different – there are a lot of ‘posh’ kids in film world, especially. Again, being able to afford to intern in the right places invariably boosts your chances. There are no unions (and now, fewer funding bodies) to guide that level of training. Once people get to the top in this country, there’s so little to go around that they grip it tightly, leaving only crumbs for those below them. I’d be more bitter about it, if I was a little less lazy and could claim that’d been my only barrier so far…!
(For the record, Central’s state school intake is 88%. It fears this will drop in the coming years. The reasons for that, I’ll let you ruminate on.)
(P.S. We got some funding for Italy project from Ideastap – good times)