Thursday, 30 July 2009

The Great Leap - Mandelson's fantasy

To finish off a few recent posts on social mobility, let's look at the model of mobility that Milburn and Mandelson have quoted. They want to see access to the 'top professions' widened to poor kids from sink council estates. In their minds they see a caring and competent Comprehensive that nurses talent into an ancient Oxford college, where it achieves a double starred first before a meteoric rise through pupillage at London's most prestigious chambers to taking silk. What nonsense. What risible rubbish. What disconnected, deluded fantasy.

Yes, I'm sure one or two may make this journey once every few years, but to base public policy on it is about as realistic and useful as creating 100,000 training places for astronauts.

The reality of social mobility is an iterative process that commonly takes two generations. The biggest boost most unemployed parents can give their children is to get an indoors job with no heavy lifting. The children of a C2 parent have double the life chances of the children of a D/E parent. And if those parents are diligent and capable and advance to a position that can be classed as C1, there is a decent chance that their children will achieve social class B. This is the reality. The leap from a D/E household to an A achieving child is rare as hen's teeth.

Once we recognise that all long-term welfare parents are child abusers (in terms of trashing their children's life chances), once TV peak programmes have Kim and Aggie throwing DVDs in the skip, ripping satellite dishes from walls and filling shelves with books, then I will have confidence that that first, most important step has been recognised. Forget the Oxford entrance exam; a Harry Potter omnibus for every Welfare home is a more realistic and more effective target.


Anonymous said...

Agreed. It just shows how far these idiots have become diconnected from the society that they purport to govern. None of these ivory tower politerati would know the difference between a sink estate and the Duke of Westminster's estate! The fact that we have sink estates that have grown much worse and much more removed from society is largely down to them anyway. Chasing celeb culture and "telly is real life" and dumbing down are part of this so-called socialist brainwashing. Although I don't belive that any real grass-roots socialists (like Frank Field for example) would associate themselves with this cabal.

Coney Island

Anonymous said...

I was born to a single mother in an extremely deprived part of the UK. I went to a crappy secondary school that was as bad as any in the country - indifferent teachers, ideologically motivated lessons, violent and disruptive pupils, a culture of bullying.

I did brilliantly on my exams, largely by ignoring my teachers and their "advice" and by reading independently instead, and managed to get into a fairly exclusive medieval university. I should note that, when my application became known, "caring" teachers explained to me that scum like me weren't meant for the ivory towers. They explained that I should do some kind of accountancy or business-related degree at a polytechnic, assuming I didn't want to take a vocational course and become a plumber or electrician.

I ignored them, went to university, received a First and then proceeded to postgraduate study at Oxford for which my DPhil was awarded a couple of years ago. One year after I began as an undergraduate, the government introduced tuition fees which would, effectively, have prevented me from receiving a higher education. My social mobility - and, as a lecturer in the Russell Group, I'm respectably paid - would not have been possible had I been born a year later. Right now, I'm a lecturer and published researcher; had I been born twelve months later, I would now, at best, be a graduate of an ex-polytechnic scrabbling around for a McJob which probably doesn't exist.

This is social mobility under Labour. Good but poor students with a contribution to make are priced out of education. State-funded schools are glorified centres meant to baby-sit the criminals of the future. Bonds of dependence have been placed upon the poorest in society and the government is doing its best to ensure that those bonds cannot be broken.

It pains me very much to know that none of the students I teach now will get the chance to replicate the journey I made - that, in effect, I will never teach a student from my background. I follow a tradition that includes David Davis and Michael Howard, a tradition of poor but intelligent and ambitious people who receive a fair hearing from society and opportunities that were based on raw ability and not on background or parental wealth. How tragic that it should be Labour, the party that parades as the friend of the poor and the champion of equality, that should have ended social mobility and entrenched privilege.

Anonymous said...

Has the saying "from rags to rags in three generations" lost its meaning these days?

hatfield girl said...

When I was making 11.38's journey we were a company, a number large enough to make a difference and offer a real goal for those coming after us. We were, too, mostly the children of families that had some resources of kinship and of skills.

What has not been considered much is the loss to our class by this exodus of their children into the worlds of management, academia, institutional and administrative structures. It is painful now to remember that our parents' generation took the Depression, war, the economic deprivation of rationing and rebuilding their ruined country, set up the ladders to scale privilege and access by class, only to be bewildered by their abandonment, coping without recognition of what they achieved, and seeing their efforts not rewarded but their being regarded as just another category of dependency.