THE LAST DITCH An Englishman returned after twenty years abroad blogs about liberty in Britain

Posts categorized "Education" Feed

Labour; the elite of hypocrisy

Top professions must be less elitist, warn ministers | Society | The Observer.

Once again the oaf Milburn is lecturing the professions on elitism. Once again, I tell him there were more state educated lawyers in firms like mine when I first entered the legal profession than now, 26 years later. Once again, I tell him that it's Labour's fault. Labour introduced and has consistently championed non-selective education. Labour, for its own ideological reasons, destroyed the bottom rungs of the best educational ladder of social mobility this country ever knew. Labour corrupted the once-glorious profession of teaching into a dispirited, unionised rabble of second-class social workers, wasting their precious time on political indoctrination and bureaucracy.

Don't you dare tell us to lower our standards to accommodate yours. Don't you dare ask academic institutions to make allowance for the "contextual information" that you have trashed the educational opportunities of the majority of our young people. We have businesses to run and clients to satisfy. We do not exist to cover up your failings. Instead, why don't you act yourself on the "contextual information" that your apparatchiks in the Colleges of Education are training teachers to believe that achievement = elitism and that ambition is a social disease?

Fix state education. Fix it now or get out of the schools business entirely and let someone else do it. And until you have fixed it, shut up!


Sarah Palin and me

American Thinker: Palin and the future.

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.


Lies, damn lies and government statistics

Children educated at home at severe disadvantage, study shows | Education | guardian.co.uk.

These conclusions are based on a sample of just over 1,000 children. Who selected that sample and on what criteria? Have children who are simply absent from school (because their neglectful parents can't be bothered to send them) been included alongside children whose committed parents have made a positive - and challenging - choice to educate them themselves?

For now, the authorities say they will always license parents unless there are clear negative factors. How long does anyone think it will take before the ideologues of the public sector start refusing licences to those who simply do not conform? If they apply the same criteria they use for adoption, for example, how many home educators will qualify?

Just as nationalising health services has led to the state thinking it owns our bodies, so nationalising education has led to it thinking it owns our children. This is brewing into a disaster.


Will the Conservative Government tell the truth about British Education?

British students' grasp of English worse than foreign counterparts, reveals study - Telegraph.

Margaret Thatcher's greatest failure was in education policy. As it turned out, breaking the coercive power of trade unions and setting the economy free was a waste of time, if not accompanied by a corresponding purge of educationalists. Every student since her time has been taught that she was wrong. The British educational establishment lives in a Marxist time bubble, all unaware that Charlie-boy's ideas were tried and failed across the globe.

In consequence, British education is a machine for destroying human potential and the people who suffer most are the bright children of ordinary families. Labour consistently claims educational progress, but its data are as reliable as Soviet tractor production statistics. The five year plan is always filled and any perceptions that quality is declining are "sabotage by hostile elements." Yet, as the linked story shows, the truth is out there.

The analysis of final year work produced at Imperial College London found that UK students made almost three times as many errors in English compared to their foreign counterparts from China, Singapore and Indonesia. Bernard Lamb, Emeritus reader in genetics at Imperial and president of the Queen's English Society, found that his 18 home grown students had an average of 52.2 errors in two pieces of assessed course work and the final degree exam, while the 10 overseas students averaged only 18.8 errors. The UK students, attending one of the best universities in the world, all had excellent A-level results, or equivalents, yet all their written work had to be corrected for English.

As someone trying to learn Chinese, I know the height of the language barrier those Chinese students have crossed. If they can write better English than a native speaker with "good" A levels then, trust me, something is rotten in the state of British education. I do not hesitate to name that rottenness for you. British educationalists are more concerned about agitprop than truth. They are interested, not in opening minds, but in closing them. One of my personal tests of a new Conservative government will be this; if they start with the "tractor stats", I will know they are frauds.

France and Germany; enemies of knowledge

FT.com / Technology - France to oppose Google book scheme.

Having lived in countries with weak enforcement of intellectual property rights I am by no means of the trendy "Pirate Party" persuasion. There's a reason you can't buy CD's or download MP3s of Russia's rock bands, to give a trivial example. It's because, thanks to widespread piracy, they don't make records. They can only make money from live concerts. That's a loss to us all; one of many such. Envy of the likes of Madonna (whose oeuvre apparently represents the most valuable IP asset on the planet) should not blind us. Ensuring that creative people benefit from their efforts is good for us all.

France and Germany's governments, however, are taking this too far. Google's project to digitise the world's libraries and make their content available online will, when realised, revolutionise intellectual life. It's potentially the biggest thing since Gutenberg. In the US, creative lawyers and judges have found a way to compensate authors still in copyright for their contributions without (such is the genius of the Common Law) any government involvement. Google is looking to find a way to do the same across the world.

Google does not always live up to its motto "do no evil". It cooperates with tyrannical regimes in censoring the internet for example (arguing it's better their populations have half a loaf). On this occasion, however, it is trying to be a benefactor. Imagine the ability to search all of world literature in the same way you can search the trivial burblings of bloggers!! If that doesn't move you, you are an idiot (or a French or German politician). But I repeat myself.

Remember Chirac's hamfisted efforts to create a state-owned French rival to Google because he couldn't bear the thought of the world's main online portal being American? I have no doubt from the tone of the French pronouncements on the subject that they are motivated by the same crude, envious anti-Americanism. These fools will one day be remembered as the 21st Century equivalents of the church officials who suppressed Galileo's writings.


M'learned friend on social mobility

On the flight from Shanghai yesterday I almost cheered at the letters page of The Times, which was full of hostile responses to Milburn's odious report, as to which I blogged previously.  The best letter was from from a barrister of my own vintage, Nigel Tozzi QC. He wrote;

I was called to the Bar 29 years ago. My mother was a dinner lady; my father was a door to door collection agent for an insurance company. No one in my family had ever been to University.

I was given an opportunity to "realise aspirations", to quote Alan Milburn, as a result of receiving a grammar school education, a full local authority grant that enabled me to go to university and to study for the Bar, and scholarships from Gray's Inn that covered the cost of my training. Of these three facilitators, only the scholarships from Gray's Inn remain.

The professions cannot ensure greater social mobility on their own. We cannot re-educate those who have failed to receive a sufficiently challenging secondary education or who, in many cases, lack basic literacy and numeracy skills. We cannot fund every aspiring lawyer through university.

The root causes for the depressing statistics are government policy towards grammar schools and selective education, and the replacement of local authority grants with loans. It is unfortunate, but not altogether surprising, that a government committee chaired by Mr Milburn could not bring itself to be honest about this.

The vicious ideology of our Leftist establishment is denying opportunity to millions. Both my learned friend and I would be malcontents in unsatisfying jobs if the world had been ordered as it is now when we were young. Labour - and the Leftist establishment in education - are the greatest enemies of the educational aspirations of working people. Such people need a champion now and - if he is an Old Etonian and former member of the Bullingdon Club - so what? Step forward Mr Cameron. Give the lie to Milburn. Not for the sake of your fellow Etonians, but for all the hundreds of thousands of would-be Nigel Tozzi QCs and Tom Paines mired helplessly in the swamps of our education system.

Another Labour lie

Top professions 'operate closed shop to exclude the poor' - Times Online.

A government "report" on access to the professions has just been published. It shows that in the last 30 years law, medicine and other professions have become more socially exclusive. So I have blogged myself, from personal observation. However, The Times reports;

The report on access to the professions was commissioned by Gordon Brown and written by Alan Milburn, the former Health Secretary. He said traditional and modern professions had a “closed shop” mentality, blocking mobility and shutting their doors to children from poorer backgrounds.

Stuff and nonsense. I can't speak for the medics but I will tell you quite plainly what the "mentality" of the legal profession is. We want to provide excellent service with a view to maximum profit. Our major problem in this is the "war for talent." For most of my career, able candidates have been at a premium, as witness the absurd heights to which entry level salaries have risen. In more than 20 years of being involved in hiring lawyers, I have never heard social criteria considered. Never. Not even once. If they had, I would never have been advanced myself and I can assure you my humble background was never once a problem.

If candidates can serve our clients well and make us money in the process, we will hire them. If they can't we won't. Many senior members of my firm are state educated, but they are of course from the grammar school era. Social mobility *is* undoubtedly decreasing, but Labour has a bloody nerve to seek to blame us for that. Personally, I despair to see so few candidates who remind me of myself as a keen young man from nowhere. If I were ever to discriminate unfairly, it would be in favour of such a person.

Labour's education policy for the last 30 years is the problem, as is the fact that it is still unchallenged by the lily-livered Cameron. Our "mentality" is the very opposite of a problem. Make the state education system work, and we will hire its best and brightest without hesitation.

You Milburn, and your odious cohorts, are to blame for this wasteful, deplorable situation. You have blighted the lives of millions and left the learned professions with a limited choice of suitable people to work with. Your class war has damaged the people you purport to serve but still you want more of it, you blinkered fool.

Of course your "report" blames us, rather than you. That was what it was for. Your lies are lies, even when the word "report" is printed on their cover.


Unsentimental education

Labour to junk Tony Blair's flagship school reform | Politics | The Guardian.

What Labour seems now to be saying, with such announcements, is this;

"When deciding whether to vote for us, please forget what we did in the last 12 years. Please judge us on these policies we have stolen from the party we fear will crush us."

Democracy in action? To a point. The problem is that, whatever it says about education, Labour always harms it. Labourites believe academic achievement to be the unfair product of social and material (perhaps even genetic) advantages. And we all know how much they hate "unfairness." They hate it more than they love art, science, literature, justice or, sometimes I fear, life itself.

Except, it seems, where it's an outcome of sucking up to them.

Can pupils be expected to achieve with such people in control? Yes, thank goodness. There will always be a handful of geniuses no mediocrities can keep down. There will be the strong ones who pursue their dreams regardless. The cunning ones who masquerade as "cool" kids, but study on the sly. For a while yet there will be those lucky enough to live near the few remaining grammar schools. There will be those whose parents can pay for private schools and who are getting better value for their money than for generations; thanks to Labour. Labour may close them one day, but they will simply move to Ireland or Switzerland.

Can a modern, technological society survive with only those minorities well-educated? Doesn't it need education for the weaker masses; those who want to fit in and can't be expected to swim against the current? Can a modern democracy survive with an electorate that is economically illiterate? Voters who, literally, don't know where wealth comes from and don't care? Has Labour made itself the natural party of government; its rule only intermittently interrupted for an emergency economic clean up by "the nasty party?" Is that true, however insane Labour's policies and however incompetent its leaders, because indoctrinated voters form a permanent majority?

There was a time when the Labour movement, through working men's institutes and the like, encouraged poor people to study widely. For working people, Labour was long associated with a quest for educational opportunity. That's ancient history now. For all my life, Labour has destroyed opportunity on doctrinaire grounds. It has been the party of class war, not class sizes.  It almost seems to fear what will happen if working class kids are allowed to escape from the party's voter farms. Perhaps it has a point. Look at David Davis. Look at me. We are not what they want, are we?

Everything that is wrong with modern Britain is to do with Labour's dominance of British education. From the front line teachers through the lecturers who train them, the educational "advisors" who police them to the professors who design the courses, education in Britain is under the influence of the left. Pupils can pass through the whole system with no exposure to the ideas of classical liberalism; the ideas that are the foundation of the West. If they hear of "the West" it will be as a pejorative. What civilisation before has ever taught its schoolchildren to despise it? Many university students have to pay lip service to the left in their essays and exam answers, or be punished for their heresy.

Tinkering with funding will make no difference as Balls knows full well. It's not how schools are funded that matters, or even, to a great extent, how well they are funded.  What matters is what's taught in them and by whom. Who will change that? And how?