Sarah Palin is not my type, politically. She's no libertarian. She's a real conservative, with the sort of small town values I grew up with and could not wait to escape from. I should not like her, but something in me rebels at the way she's regarded and makes me feel protective (though God knows, she needs no protection from me). The linked post from the ever-interesting American Thinker blog made me realise why.
Refined is something Sarah Palin has never been.Tenure is something she has never had. She worked through high school, waitressing, cleaning offices, inventorying groceries.Then she got scholarships and worked to pay for college. Then she joined boy-friend Todd in Bristol Bay, Alaska, salmon fishing, working slimy fish processing jobs at the canneries. Off season Todd would work as a baggage handler and she would work at customer service and part-time reporting...
No wonder the liberals hate her. The whole point of public education, of business regulation, or rampant credentialism is to smother people like her before they have a chance to get anywhere.
This reminded me of my youthful educational experiences in the Labour North. Grammar schools had just been abolished (I took the 11 plus, but never learned my results). Radical change was everywhere. My "high school" had been the local secondary modern. The sign at the gate had been changed, but the teachers and facilities were the same. The village idiots made a constant uproar in the mixed ability classes and took all of the teacher's time. The hippyish art teacher gave us A to E grades in rotation, in protest at the "elitism" of grading.
I wanted out of the mediocrity of small town life, but in such a socialist environment any desire to achieve was suspect. The main question my education seemed to ask of me was "Who the hell do you think you are?" There were so many traps and pitfalls at every stage that my mental image of it is like the opening sequence of the first Indiana Jones movie. The great ball rolling to crush me as I ran desperately for the exit was the Labour Party. I slid under the door before it closed, reaching back in to grab my metaphorical hat. No-one, as far as I know, has escaped from that tomb of ambition since.
It may seem an overstatement to say that the whole point of public education is to smother people like Sarah Palin and me before we have a chance to get anywhere, but it certainly feels that way. The welcome from the Guardian-reading professionals among whom I have worked ever since has been as warm as that for Sarah from America's "liberal" snobs. You would think they would be delighted to meet a working-class boy or girl made good. Far from it. They like the working-classes in principle of course, but mostly they like us (as their ancestors liked us, but with less hypocrisy) "in our place." It's hard to believe it coincidence that all the systems they have devised - social housing, social security, comprehensive education - work so well to keep us there. They have put the working classes in a kind of social zoo, the better to preserve us and look after us.
How ungrateful of us to want to bite their condescending heads off.
Ladies and gentlemen, Sarah and I aspire to a different place. Not just for ourselves, but for the people we grew up with. If you don't like us, there's a fish-processing plant in Alaska, or a miserable rat-hole of a comprehensive up North, where you can get away from us and live the life you profess to respect.
Go for it. See if Sarah or I care.