Today, on page 70 (and the back page headline) the Times celebrates a spectacular double achievement in swimming. Two British women in the same race broke the 400 metre world record. Olympic champion Rebecca Adlington came second to bronze medallist Joanna Jackson. It was a marvellous achievement which takes both of them into the category of sporting "greats". Quite rightly, the nation is proud.
Meanwhile on page 1, the Times expresses its fears of "a new educational elitism" as Cambridge University (Britain's highest-ranked in the Shanghai University world league table) announces a change in its admissions policies. The University says it will expect at least one grade A* A level score from 2010 and will raise the bar to 2 A*s "in the fullness of time."
The Times breathlessly quotes an education lobby group ("founded in 1997 by Sir Peter Lampi with the aim of promoting social mobility through education") as saying;
Sir Peter went to Corpus Christi Oxford and the London Business School. He is a philanthropist who has laudably funded projects to help working-class kids such as he and I once were to get access to the best universities. The reason he had a chance (and today's kids don't) is fairly obvious from his resume;
However, he declines, with heroic political correctness, to attribute the decline in social mobility to the wretched comprehensive schools imposed on Britain by its Marxist educational establishment. His spokesman's comments are truly bizarre. The A* grade is being introduced because grade inflation has rendered the existing A grade useless for selecting the best. Why would any university not use it? If (as the Sutton Trust fears) those with private education are more likely to get an A*, then perhaps it is time to ask - with fearless academic rigour - the bleeding obvious question "Why are Britain's state schools so crap?"
When the Times, voice of Britain's establishment, finally suggests that qualifying heats for sporting events should be abolished and that - as the facilities in private schools for sport are better - there should be social class quotas for membership of the national sports teams, we will be finished as a sporting nation. But at least we will be intellectually consistent.