Sunday, July 19, 2009

Private schools and the pursuit of privilege

Excellent piece in today's Observer on the hidden benefits of a private-school education.

In fairness it is not unreasonable that any parent should want their child to do as well at school and in life as they have done themselves, often they want them to do better. In a free society if some parents choose to secure advantage and privilege by sending their children to elite schools there is little the state can do about it. The disappointing reality is that so many parents (often left-leaning, socially liberal parents) choose to become part of the problem, rather than seeking to be part of the solution. British public schools have always been a production line for the class system. They employ some of the best-qualified teachers, with as many as two-thirds educated in the top 20 British universities. They can - and do - raise their fees steadily, they select their pupils; have a growing endowment income from their benefactors and some of the most impressive sporting and extra-curricular activities. What's more they now recruit from a middle-class obsessed by perceived educational and social advantage.

The really telling – and somewhat sad - truth about the fact that so many middle-class parents decide not to stay in the state sector is that it reinforces the view that those who do have influence, those who really do have a "voice" in our society have such a high stake in the current order they will seek to mobilise and organise in order protect it. What we all need to reflect on is the fact that when parents abandon the state sector in favour of the private, it is always conservative and not progressive politics that triumphs.

No comments: