Entrenching privilege

Never mind that the fast tracking of university access for the wealthy has been vetoed, the significant thing is that this was even suggested in the first place. It is a big clue as to the mindset of those who currently govern us – a party whose raison d’être is to protect the interests of the super-rich.

I have often had to explain why I am a socialist, and even what socialism means nowadays. The short explanation refers to fairness and equality, although this language is also used by our opponents. However, beyond rhetoric it is delivery and intention that matters.

This does not mean I am anti-money (although I would not describe myself as intensely relaxed about the filthy rich). I am happy with a meritocracy, a society where those who work hard are rewarded. My deviation from the right is that I would not see those less fortunate flounder without the helping hand of a caring welfare state. Yes, I would help the lazy, but I do stress that I am unhappy with being on benefits as a lifestyle choice. The indigent should not be rewarded, but neither should they starve. This government, this Tory government, is attacking the benefits system, using the deficit as an excuse; a banking crisis to be fixed by the vulnerable and the unlucky.

However, I am particularly worked up over education and where this government is going on this issue. A fair, egalitarian society that truly rewards those who work hard must also be a society of equality of opportunity. Nowhere is this better achieved than in the education system. Or it should be.

Access for all to a good quality education, all the way through to adulthood and further education is the only way we can achieve true fairness for all. One’s education maps out life-choices, enables choice, and must be a thing chosen. Education should not be limited by money.

Money is increasingly becoming a driver for the type and quality of education one gets. It was ever so, except that Labour Governments made great strides in eradicating the wealth factor.

The Educational Maintenance Allowance which encouraged many poor people to study for their A levels, students fees at an affordable level, academies introduced to save failing schools, re-building and refurbishing every school (which Labour were on target to achieve until BSF funding was withdrawn last year), the introduction of comprehensive education – all significant factors in raising standards and seeing more young people than ever in colleges and universities.

Tuition fees that are trebled are going to discourage those from low and middle-income backgrounds. EMA, whilst imperfect, did make a real difference to some households. Fixing leaky roofs and installing computers etc did make every school a better place.

Whilst plans for the rich to side-track university entrance criteria via their largesse has been scuppered, that this can be floated at a time when ordinary working families will be questioning whether their sons and daughters should go at all is truly sickening.

3 Responses to Entrenching privilege

  1. David says:

    Whilst plans for the rich to side-track university entrance criteria via their largesse has been scuppered, that this can be floated at a time when ordinary working families will be questioning whether their sons and daughters should go at all is truly sickening.

    I don’t think they have been scuppered; David Willetts still wants such off-quota entry for people sponsored by companies or charities.

    “Family Trusts” count as charities; “Family Companies” quite clearly are companies. So if you control one of them you can get them to sponsor your “nice but dim” child.

    I also don’t see that genuine charities paying “inflated fees” is proper use of charitable funds.

  2. Paul says:

    I agree with the general thrust of the post and I would like to develop the point about equality.

    The question I would ask is ‘equality of what’? Two ideas of equality stand out in relation to your post – equality of opportunity (where everyone, at birth, has the same chance of success) and equality of outcome (where everyone has the same material wealth). When you write ‘I am happy with a meritocracy, a society where those who work hard are rewarded’ and ‘A fair, egalitarian society that truly rewards those who work hard must also be a society of equality of opportunity’ it becomes clear that you support equality of opportunity. Does this mean that you do not support equality of outcome? Or do you reconcile the two?

    My own view is that the two are inseparable as someone’s opportunities are closely bound up with their material wealth and the wealth of their parents. Giving every child the same level of education maintains the gap that exists at home before they reach school and does nothing to eradicate the advantages that wealthier children have during their school years. So in order to achieve equality of opportunity action must be taken to improve the circumstances of the poorest by reducing the gap between rich and poor.

    I am not advocating a command economy, a bigger cooperative movement stands out in my mind as the best way to reduce the gap. My point here is that equality of opportunity and equality of outcome must be considered together as the opportunities of poor children will improve when the economic circumstances of their parents improve.

  3. Equality of opportunity is what I am after, and this does lead to a more equal society in terms of outcomes.

    I think the rich will always want to pay for their education, health services, protection, etc. And if that is what they want to spend their money on, fine. My desire is that whilst I cannot prevent their elitist aspirations, I can do something to make them irrelevant. If my local comprehensive can deliver an education every bit as good as its fee-charging counterpart then I am content.

    So, I would go for equalisation – the narrowing of the gap between the rich and the poor, but I would shy of talk about equality of outcomes. It seems that in some ways this is a denial of choice – not everyone wants to own a home, fast car, yacht, etc.

    Whilst I am a stout defender of the welfare state, the labour movement has never been a promoter of indolence. Thus, those who work hard will do better. Those who choose not to work so hard choose its consequences.

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