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On the UK education system

Via Guido Fawkes, are these comments from UK Education Secretary Michael Gove. He is not bashing private (or as we Brits confusingly call them, public schools) but making a point, which I think need to be made, that many of the leftist-leaning people who run important media and related institutions were educated privately:

“Armando Iannucci, David Baddiel, Michael McIntyre, Jack Whitehall, Miles Jupp, Armstrong from Armstrong and Miller and Mitchell from Mitchell and Webb were all privately educated. 2010’s Mercury Music Prize was a battle between privately educated Laura Marling and privately-educated Marcus Mumford. And from Chris Martin of Coldplay to Tom Chaplin of Keane – popular music is populated by public school boys. Indeed when Keane were playing last Sunday on the Andrew Marr show everyone in that studio – the band, the presenter and the other guests – Lib Dem peer Matthew Oakeshott, Radio 3 Presenter Clemency Burton-Hill and Sarah Sands, editor of the London Evening Standard – were all privately educated.

Indeed it’s in the media that the public school stranglehold is strongest. The Chairman of the BBC and its Director-General are public school boys. And it’s not just the Evening Standard which has a privately-educated editor. My old paper The Times is edited by an old boy of St Pauls and its sister paper the Sunday Times by an old Bedfordian. The new editor of the Mail on Sunday is an old Etonian, the editor of the Financial Times is an old Alleynian and the editor of the Guardian is an Old Cranleighan. Indeed the Guardian has been edited by privately educated men for the last sixty years… But then many of our most prominent contemporary radical and activist writers are also privately educated.

George Monbiot of the Guardian was at Stowe, Seumas Milne of the Guardian was at Winchester and perhaps the most radical new voice of all Laurie Penny of the Independent – was educated here at Brighton College. Now I record these achievements not because I wish to either decry the individuals concerned or criticise the schools they attended. Far from it. It is undeniable that the individuals I have named are hugely talented and the schools they attended are premier league institutions.”

Food for thought.

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18 comments to On the UK education system

  • Alisa

    Interesting indeed. Could it be that when the State took over private education, it left alone those institutions that already were sympathetic to the progressive agenda?

  • And of course their political idol, President Obama went to Punahoe , the Eton of the Central Pacific.

  • Sam Duncan

    I doubt it, Alisa. Partly because the state never really “took over” independent education except in the sense of regulating it half to death, and partly because I went to one of these schools, and there was certainly no progressive agenda there beyond what was imposed by (what was then) the Scottish Examinations Board, and thus the same for everyone. No, I think it’s simply that independent school pupils tend to do better in later life than their state-educated peers, and that holds as good for the media as everything else. (I’m the exception that proves the rule, by the way.)

  • RRS

    What is the point?

    What appears is that there is some correlation amongst self-perpetuating groups. I would guess that those identified were put in place by persons of similar background.

  • Alisa

    Thanks, Sam.

  • Ham

    I teach in a state school. There are plenty of clever and motivated children in there, but I would be very, very surprised if any of them end up writing for the Guardian. We spend 90% of our time and energy on trying to stop the bottom decile trying to destroy everything. The bright tend to get left alone.

    I presume this is the point that’s being made.

  • Snorri Godhi

    “He is not bashing private (or as we Brits confusingly call them, public schools) but making a point, which I think need to be made, that many of the leftist-leaning people who run important media and related institutions were educated privately”

    What’s the difference?

  • John McVey

    To understand better, it would help if people would stop referring to “The State” as though it were some Hegelean entity separate from actual individuals and their beliefs about what is rightful action. Those who refuse to challenge that mentality are making the same crude error as those anti-gun twits who think that holding a gun automatically turns the holder into a mindless killer.

    JJM

  • Paul Marks

    The old man steps in….

    Actually Alisa is half right.

    There was no political plot behind the take over of many private schools – but they were taken over.

    As late as the 1930s “Grammar Schools” in England and Wales were private – various King and Queens may have suggested setting them up (at various times), but they were financed by fees and by the property they owned and by donations (scholarships and so on).

    However, under the wartime “Butler Act” (Rab Butler was a Conservative party politician) the government offered to step in (via local and central government funding) so that anyone could go to a Grammar School for free (without having to try and get a scholarship and so on).

    All a boy or girl had to do was pass the “11 plus” examination – and off you went.

    “Of course” education would remain independent – but now it would be totally free (even in Grammar Schools).

    Just as the Act of 1891 had made Primary education free and made School Boards Compulsory (Kettering did not have a School Board till the Act of 1891).

    How many people went to Grammar Schools? It varried over the country (remember the local government involvement). In Wales about half of children went to the Grammar Schools – which makes it hard to argue that they (under the Butler Act) were subsidized schools for the rich (unless one wants to argue that about half of the population in Wales were “rich”).

    Well the totally free and independent education lasted about 20 years – then the Labour government of the 1960s started to demand that Grammar Schools turn into “Comprehensives” i.e. destroy everything they were about (get rid of academic selection and their whole spirit and practice).

    I am product of the Comprehensive system – which is why I do not understand grammar or spelling. Indeed I would not even be able to read had it not been for an old lady in a village a mile or so from where I now sit.

    The government failed in Primary education (which should teach people to read and so on – long before they are 11) which it had taken over by a series of Acts (1870, 1891 and so on,by setting up “free” schools to undercut and bankrupt, or make seek state support, existing private schools for the poor, pretending that such schools did not exist – see H.G. West “Education and the State”) and then (in the 1960s) introducing progressive primary education (i.e. playing stupid games all day long – rather than teaching the children basic skills like how to read and write).

    And now it worked to destroy post 11 years of age education. All would be equal – equally ignorant (unless they were educated outside of school – that would tend to benefit the wealthy, accept errr…..)

    Was it deliberate?

    I do not know.

    But the worship of statism (that goes back to the worship of Frederick the Great of Prussia – the first statist to be wildly popular among the British elite) that had won out by the end of the 19th century (at least in elite opinion) had (by the 1960s) been added to by a worship of egalitarianism.

    There was resitance – for example the County of Kent (the same County that had Anglo Saxon land law to the 1920s – Norman Conquest? What Norman Conquest? news takes a long time to get to Pop Larkin and co in Kent) has a lot of Grammar Schools to this day.

    But for most places (such as Northamptonshire) it was the end of line for Grammar Schools.

    By the way Grammar Schools could (I believe) opt out and go back to being independent (independent FINANCIALLY) -but few did so, a couple of decades of state funding had corrupted them (supporters of voucher plans and the like – please note).

    What about the elite private schools? The “public schools”?

    How did the state get at them?

    To some extent it did not have to.

    After all these were the schools for the future “leaders of the Empire” – they did not have to be told to be statist.

    A lot of “how Caesar conquered Gaul”, rather less on how evil it was to murder over a million people there. As well as how evil it was to undermine the Roman Republic (by buying votes with money he stole from the above mentioned Gaul) and set himself up as Dictator.

    Of course Public Schools varried – but I suspect a boy who argued (for example) that the policies of Frederick the Great (both those of war, without any real justification, and his domestic policies – setting up a state education system and so on)were both wrong and evil, would have recieved a very favourable response in most Public Schools.

    Anyway “state examinations” were there as a back stop.

    By gaining control of “examinations” the state (or rather the administrative machine part of the state) could control (indirectly) control what was taught. Oxford and Cambridge retained their own entrance examinations (only recently abolished – and they may be brought back, as government “A” levels carry little meaning now), but these were not exactly antiestablishment places.

    This is all depressing me.

    I will stop now.

  • Paul Marks

    The old man steps in….

    Actually Alisa is half right.

    There was no political plot behind the take over of many private schools – but they were taken over.

    As late as the 1930s “Grammar Schools” in England and Wales were private – various King and Queens may have suggested setting them up (at various times), but they were financed by fees and by the property they owned and by donations (scholarships and so on).

    However, under the wartime “Butler Act” (Rab Butler was a Conservative party politician) the government offered to step in (via local and central government funding) so that anyone could go to a Grammar School for free (without having to try and get a scholarship and so on).

    All a boy or girl had to do was pass the “11 plus” examination – and off you went.

    “Of course” education would remain independent – but now it would be totally free (even in Grammar Schools).

    Just as the Act of 1891 had made Primary education free and made School Boards Compulsory (Kettering did not have a School Board till the Act of 1891).

    How many people went to Grammar Schools? It varried over the country (remember the local government involvement). In Wales about half of children went to the Grammar Schools – which makes it hard to argue that they (under the Butler Act) were subsidized schools for the rich (unless one wants to argue that about half of the population in Wales were “rich”).

    Well the totally free and independent education lasted about 20 years – then the Labour government of the 1960s started to demand that Grammar Schools turn into “Comprehensives” i.e. destroy everything they were about (get rid of academic selection and their whole spirit and practice).

    I am product of the Comprehensive system – which is why I do not understand grammar or spelling. Indeed I would not even be able to read had it not been for an old lady in a village a mile or so from where I now sit.

    The government failed in Primary education (which should teach people to read and so on – long before they are 11) which it had taken over by a series of Acts (1870, 1891 and so on,by setting up “free” schools to undercut and bankrupt, or make seek state support, existing private schools for the poor, pretending that such schools did not exist – see H.G. West “Education and the State”) and then (in the 1960s) introducing progressive primary education (i.e. playing stupid games all day long – rather than teaching the children basic skills like how to read and write).

    And now it worked to destroy post 11 years of age education. All would be equal – equally ignorant (unless they were educated outside of school – that would tend to benefit the wealthy, accept errr…..)

    Was it deliberate?

    I do not know.

    But the worship of statism (that goes back to the worship of Frederick the Great of Prussia – the first statist to be wildly popular among the British elite) that had won out by the end of the 19th century (at least in elite opinion) had (by the 1960s) been added to by a worship of egalitarianism.

    There was resitance – for example the County of Kent (the same County that had Anglo Saxon land law to the 1920s – Norman Conquest? What Norman Conquest? news takes a long time to get to Pop Larkin and co in Kent) has a lot of Grammar Schools to this day.

    But for most places (such as Northamptonshire) it was the end of line for Grammar Schools.

    By the way Grammar Schools could (I believe) opt out and go back to being independent (independent FINANCIALLY) -but few did so, a couple of decades of state funding had corrupted them (supporters of voucher plans and the like – please note).

    What about the elite private schools? The “public schools”?

    How did the state get at them?

    To some extent it did not have to.

    After all these were the schools for the future “leaders of the Empire” – they did not have to be told to be statist.

    A lot of “how Caesar conquered Gaul”, rather less on how evil it was to murder over a million people there. As well as how evil it was to undermine the Roman Republic (by buying votes with money he stole from the above mentioned Gaul) and set himself up as Dictator.

    Of course Public Schools varried – but I suspect a boy who argued (for example) that the policies of Frederick the Great (both those of war, without any real justification, and his domestic policies – setting up a state education system and so on)were both wrong and evil, would have recieved a very favourable response in most Public Schools.

    Anyway “state examinations” were there as a back stop.

    By gaining control of “examinations” the state (or rather the administrative machine part of the state) could control (indirectly) control what was taught. Oxford and Cambridge retained their own entrance examinations (only recently abolished – and they may be brought back, as government “A” levels carry little meaning now), but these were not exactly antiestablishment places.

    This is all depressing me.

    I will stop now.

  • lapogus

    I think there is an important issue here wrt to the state v public school debate, which iirc was picked by the Glasgow Herald journalist but few others.

    First, there are some good state schools, and some are even comprehensives. I went to a very good state school in rural Scotland – which had very high academic results, as good as any comparative private school. But there is no doubt that in the predominately urban context, there are many very poor state schools, and most of these tend to be comprehensives. Needless to say there are very bright pupils in state schools, and there are very bright pupils in private schools, and also some not very bright kids in both also.

    The key point which most forget when comparing the academic performance of state and private schools (and grammar and comprehensives) in terms of league tables at least, is that it is not the cleverness of the typical pupils which is the key factor in determining the league position of the school; or how good the system or teaching is (though that obviously has a bearing), the key factor it that due to mainly financial selection, there are far few not so bright kids at private schools. In other words, in terms of league results at least, it is who doesn’t go there which matters more than who does.

  • JohnB

    The point being that they (the elitists who worship state education but send their children to private) are voting with their feet – one of the more true forms of voting – keep an eye on which way refugees flow to identify free or totalitarian systems.

    So they are blatantly lying when they advocate the state but personally go private.

    It is a method of serf creation.
    Hello fellow serf.

    Oh sorry, I forgot, Samizdatans mainly went private?

    Good on you! (or your parents) 🙂

  • Mendicant

    Education needs to be completely re-thought. The problem with UK education is it is anti-creativity and anti-self-confidence.

    The emphasis is on conformity and doing what your told. Ambition and creativity is sneered at, and those who lack self-confidence are abandoned.

    This is why bullying is rife in all British schools, regardless of whether they are state or private or whatever. Bullying and isolating those who are different or creative is alas as British as tea.

    The most important thing is self-confidence, academic ability counts for nothing if a child has no self-confidence. Schools should focus on fostering self-confidence

    The whole educational system has been a massive, contemptible failure for hundreds of years. Gove, a man with no imagination and no creativity, merely advocates we go back to the old failures.
    I suggest we ditch all the failed policies and reboot the education system entirely.

    Have you noticed how Gove has said nothing about overbearing parents and the Emasculating Forever Mums who create NEETS?

    Make confidence the priority, and leave no one behind.

  • RAB

    Grammar School kiddie here, last supposedly upwardly mobile generation educated by the State.

    I passed the 11+ in 1962 and was handed the keys to a treasurehouse of knowledge that my teachers actively encouraged me to rummage through. “You are smart boy, you can and WILL learn and master anything you like and which we can put in your way”.

    Well Labour destroyed most of the Grammar schools for idiological reasons by about 1970, and we have been in a downward spiral of Education ever since.

    I’ve said it before, you don’t select the England football team from the first 25 blokes to turn up at the stadium, you do it on merit and ability. So not selecting pupils for a school by their intelligence is utterly insane.

    So no wonder that Public Schoolboys like iDave and Blair are ruling the world, it’s the last place you can get a half way decent education. You only ever get what you are prepared to pay for.

    Funnily enough, back in the sixties, when Grammar schools were going strong, it was assumed that Private school pupils were a bit thick (outside the biggies like Eton, Harrow, Winchester etc). Why? well because the parents of said pupils knew they would never pass the 11+ and so to avoid the stigma of their little darlings going to a Secondary Modern, they sent them private instead.

    The great thing that the 11+ did, was to raise the bar of literacy, so that almost all 11 year olds could at least read write and count by that age. They may not have been smart enough to pass the exam, but at least they could read the papers. There would have been all hell to pay if they couldn’t.

    Now, no 11+ so no pressure on Junior and Infant teachers to actually teach, hence a quarter of 11 year olds are illiterate.

  • hebe

    I agree with RAB. It is the ethos of state schools that is at fault. Public/private schools expect the best and more from every pupil and tell pupils that this is what they can achieve. State schools worry that some kids can’t achieve much and don’t therefore want any pupils to excel. Bright kids in state schools are ignored so that the teachers can concentrate on making the less able kids feel they have achieved something. I’m not rubbishing the kids here – often the kids who are thought to be less able just need more stimulation, more challenge so that they are stimulated to achieve, not less challenge so that they are bored to sobs. Tell kids often enough that of course they can achieve something and they will believe you!

  • PeterT

    I think it is just the usual problem at work here.

    People who wish to be left alone and for others to be left alone tend to make less noise than those who wish to ban, oppress, and foist their opinions on others.

    Those with a public school education are more likely to be in the higher echelons of society, regardless of political views.

    But those with more liberal inclinations might be more likely to be in business, rather than journalism.

    Journalism is not a hard edge profession, and may be attractive for those with a relativistic view of the world.

    Peter

  • David Gillies

    I would like to see a comparable breakdown of educational background of people in the upper echelons of business, science and engineering. True ability will out in such professions to a much greater extent than in politics and media, but nonetheless I would expect to see the products of private education represented to a degree greater than their presence in the overall population would predict. The advantage that an education from one of the top-ranked public schools bestows on its recipient is large and lifelong.

    I think it is fair to say that the benefits a private education provides make the political/media arena uniquely defenceless against colonisation. These benefits are primarily non-academic. There’s the network effect, of course, although this is over-stated. The confidence, social skills and attitudes are what count in areas such as politics where a little intelligence and learning goes a long way.

    By the way, I utterly disclaim all responsibility for Rusbridger. He was in 1 North and they were a bunch of nogoodniks.

  • Paul Marks

    Medicant is (as always) a perfect example of everything that is wrong – indeed I stronly suspect that he is not a real person at all, but actually is a fictional character (perhaps escaped from the fantasy world of the late “Peter Simple” – a character like the “go ahead Bishop of Stretchford” and so on).

    Knowledge and skills do not matter – what matters (Medicant tells us) is “confidence” (such as the confidence that leads him to write on subjects he knows nothing about – which is every subject he writes upon), i.e. our old friend “SELF ESTEEM”.

    I.E. the main doctrine of modern American and British education (although it actually goes back to Rousseau) which shows contempt for knowedge (for truth and abilit) and concentrates on feeings – on making people feel good about themselves and have the correct feelings about other things as well.

    So we get a generation of High School graduates (and university graduates) who know bugger all about about anything – but believe themselves to be wonderful people.

    Off they go lecturing us about how the “conservative” Herbert Hoover “cut taxes for the rich” (actually he vastly increased them) and on and on, as they skip along to vote for Comrade Barack Obama.

    Or go smashing, robbing and rapeing with the “Occupy” movement – because the acts of smashing windows, stealing stuff, and rapeing people give them nice “feelings”.

    Perhaps they will discover that killing and eating human beings gives them even nicer feelings.

    After all “eat the rich” is the logical conclusion of “social justice” – and, never forget, the “rich” are defined as those-who-do-not-agree-with-us (regardless of income or wealth).

    Rousseau would be delighted.