From the BBC:
Grammar schools are "stuffed full" of middle-class children and do not improve social mobility, the chief inspector of schools in England says.
Sir Michael Wilshaw told the Observer the selective system was not the way to make up ground on other nations. He spoke after plans to expand grammar school provision in Kent were rejected.
The main point of the education system is to educate people. If that leads to "social mobility", that is a bonus and not a feature, but we'll come to that later.
And let's use the analogy of doctors:
1. Doctors are primarily "middle class" (they are surely the definition of middle class, are they not? And they are a self-selecting bunch. Most female doctors are married to other doctors.)
2. The taxpayer (via the government and the NHS) pays for the bulk of medical education and then pays them their salaries afterwards.
3. Although everybody pays to educate middle class doctors (glossing over the fact that high earners pay far more tax than low earners, so high earners pay far more towards doctors' education), this does not, using his logic, lead to more "social mobility".
4. Therefore, justice would be served if we shut down or privatised all our state-run medical schools and also shut down the NHS.
5. Whatever the economic or political merits of this, would that:
a) Improve the standard of doctors in this country and improve the standard of medical care for the common man? Possible but unlikely.
b) Would it improve social mobility?
- The people at the bottom would be worse off because no "free" NHS any more.
- Who would end up going to those now privatised medical schools? Only people with very rich parents, so the band of doctors would become even more self-selecting and self-reinforcing, and then nepotism and cronyism in the healthcare system will get even worse (I'm not saying it doesn't exist already).
- What are the chances of anybody outside the top couple of percent becoming a doctor? Virtually zero. So that would reduce social mobility. It would be the same with state grammar schools: everybody outside the richest seven per cent would be pretty screwed.
Interestingly, David Davis starts off by talking good sense:
Tory MP and former grammar school pupil David Davis told BBC News many working-class children "got on through having access to grammar schools".
He said: "The reason grammar schools are dominated by the middle classes now is because we've shrunk the size of the sector."
And then ruins it all:
He added that "working-class kids" could not get in "because they've been elbowed out by ambitious middle class parents".
Hang about here.
It's every parent's right to do what they think is best for their kids, which does involve a lot of extra-tuition, attending church, making 'donations' to the school's PTA, sending them to a private primary school etc, and so on to get their kids into the best school (be that private or state) they can.
Does that give kids of pushy parents an advantage: yes. Is this an unfair advantage? I don't see how it is, that's like complaining that Eddie Van Halen has an unfair advantage over other guitarists because he's practised so much.
Are they deliberately "elbowing out… working-class kids"? Are they heck, these people couldn't care less whom they elbow out, by definition, every kid that gets in has elbowed somebody else out. They'd sell their grandmothers to get their child into a state grammar school.
Having made the good point that non-middle class kids would get a better shot if there were more grammar schools, Davis misses the obvious follow-up point: what if all kids had to sit the entrance exam, like the good old-fashioned 11-plus.
Those kids who aren't interested are free to flunk the exam if they wish, but that is surely a fairer and better system than one in which only a few parents (the pushiest ones) even bother entering their kids for the entrance exam.
Monday, 16 December 2013
From the BBC: