Tuesday, May 08, 2007

One Nation of Opportunity



The question of social mobility has crept up on us as perhaps the most abject failure if President Blair’s ten squalid years of presentation . In the Speccie today Anne McElvoy quotes the now famous study showing that children born in 1958 were more likely to extricate themselves from disadvantaged beginnings than those born in 1970 . The New statesman in one of its many retrospectives sadly observes that the promise of Education education education “, turned into a reality of ,“Location location location”. This is an apt description of the false hopes some had for the super funded comprehensive system and the selection by wealth that it has become . I was pleased to see Chris Skidmore a friend and fellow North Islington Conservative in the Telegraph with at least one tremendous factoid . More Etonian boys gain five good GCSE`s including English and maths than the entire Borough of Hackney. Not good enough Britain ..see me ! Just as important are the half of students that do not achieve a working competence in English and Maths . How tragic that Labour have buoyed up their figures with the coarsest social selection leaving the working classes with nothing. How typical of the betrayal and cynicism of Blair
Conservatives sometimes see the answer to this in terms of voucher schemes Grammar schools and various other doctrinaire or nostalgic approaches none of which I am, certain will work today. Certainly the existing grammars offer no clues . The educational charity “ the Sutton Trust “ studied an area with 12% on free school meals and found that in the Grammar only 2 % were fed by the state . Hardly a motor for opportunity. Sadly it is the Labour Party that are considering following up the Brighton experiment with a lottery while Willets and Boris on team Tory are keeping their powder dry for now . I believe Conservatives must be bold here if they are to attract the working class support that thus far eludes them. Without it they cannot form a Government and they will not be truly national Party
Many years ago a red bearded Trotskyite teacher of “ Social studies “ explained the difference between the Capitalist and the Socialist ideas of society to me . The capitalists ,he said, see class as a ladder whereas the Socialist see class as opposing armies. Without the ladder operating tolerably well the moral case for Conservatism, is merely selfish and “ Libertarian” only in a nihilistic and inhuman way . The case for redistributive taxation is commensurately strong.
Cameron has been hazy and passionless here , and for all his achievements I believe he is making an error of judgement. To camp firmly in the centre he has to show he cares about the whole country and is offering a better way to achieve meritocracy and fairness Educational policy must be used as a tool for Social engineering and Cameron must take on the backward looking elements of the Party. He might start by not saying anything else like this….” One of the great things about this country is that it matters more where you are going than where you came from “
Yeah right Dave , we noticed . It isn’t only the working classes who are left behind , almost anyone who cannot afford Public school is increasingly excluded from top end employment especially in prestigious fields like Journalism and even acting .Judie Burchill trenchantly observed such glamorous milieus are “ .. full of middleclass Prats “ . She went on to say , “And they all have dyslexia which is another word for stupid “..I `m detecting resentment .
The phrase “ One Nation “ has physically repellent connotations of Edward Heath and whole statist consensus of post war politics in both Parties. Nonetheless One Nation we must be and as the problems of social division mount Mr. Cameron`s dalliance with Folly Toynbee`s caravan looks like a theme he must risk developing to me . I would like to see an explicit redefinition of the One Nation ideal for our time .

33 comments:

Ed said...

You ask DC to be bold but where are your proposals N???

My thoughts are:

The best education systems have been devised by egalitarian countries such as France and the former communist countries - perhaps education is an area where centralist planning can work?

Kids shouldn't be allowed to progress from primary school until they have attained a centrally determined level in English, maths and science.

Secondary education should be as local as possible (I have changed my views on choice and selection - I might change them back) but the most important thing is to have streaming in every secondary school.

Abolish faith schools including CofE.

Every school to be managed independently by its head teacher who will have control over how the budget is spent, hiring policy, ethos, etc. with the school's trustees and PTAs etc. overseeing the head teacher.

That's the start...

Ed said...

Oh yes I forgot to add: No leaving secondary school until a certain level of attainment in "core" subjects (however they are decided). That discourages the mentality of appearing stupid to appear cool. Once the certain level of attainment is reached the pupil can then decide to go on to vocational or academic training or go out to work.

mens sana said...

I think we have to have selective schools. It is absolutely critical to our future that the brightest children in our society are given the opportunity to succeed regardless of where they come from. What most of our schools lack now is any sense of ambition for their children

What we mustn't do is ignore the rest, who also have to have a solid education. I can't help feeling that binary selection at 11 is wrong, and there should be some flexibility to move between schools.

The current policy of reducing the standards of universities to accommodate the appalling standards of education in some of our secondary schools is a disaster for us all

Duncan Connors said...

Paul,

Possibly, perhaps subconciously although more likely without any prior knowledge you are referring to ideals espoused by Robert Peel in the Tamworth Manifesto in 1835.

Ed has a point, nations that have egalitarian education systems where there is equality of opportunity. However, being of mixed French/Scottish extraction with aunts/uncles and cousins in France I can say that the French system has little flexibilty in its content and teachers have far too much power than is good for either the student or the parent. Nevertheless, a quality education that everyone has to complete should be a pre-requisite for a democratic nation and would allow those with genuine abilities to reach the highest levels, rather than merely old Etonians, an obsession of mine at the moment. In the UK, we leave a lot to be taught at University, I taught a couple of classes at Glasgow as well as basic training and I can tell you that I have had to teach some students from cetrain backgrounds how to write an essay and construct an argument and that shouldn't be the case.

I remember when I undertook the Officer Training Course at RAF Cranwell and how non the first day the differences between peoples backgrounds was apparent. Within a week, however, through a process of hard work, marching and repetitive tasks, you soon learnt who was good and who wasn't. A decent high school system should be like that at first to break down barriers and build team spirt. Less harsh, though!!!!

As for selective schools, Mens Sana, when do you select? Aged Eleven? Sooner? Earlier? Selection will happen anyway if a state run system of egalitarian high schools are set up, the brightest and the best will go onto achieve much more. At present, they selection is based on your background, and that is the least fair and worse way of doing things. Besides, the 11+ favoured the kids from middle class backgrounds, not the smart working class kids (although there was some mobility in Scotland) and that is unfair in itself.

If yyou believe in a centerist/centre-right system, that is libertarian to one extent and allows equality of opportunity, you have to mitigate the wider social problems of selection by background. Otherwise, you have a happy social concensus that benefits no one, which is what Keith Joesph et all taught us in the 1970/80s.

Later,

Dunc.

Newmania said...

Ed I think you have the key point which is that on education for the market to work you have to perform a volte face and prescribe centrally . All of your ideas are good ones and I agree that streaming or setting is essential . Heffer is arguing today that with a grammar school in every town the post code problem would cease to exist but I belive we need positive social engineering at eleven. the damage is already done demonstrably by that point .The country will not put up with secondary moderns although practical skills must be given status and most of all the education system has to respond to the job market better . I would keen on any idea as to how to get companies involved with the process . Teachers are worse than useless at it ( you might as well let the BMA run the NHS )

I like the lottery idea which I have blogged on before and mentioned here but the main point is that the Conservative Party has to show Labour voters how they might improve their lot and therefore wish to vote Conservative. It’s the mirror image of the Labour party`s wish to keep people poor and dependant.

You idea of “ Cool “ is brilliant . My brother reports from the front that this is the worst problem he faces and the reason why social mix is so crucial to the success of the school.

Newmania said...

Mensana , a Grammar school system could incorporate the ability to pick up late developers and the ones that exist often do . This would not do anything for the remainder and I cannot countenance the sort of division that is implied . I agree with you on Universities and having spoken to and English graduate ( with a first) recently I was staggered at quite how ignorant it was possible to be and achieve such a mark. Degrees are now valueless and we have returned to Oxbridge and one or two others . The worst possible result and the opposite of a meritocratic society. Typical and so obvious it is one of those things that provokes utter despair .

Newmania said...

Duncan , don`t make yourself to comfy your scurrilous past is not forgotten . No I was thinking of Disraieli for the most part but neither much . We are so far from a proper discipline in schools that any movement in that direction should be applauded . Thanks for your personal insights, I was proposing using education to actively level class advantage . The advantages of work at a low level should also be addressed through the tax system if that’s what you mean but …I have to earn some money now

Cheerio

Ed said...

The current policy of reducing the standards of universities to accommodate the appalling standards of education in some of our secondary schools is a disaster for us all

Agree 100%. I did a "tough" degree but because it was "tough" the numbers applying to do the course was dwindling and so the required grades were sinking too (despite it being a well-respected course). I have come across people with "good" degrees from "elite" universities who have no work ethic or ambition - surely two things needed to get through 3 years of rigorous study!

Many people now regard university as a theme park-cum-finishing school and the real academics have to get PhDs to distinguish themselves from the rest.

Newmania said...

Many people now regard university as a theme park-cum-finishing school

I drank my way through it Ed interspersed with prodigious effort which in a sense I regret on the other hand ....there was some fine poon tang along the way. A long time ago now .

I did English ...soft subject I suppose but an academic hot house by modern standards

Raedwald said...

Yes, an equal opportunity for all, whatever their social background or wealth. But there are two caveats:

Firstly, all children are not equally gifted. Therefore we need systems that allow them to reach their individual potentials. The only way of achieving this practically is through selection or streaming. And children are not consistent in their development - for a variety of reasons, kids may do poorly at Primary school but burst into bloom in the first or second year at secondary. It's easy to move an achieving kid from a lower stream to a higher, or a struggling one from a higher to a lower, far less easy to move from from a comprehensive to a grammar.

Secondly, you actually need the aspiration to succeed and achieve at school. This is as much the parents' careful work as the child's. Future rewards are hard to see when you're 12 or 13, the lure of immediate kudos is far more tangible.

The drive for self-education amongst the working class in the 1920s and 30s was huge; a real hunger for knowledge and self-improvement. There was even a mass publishing movement - the 'Everyman Library' - I have many on my shelves - cheap cloth-bound books that brought learning and knowledge to cramped tenements and lodging rooms. The tragedy was that class was then a real barrier, and many intelligent and highly motivated young people from the 'wrong' background were denied the opportunity of university.

If the consequence of failure is too comfortable, if the welfare state provides not a safety-net but a DFS recliner and a 36" plasma TV, where is the hunger for improvement through education to come from?

And for One Nation? With all my heart. My father was a professional soldier for more than 25 years and 'old school' values were as deep in his bones as he sought to make them in mine; "Always look to the comfort of your men and your animals before you see to your own well being" is one. These were the sort of values that Harold MacMillan, because of and not in spite of his aristocratic background, understood so well in his brand of One Nation Conservatism. Duty. Fairness. Tenacity. Selflessness. Values one used to find in the Forces everywhere, though rare in commerce or academia in those days.

Ed said...

if the welfare state provides not a safety-net but a DFS recliner and a 36" plasma TV, where is the hunger for improvement through education to come from?

Indeed - the two issues are intertwined. If there is no fear of failure why bother being ambitious?

Education and the welfare state are the two things which need "dealing with" now that the economy is improved (thanks to Thatcher and Major). Blair knew this in 97 and yet has failed to do anything about either apart from throwing money at both bottomless pits. Can't see Brown grasping the nettle - and he may have more pressing constitutional questions to deal with.

Time for a change?

Newmania said...

These were the sort of values that Harold MacMillan, because of and not in spite of his aristocratic background, understood so well in his brand of One Nation Conservatism. Duty. Fairness. Tenacity. Selflessness. Values one used to find in the Forces everywhere, though rare in commerce or academia in those days.

Inspirational Readwald . Sadly I am pretending to work at the moment but magnificent stuff

Newmania said...

Ed absolutely , tremendous stuff from Mr. R and I like that line as well. Education The Welfare State and Housing are the three domestic issues that I see as core to the sickness of the country.

Immigration less so but is has apart in the sense fo a "We" and the duties "we" owe eachother to sacrifice and help The EU is also tangetially related . The concept One Nation is clearly still alive.

( Damn this filty commerce ..must crack on)

mutleythedog said...

Education The Welfare State and Housing are the three domestic issues that I see as core to the sickness of the country.

I agree Mr N - but I am afraid I don't have any great ideas as to what to do. Most of the possible solutions are probably politically and morally unacceptable.

Philipa said...

"I would like to see an explicit redefinition of the One Nation ideal for our time"

that would be Europe.

A most excellent and beautifully uncomfortable post Newmania. I must say, I have a lot of time for Julie Birchill.

Newmania said...

I quite enjoy her stuff P she is amusingly irritating. private Eye assurres me her book is rubbish though

Newmania said...

morally unacceptable.


No Mutley you are wrong.What we have now is morally unacceptable

Philipa said...

What I write is sometimes rubbish (especially poetry) but I'm still fabulous! I didn't know she had a book out. I wsih she'd do more presenting, preferably her own stuff.

"No Mutley you are wrong.What we have now is morally unacceptable" - with you there N.

Roger Thornhill said...

Many many good thing said here by Raedwald, ed, NM, mens sana.

However:

Philipa: "I would like to see an explicit redefinition of the One Nation ideal for our time"

that would be Europe.


Good god no. Worst thing ever. Yerp will enforce a Statist, centrist, monopolistic mechanism to reduce the population to clay.

Newmania said...

I think Phillipa may have been less than entirely serious there Roger

Roger Thornhill said...

Sorry NM and Philipa...irony fuse must have blown. I will attend to it immediately.

Electro Kevin said...

And excellent post and thread.

What of discipline and authority within our schools ?

In the worst cases there is a breakdown in the rule of law within our educational establishments regardless of how willing and able the staff.

How do we protect and nurture those with a desire to improve themselves from the disruptive ? My wife, a former teaching assistant, talks of whole classes held up by one disruptive child well versed in his rights. Most of the problems within schools are the result of externalities but the teachers' hands are bound behind their backs in terms of asserting their authority in class.

A bit of old fashioned Victorianism is required here.

I'd go for these ideas among others(some already propounded here earlier):

- the reinstatement of Grammars (regardless of the imperfection of the 11 plus)

- support of open university and mature studentships for late developers (to redress the 11 plus)

- a curtailment of welfare to basic levels (to re-motivate)

- a lowering of school leaving age
(there's no point in keeping people who don't want to be there - welfare reduction would limit this naturally I feel)

- massive cutbacks on soft degree courses and universities
(wasteful and ultimately poor value for the student)

- more investment in technical colleges and vocational courses
(The majority are not capable of high levels of study - me included - we have to serve the needs of those of average ability as much as anything else)

But really, I feel that the rot comes from without education - a breakdown in rule of law and basic authority resulting in rotten parenting therefore demotivated and disruptive kids.

This can be dealt with by streaming, separation and big sticks - the carrot is a good job after all the hard work and pain.

Newmania said...

There is mixture there Kev but i will have to read it carefully later

Newmania said...

..and having reread while I don`t think that is the optimum set of suggestions you and I do not have teams of people to advise us and all day to think about it .

It is better than what we have in almost every particular IMHO. For exmaple I do not think we can have Grammars back but it would be better than what we`ve got .

Philipa said...

No worries Roger, you are obviously not aware of my sense of humour and reluctance to be sucked into the European Union, like a pessary up Lord Browne's bottom - it just doesn't bear thinking about.

Roger Thornhill said...

NM:For exmaple I do not think we can have Grammars back but it would be better than what we`ve got .

Indeed, NM, and good post EK.

Least Worst. Even Polly Toynbee is saying it, though I do not believe she understands how it works yet...

Newmania said...

Folly Toynbee didn`t stint on her own children`s education , not indeed on her Itallain retreat which she jets off to leaving big muddy carbon footprints.

Newmania said...

like a pessary up Lord Browne's bottom - it just doesn't bear thinking about.


Phillipa that is truly nasty.

Philipa said...

A perfect analogy I thought - I was trying to point out to Roger my opinion of being in the EU. Roger very sweetly ignored it. Sorry Rog, there are just some issues I don't have delicate feelings about and losing sovereignty the way we have makes me so mad. It may sound cliche but I remember discussing the world wars with relatives who fought in them. I could see the careful answers but the expression, though guarded, revealed how horrific it must have been. We won the battles but obviously lost the fight. Sold down the river with big smiles and promises, from both Tory and Labour.

Roger Thornhill said...

I was not ignoring it, Philipa, but agreeing!

"...smothered with coarse-grain dijon mustard". Ok?

Philipa said...

Ooh! That's gonna hurt.

Steven_L said...

'Without the ladder operating tolerably well the moral case for Conservatism, is merely selfish and “ Libertarian” only in a nihilistic and inhuman way . The case for redistributive taxation is commensurately strong.' (newmania)

Pledging to abloshish the tax credit would be highly risky, not everyone in middle England (who are currently enjoying house prive hyperinflation) is as partisan as you are. I reckon DC is doing a good job. If he gets in (depending on his majority) he has 5 years to make economic reforms,

Roger Thornhill said...

The working families tax credit is gruesome social engineering and an absolutely dysfunctional, partisan activity which undermines the Rule of Law (as in fairness and equality under it).

Better to raise the personal allowance to somewhere between 9-12k. If you want to help "working families" allow pooling of allowances.

Oh dear, cannot be seen has the one "handing over" money, keeping pepole on a leash too scared to vote for someone else. Oh dear, cannot interfere and meddle. Oh dear, cannot have an army of "salaried unemployed" to run it. Oh dear, cannot have your mate get a fat IT project.

Tax credits are a form of vote buying as they target particular groups. Better to not take the money in the first place...from everybody.

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