The pursuit of excellence

The British public debate is schizophrenic when it comes to excellence, and its ally, selection. Most socialists want the most stringent tests and selection to ensure the leading football and athletics teams in the country only contain the best sports people. They encourage vigorous selection, promotion on merit, tough training regimes, access to elite facilities, and differential treatment for the successful. No-one argues that the rest of us should be able to use the England training ground for our leisure sports, or be eligible to play for our national team based on a sense of justice and equality. We want the best and try to create and nurture the best.

When it comes to academic excellence many take a different view. If the many cannot go to the elite institutions,they demand changes by the elite institutions to accommodate more representatives of the many. If the standards of the elite top performers are too high, they criticise them for being stuck up and demand a different approach.

Creating a cadre of top scientists, lawyers, medics or other academically based professions requires the same approach to nurture, training and excellence as creating an elite sporting team. You want people who are motivated to be the best, and who know they are competing globally with the best in the world. You need elite libraries, laboratories and other facilities. You need the best teachers, just as the soccer stars need the best trainers.

Just as the future Wayne Rooney needs to practise his place kicks when his mates want the night off, so the future Nobel prize winner or leading lawyer needs to read another book and attend another seminar to reach top form. There is a price to success, and a prize for success. That is why some attempt it and others do not. If we want a more socially mobile country we have to acept the pursuit of excellence in the academic world as well as in the sporting world.

The British are more divided over business excellence. Some entrepreneurs capture the public imagination, and are forgiven for making themselves very rich at the same time as serving the public well. Others are pilloried for the trappings of their success. There is not the same uniform enthusiasm for the self made business person that you encounter in the USA. The successful business builder needs to be a careful politician as well, to avoid public disopprobrium of his success.

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44 Comments

  1. Javelin
    Posted April 7, 2011 at 8:01 am | Permalink

    Marx and Vygotsky (Marxist educational psychologist) have very little to say about excellence and entrepeneurship. Instead their focus is on how the individual owes a debt to society for their personal development – and hence should be taxed. They have no theory on how society can be lead or enhanced by an individuals leadership and creativity. Every theory has it’s limits and socialists need to be asked directly where the theory of the entrepreneur and individual success is in their theories. When socialists try to engineer a society they need to have more than a theory of revolution and flat social structures.

  2. Robert K
    Posted April 7, 2011 at 8:07 am | Permalink

    This sums up well the futility and perversity of socialism. As a grammar school boy growing up in the 1970s I had direct experience of this. We were proud of our school, whose academic achievements were on par with the top end of the independent sector. I remember thinking “why would I want to go to public school when I can be at my grammar school instead”? Then the local authority rushed through the change to the comprehensive system and we were merged with the Secondary Modern over the road. All the best grammar school teachers left within 18 months and discipline and academic standards began to slip. Excellence cannot be achieved unless it is pursued and any pursuit will mean some people doing better than others. The involvement of the state in the pursuit of equality is a menace to excellence. It is also a menace to individual liberty. In fact it is a menace full stop.

  3. lifelogic
    Posted April 7, 2011 at 8:10 am | Permalink

    The socialist politics of “all will be equal” and general envy of the more successful. We expect this of Labour but why is the coalition taking this absurd line too?

    You say “The successful business builder needs to be a careful politician as well, to avoid public disopprobrium of his success.”

    In other words one should not tell the truth about, for example, the damage done by absurd employment and equality laws, over high taxes and the huge parasitic state sector, generally poor quality of schools and graduates, poorly managed infrastructure and state sector and to pretend to be convinced of the great green caring religion even when it is clearly mad or every level. Also to pretend that 92 year old’s are really very good workers in general.

    • lifelogic
      Posted April 7, 2011 at 12:10 pm | Permalink

      On costing the earth radio 4 last night I hear Greg Barker trying to defend his cutting of the feed in tariffs for solar scheme over 50KW while maintaining it for the even less efficient and pointless domestic schemes.

      Clearly therefore the scheme has nothing to do with energy production and everything to do with spending public money on green house “bling” so as to give the government a fake green veneer at taxpayers expense. Like Boris bikes but even worse.

      Has he any other explanation – certainly he did not seem to have and I cannot think of any?

    • lifelogic
      Posted April 7, 2011 at 1:24 pm | Permalink

      Off topic on banking. Three years ago one of the government owned banks lend circa £1,400,000 against a rented property to someone I know. At renewal due to new restrictions they want only to lend about £700,000. The property is currently valued about £2M so the owner has to find the difference or sell it. Sucking £700,000 out of his other businesses for no good reason. The borrower is a very good credit risk probably rather better than the bank.

      If Cameron wants to encourage recovery he need to sort out the banks the state owns and controls. Can he not even do that please or is the EU pulling all the strings.

    • Bazman
      Posted April 7, 2011 at 7:40 pm | Permalink

      ‘In other words one should not tell the truth about, for example, the damage done by absurd employment and equality laws, over high taxes and the huge parasitic state sector, ‘
      Again I put it to you Lifelogic. Specifically which employment and equality laws do you want to see abolished and what part of the huge public sector do you wish to see disbanded?
      Maybe the stooping of the tariffs to large producers is to keep the little guy onside instead of subsiding large companies who will disappear as soon as the subsidy has ran out. Household equipment will be their for many years. I take it you have no problem with subsidising power generation?

      • lifelogic
        Posted April 7, 2011 at 9:20 pm | Permalink

        Why on earth should electricity companies be forced to buy back electricity at about 4 times its true value. Just because it comes from some silly roof bling.

        Also who will stop people cheating with a extension lead and selling cheap electricity back to them?

        It is mad.

        All the green nonsense and empl0yment legislation should go for a start.

      • lifelogic
        Posted April 10, 2011 at 2:40 pm | Permalink

        You ask “Specifically which employment and equality laws do you want to see abolished” pretty much all of it. Employers just one someone who can do the job even if it is a robot if they discriminate some they harm them selves and some one else will take on the victim to their advantage.

        “What part of the huge public sector do you wish to see disbanded?”

        Nearly all of it save for defence, roads and a decent but reasonably priced legal system.

  4. acorn
    Posted April 7, 2011 at 8:20 am | Permalink

    You may have seen an episode of Waterloo Road on TV. It depicts a dysfunctional state secondary school. It lacks the reality in as much as the script leaves out the four letter words that the kids would use at the teachers. It also leaves out the sexual activities in the classroom and the toilets which are the currency of various debt and forfeit payments. (An actual example witnessed by a teacher, would not get passed moderation).

    I hear that teachers are striking over a lack of discipline in a school up north. This is one occasion when I am tempted to support a public sector trade union.

  5. Paul H
    Posted April 7, 2011 at 8:39 am | Permalink

    An excellent observation of the dichotomous, even hypocritical, attitude towards different types of success. However I suspect far too few politicians actually have principled opinions on sport, academic and professional excellence, rather than simply being interested in courting popularity and saying the politically advantageous “thing”. Success in sport manufactures a national feel-good factor which (usually without reason) reflects well on the government of the day, and backing investment in sport earns a politician brownie-points – even if, as in the case of 2012, it means squandering billions of other people’s money. On the other hand the dominant public reaction to success at Oxford or Cambridge seems to be envy, so empathising with that viewpoint gets more people on side.
    Incidentally it is the same kind of dishonest opportunism that directs most criticism of (for example) the NHS at managers whilst holding up “front line staff” as untouchable paragons of virtue and an unblemished force for good. Everyone knows that many administrators do a very good job of trying to make the system work well for the benefit of patients whilst nursing has just as much incompetence and malfeasance as any other profession, but few seem to dare say it.
    Incidentally, not all entrepreneurs who make themselves very rich do so by “serving the public well”. But I suspect you know that already.

  6. Brian Tomkinson
    Posted April 7, 2011 at 8:54 am | Permalink

    I presume that you put ‘two brains’ Willets into the “socialist” category, as what you describe so clearly seems to encompass his wrong-headed approach. Such a pity that when we voted Conservative we didn’t realise that we were actually voting for their particular version of socialism.

  7. Albert Non
    Posted April 7, 2011 at 9:00 am | Permalink

    It is going too far to write of “uniform enthusiasm for the self made business person…in the USA,”

  8. Iain Gill
    Posted April 7, 2011 at 9:09 am | Permalink

    I am sure you are right about the lefty media and luvvies
    However on the council and inner city estates what people want is a fighting chance for their children
    Anyone who has seen the brightest kids in a rubbish schools knows they have brilliant minds well able to cope with the rigour of university and so on, and in the cases some of them escape they tend to do very well indeed
    My own view is that university admission should be done is a more complex way than now. Top of the changes would be comparing potential students with their peers. If someone is in the top one percent of exam passes in a school of 2000, the fact that school is rubbish and their exam passes compare unfavourably with the outside world is for me secondary.
    It really is not hard to get good exam passes if you are pushed through the public school system. I think we all know very dumb people who have amazingly good exam passes with that background. This also exposes the inadequacy of A levels for measuring what they are used for.
    And the university interview is full of bias so hardly helps anyone at all.
    Admission to the best state schools should not be selection by wealth of your parents either as it is now. That for me is worse than selection by ability! The dramatic difference in quality of state schools from one part of town to another is not just down to the parents and perceived input from them, there is much more to it than this!
    At the moment it can be career suicide for a brilliant teacher to work in one of the worst schools, when really they should be rewarded for accepting that challenge. Teachers should be able to rotate between schools with more support so that they do not burn out and “give in” to the inevitability of situations.
    I don’t mind talented hard working people enjoying their success. Which is why I always ridicule you when you imply the rock stars, football stars, and so on are overpaid? What is much harder to defend is the way some sections of society select largely on i) who your parents were ii) your accent iii) which school you went to – and so on.
    Trust me, and this is said in the nicest way possible, Mr Cameron would probably be on state benefits if he had been brought up on a sink estate and went to a sink school, that is the reality. And the country is badly lacking folk who did escape from sink estates and turn their life’s into successes represented in the top political layers.
    All this and so much more needs to be said.
    We need the best people given the best chance, and the best people are not selected by the schools entrance criteria or revealed by A level results.
    etc

  9. norman
    Posted April 7, 2011 at 9:10 am | Permalink

    Should we also use merit to choose our politicians?

    Or is the ‘all of x’ shortlist type of system somehow better because it helps fill quotas?

    Another example of merit losing out, installing yourmate as Chancellor when there are far better candidates available.

  10. Susan
    Posted April 7, 2011 at 9:16 am | Permalink

    That is socialism for you, Britain has become a much more socialist Country. 13 years of Labour have instilled the belief that all enterprise is bad, state reliance is good and all must be made equal. Therefore, things of excellence should be brought down to the average. Wealth creation is spurned, because making money is seen as greedy and grasping. This philosophy is now so entrenched, I fail to see how it will ever be cured. Wealth creation lifts living standards for all, the more money earned as a Country, the more there is to spend on the services we all care about. However, it seems that a great deal of the public believe the UK can spend forever, without earning the resources to do so.

    However, it has to be said that under the Coalition it feels as though the message is the same as Labour on these issues. In education for instance, the belief still seems to be that money, or allowing students into top Universities, no matter what their abilities, will solve social mobility, for those from poor backgrounds. Banker bashing, tax on the oil companies, too high taxation to see investment for growth, too large a state, no real cuts in Government spending and pandering to those on benefits and the public sector, seems to be the same message to me.

    As a general rule the only people the British forgive for earning massive amounts of money, are footballers and celebrities, who they seen as role models. The man who has set out to use his brains and hard work to achieve excellence and money, is in a lot of instances despised for doing so.

    How you change this I have no idea, but a lead, by Government to encourage the belief that hard work pays, would help. However, it seems under this Coalition, that it is those who have worked hard, saved for a pension and their furture, are the very ones being punished the most.

    At the moment it is a case of, I want what you have, but I am prepared to work for it.

  11. Electro-Kevin
    Posted April 7, 2011 at 9:17 am | Permalink

    Most socialists are content that athletics and football are already cosmopolitan and working class enough.

    They are not so happy about sports such as rowing, sailing or equestrian eventing. If those were our top sports rest assured they’d be meddling with them too.

    IMHO the England football squad is not a very good example of excellence. Otherwise your comment is spot on.

  12. a-tracy
    Posted April 7, 2011 at 9:29 am | Permalink

    “If the many cannot go to the elite institutions,they demand changes by the elite institutions to accommodate more representatives of the many. ”

    Would it be a reasonable request to see what qualification and grades each candidate on a course at the Oxbridge universities obtained to study their chosen subject? They don’t have to provide their students name, it would give children at the age of 13 a good idea of the preferred subjects of the selection teams in each subject and would also allow us to see if the selectors prefer clones or they welcome diversity and would give comprehensive schooled children a heads up on what is expected. They could also suggest extra reading material to help your application just to level the playing field more – then you wouldn’t have to bother with quotas and positive discrimination which I don’t support at all.

  13. Pericles
    Posted April 7, 2011 at 9:38 am | Permalink

    All have social mobility.  Social movement is a matter of self-motivation and inner discipline — and, perhaps, a measure of luck (let us not forget Napoleon’s words).

    ‘Equality’, as an end in itself, is what generated the mess in which the World finds itself now.

  14. Richard
    Posted April 7, 2011 at 10:18 am | Permalink

    Excellence requires incentives to flourish and at present we are reducing the incentives to succeed and create wealth.
    It also needs a change of attitude from the current obsession with equality to one which praises excellence and talent in the individual.

    The EU is creating a regime of tax and regulation that is stiffling entreprenurial talent.
    Its time they considered how to encourage wealth creation, as their first priority, instead of just concentrating on spending money.

    One problem is that the media gives great amounts of publicity to the very few top earners in various professions, eg business owners, sports stars, bankers, lawyers, property developers and star actors and musicians, whereas the vast majority in each of these professions earn just a small fraction of these top levels.
    This creates the envy which stiffles the development of excellence.

    PS I heard on a recent radio debate a public sector union leader stating that the millions of people employed in the public sector pay billions in tax and NI into Goverment coffers each year and how essential their taxes are to help pay for all our “vital” services.
    The audience roared their approval and the applause was long and loud.
    It took me a little while for this comment to soak in, but then I thought, thats not quite correct as aren’t all the wages they are paid comes from us the taxpayers in the private sector in the first place?

    So, is it necessary for public sector employees to pay tax and NI at all?

    Wouldn’t it be cheaper for us just to pay them their net wages?

  15. Michael Read
    Posted April 7, 2011 at 10:44 am | Permalink

    And then there’s Prince Charles.

    A butler to warm his underpants, squeeze his toothpaste, knot his tie … a billionaire beneficiary of serendipity without effort or talent.

    The exception to your rule which proves your rule. Obviously.

    • lifelogic
      Posted April 7, 2011 at 2:38 pm | Permalink

      I don’t mind that too much but he could perhaps stop telling all to save the world when he acts as he does with his cars, planes, helicopters, endless travel and huge houses.

      It does not come well from him.

      • Barry
        Posted April 8, 2011 at 8:20 am | Permalink

        I don’t mind it at all – and I think it’s a bit rich for a republican to talk about talent when we end up with an oaf like John Prescott as deputy PM, no less.

        And how many houses, planes and helicopters does Prince Charles have, exactly?

  16. oldtimer
    Posted April 7, 2011 at 11:39 am | Permalink

    How true. Unfortunately, until such attitudes change, the UK will continue on its downward path. It is especially disturbing that there are some politicians keen to dilute such academic excellence that we possess.

  17. Javelin
    Posted April 7, 2011 at 11:44 am | Permalink

    John,

    A deeper analysis of the current malise in the UK is to understand how the giest
    of political corrrectness has burdened us with chronic neglect. The core is to
    understand the difference between rights and responsibilities and how and
    why alot of rights have been passed into law but fewer responsiblities.

    Rights – are about individuals being protected from others. When somebody
    breaches your rights they are the aggressor. Rights are about sins of commission.
    Importantly rights tend to be (to borrow the medical term) actute – short and
    sharp – for example tripping somebody with a wire.

    Responsibilities are about individuals fullfilling their obligations to others.
    When sombody breachers their responsibilities they are negligent. Rights are
    about sins of ommission. Responsibilites tend to be chronic – long and dull –
    for example leaving a wire around until someody trips over it.

    It is on closer analysis that problems can be found. For example contrast the
    difference between a parent hitting a child and neglecting a child. The child
    has the right not to be hit, and the parent has the responsibility not to
    neglect the child. In the case of a child being hit the parent is making an
    aggressive action and the law is using the childs right (and not the parents
    responsibility as the legal target). Equally the child has a right to go to
    school, but does not have a right for the parent to help with their homework.
    It is only when the child is seriously harmed through neglect that the parents
    responsibilites are used as the legal target. So we have this imbalance where
    acute actions against the child are enshrired in law whilst chronic neglect
    is only enshrined in law when serious harm occurs.

    I watched the school programme called Waterloo road last night – two boys ruin a
    school play then go and play on a railway track. At the end of the program the
    teachers congratulate themselves on better school grades. As I watched it I
    thought that the boys behaviour was caused by years of chronic neglect by the school,
    causing he children not to respect the school and not to have any responsbility
    for themselves. When another child fell off a railway bridge an acute act happened –
    but no rights were breached. So as far as I could see a school play was ruined,
    parents had to go home early. Another child broke their back. But importantly
    the teachers walked away happy because they hadn’t broken any childs rights.

    When I look at the UK and think about the debt problem – I see a problem
    of chronic neglect. No rights have been breached but we are in a terrible
    state. Banks responsibilities were never put into law so they have loaned money
    that cannot be afforded. Governments responsibilities to the tax payer were never
    put into law so they overspent. However, as soon as we are forced to cut back
    people think they are being aggressed against because they are receiving an acute
    negative experience – and they are so used to Rights laws protecting them that
    their immediate reaction is to look around for how their rights are being breached.

    So the problem today is not Rights – the problem today is lack of Responsibilty
    being enshrined in law. I wish that Rights and Responsibillites were not
    enshrined in law and we could rely on people and not processes – but I dont think
    that will ever happen. This means enshrining into law stopping people doing things
    that carry a chronic risk – as well as stopping them doing things that cause an
    acute negative act. We see this in the banking regulations – where chronic risk
    is avoided. But we dont see this in Education at all – and we only see this in
    extreme cases of parenting. We need a philosophy for responsibilty like we
    have a philosophy for rights, and we need the two to create a balanced, successful
    and happy society.

  18. Lindsay McDougall
    Posted April 7, 2011 at 11:51 am | Permalink

    Why do we dumb down our A levels? It has got to the point where a question in an A level mathematics paper was an exact copy of a question in an O level paper from 40 years earlier.

    Let us recognise that A levels should be an aide to universities and employers in selecting people. For each subject there should be an exam mark/grade and a separate coursework mark/grade. Pupils should also undergo IQ and aptitude tests near the time of the A level exams and the result should appear on the pupils’ A level certificate.

    So each A level certificate will contain exam grades and coursework grades by subject and an overall IQ/aptitude score. An excellent assessment aide.

    • lifelogic
      Posted April 7, 2011 at 1:13 pm | Permalink

      Absolutely – it is very easy to compare maths and physics papers. Recent A level papers are pretty much on a level with the GCSE /O levels that I took in the late 70’s. Questions are often a bit vague, poorly designed and written too and tend to guide you through each step in an irritating patronising manor. Often instructing you to use a particular new often pointless new “method”. This rarely used to be the case.

      When they grade they should also just give a % area top 5% grade 1 bottom 5% grade 20 instead of giving a huge proportion grade A as now is the case. So you can see how the student actually did relative to their piers rather than the political manipulation nonsense that all shall get A’s.

  19. Neil Craig
    Posted April 7, 2011 at 12:00 pm | Permalink

    A thoughtful and radical post John. The difference seems to be the “capture the public imagination” line. Footballers and Branson do, bankers people we’ve never heard of don’t.

    Changing this is a social movement rather than something that can be done by passing a law. I am not sure how to do it without a degree of government propagandising I would object to. Walt Disney’s intention for Epcot was that it should be a community of scietific endeavour to where tourists could see real science being done (while not getting in the way). This was to be his legacy to mankind and a very fine one it would have ben because it would have let ordinary citizens empathise with the scientific “stars”. Unfortunately when he died the Disney suits decided there would be more bottom line in turning it into another ride.

    Certainly the BBC’s relentless hatred of anybody, apart from civil service bureaucrats like themselves who succeeds is a major negative influence and I have previously suggested turning the organisation into something that simply auctions off airtime to real creative people. If there were to be a public interest element in that, for example allowing a 25% underbid for public service stuff and including autobiographical material about achievers to be part of such public interest it would certainly influence the atmosphere.

    • Electro-Kevin
      Posted April 7, 2011 at 5:43 pm | Permalink

      Peter Hitchens published this exact argument at least three years ago and has done so repeatedly since.

      The entrance exams to many jobs have already been withdrawn in order to enable inclusivity over ability.

  20. David John Wilson
    Posted April 7, 2011 at 12:22 pm | Permalink

    We thus need to ensure that places at the best universities are allocated on the basis of ability and stop trying to provide places for the socially deprived without accounting for the lack of ability.

  21. forthurst
    Posted April 7, 2011 at 12:30 pm | Permalink

    Having wrecked by design the educational chances of many of those whose parents cannot afford fees, the Cultural Marxists now want to stamp out the eletism that they themselves have created by default. For their victims of the deliberate dumbing down and anti-eletism in public education, nothing but the best will now do: Oxbridge will have to lower the drawbridge to those who can’t get top marks in their pointless examinations designed more to test students’ awareness of political correctness than objective knowledge of academic subjects. Should Music Conservatoires accept those who can’t read music very well or play an instrument with much accomplishment: would such students be ready for a professional career in three years time? Would they be ever? Oxbridge should not be turned into a remedial crammer for the dispossessed. There is a limit to how much social engineering, Cultural Marxists can inflict without the country collapsing all too soon into a third world cesspool. Cultural Marxists are extremely nasty but not necessarily very bright. Their pure Marxist brethren were successful in destroying the British owned engineering industry when their objective had been to create a Communist Utopea under the auspices of Clause 4.

    I suspect that this latest initiative by the perennial subversives within, is aimed at introducing ‘Affirmative Action’ by the back door. Nurture must be used to right the unfairnesses of Nature (other than superior Type II muscle fibre density).( etc etc -ed)

  22. alan jutson
    Posted April 7, 2011 at 12:45 pm | Permalink

    John

    Whilst I understand your comparison, and your argument is difficult to disagree with, the biggest drawback to social mobility in general terms, is in some areas, not being able to access good schooling, even if you would want to choose to, if you have a lack of money.

    ALL SCHOOLS should be able to offer a good basic education, that will enable their pupils to make their own way in this World. We simply do not have that situation at the moment, and the reason is politicians who keep messing with the system, although quite why I do not understand.

    Mathematics is exactly the same year on year,
    English language (by and large) does not change year on year.
    History is a record of the past, and so cannot change.
    Physics and Chemistry, whilst there are advances and new discoveries, is as it has been for decades.
    Geography does not change much other than Countries names, unless you include the recent global warming fiasco.
    Physical education still requires human effort, although dietry information can make things more complex (although this advice seems to change every year)
    Domestic science is no different, we have been feeding ourselves for thousands of years.
    Reading and Writing has beeen a requirement for decades.

    So please tell me why we now need to have teachers off on training days during term time, why we have teachers saying they have to prepare for next term/year, when the notes should be the same for decades past.

    To get on in this world you simply need to be able to read, write and do mathematics, these are the absolute basics from which you can then drive yourself as far as you wish to go, if the facilities are available.

    For decades the politicians have messed with the system which was never broke in the first place, they have broken it, they are unlikely to fix it, because they want control.

    Perhaps we should recognise that perhaps one of the biggest failures in the system is teacher training, lack of discipline and the ability to enforce it .

    Our armed services do not have a problem training people of all abilities, and all types, from all backgounds. Ever asked yourself why !

    • forthurst
      Posted April 7, 2011 at 2:45 pm | Permalink

      “History is a record of the past, and so cannot change.” ‘Who controls the past, controls the future: who controls the present, controls the past’ – 1984 Ch 3.
      Unfortunately, History is maleable, not only contemporaneously, but also retrospectively, which is why Wikipedia should be taken with a pinch of salt. If present ‘truth’ whether in terms of the history of WWII or that of 2001 has been obtained under torture, or if the editors or publishers of books are not more concerned with truth than with their own political agenda, then History as an objective absolute becomes an almost impossible ideal.

      When the revelation that the Labour Party had secretly conspired to flood the country from the third world, was that fact blazoned under the masthead of every newspaper or even mentioned by the BBC? When a future historian attempts to document the decline of England from the greatest country in the world to a poverty stricken (word left out) populated province of Eurasia, will he be able to identify the key events and the key perpetrators or for example the role played by the greatest Briton ever in that decline?

  23. Kenneth
    Posted April 7, 2011 at 2:06 pm | Permalink

    I don’t think we should blame ‘the many’ for wanting to downgrade centres of excellence.

    The Guardian/Labour Party/BBC/various quangos etc are not the ‘many’.

  24. cosmic
    Posted April 7, 2011 at 3:04 pm | Permalink

    One way of looking at it is that the social mobility we had in the 50s and 60s was deeply threatening to the Labour Party. They actually want a system of preferment as long as it suits them, and they want an underclass to hand wring over, because otherwise they’d have no point. The Labour Party families and parachuted-in candidates give the lie to their outlook.

    I don’t think they saw it that way entirely, but that has been the effect. The other thing they go in for is kidding people they can have whatever they want without effort as in the massive expansion and degradation of the universities and running up huge debts. It’s seductive to believe you can have something for nothing. When it fails, it’s down to ‘unfairness’, which they’ve built in and the only answer is more meddling on their part. If you pin down fairness and unfairness, you can do something definite about it and leave it, but if you allow it to be a moving target, fixing it is a make work scheme.

    In the main, the Tories have acted like paternalistic socialists. A bit more cautious than the Labour Party, but not with a radically different world view. Many of them liked a system of preferment, somewhat different to the Labour party’s but similar..

    The reason for the difference between accepting that footballers have natural talent which can be developed by training, and education is that footballers don’t really matter except at a superficial level, but applying that approach to education implies a radical rearrangement of power structures and the breaking of dreams.

  25. StevenL
    Posted April 7, 2011 at 7:20 pm | Permalink

    ‘The British public debate is schizophrenic…’

    That’s an insult to schizophrenics, you’d probably get more sense out of patients in the average mental hospital than you get coming out of the EU, Parliament or the average council!

  26. Martin
    Posted April 7, 2011 at 8:07 pm | Permalink

    I think part of our trouble in Britain is an obsession with meaningless sales and marketing. Over the last few years I’ve had various “broadband” sales persons at my front door offering a better deal.

    When I ask “Are you going to replace my pathetic copper cable connection with a fibre-optic connection?” The answer is always “NO”.

    Of course all these companies claim to be customer focussed market driven organisations.

  27. JimF
    Posted April 7, 2011 at 9:06 pm | Permalink

    A very good post.
    The only possible reason for the difference in treatment of budding academics and sports stars, according to socialist dictat 263, is that sports people are deemed to already be on a level playing field, as it were, in terms of race and gender equality, whereas academics are seen as being favoured in reaching their goals if they are white, middle class and male.
    This is of course totally wrong, but in the socialist world of Ed, Nick and Dave, perceptions are what matters. Until the day when the perceived ethnic, gender and social mix in the academic world is acceptable to these folk, we will have the levelling down which we’re becoming used to.

    • lifelogic
      Posted April 7, 2011 at 9:44 pm | Permalink

      Have you watched swimming and the 100 meters not much racial mix there. Therefore by BBC, Labour, and Government logic it must surely be due to discrimination.

      Surely they should do something to correct this appalling discrimination before the Olympics!

      • Stuart Fairney
        Posted April 8, 2011 at 12:28 pm | Permalink

        You are simply not allowed to mention the obvious racial mix in swiming finals, nor in 100 metre sprint finals. When you can get someone to engage, and I have heard serious writers nake this case, it’s all down to culture and discrimination and anyway race doesn’t exist so nah nah nah etc (Quite how you can then have racism if the defnitive article is non-existent seems not to have occured to any proponents of this theory).

        Soccer must be racist since not many Asians play the game at the very top level, and are seriously “under-represented” but by such logic, given that Afro-Caribbean males play the game in a far higher proprtion than their numbers in the wider community, it follows that white people must also be under-represented, but whoops that can’t be right so nah nah nah……..

  28. BobE
    Posted April 7, 2011 at 11:55 pm | Permalink

    UKIP

  29. Bernard Otway
    Posted April 8, 2011 at 12:08 am | Permalink

    I always use the football analogy in debating this issue with my socialist friends ,who always LOSE,because they want to Engineer Equality with Laws, rules and regulations backed up by Taxes and Fines. I ask about what they would do about the preponderance of sibling sports
    stars ESPECIALLY in football who end up in todays market earning HUGE money, citing
    Hately,Redknapp,Clough all the sons taught by fathers and particularly Frank Lampard who by the time his playing career is over will have earned at least £50 million out of an illustrious playing career and who knows how much more in management or Punditry after,there are many other examples around,I suggest to my friends that they would actually (handicap-ed) ,(impeding-ed) a famous son of a famous father makes little johnny nobody have a better chance of playing for Chelsea ,Man u etc etc,of course my friends are horrified,BUT I tell them that what I say is the LOGICAL end conclusion to their social engineering and they cannot refute it.They then have to agree that the only way is to let nature take it’s course and for MERIT to be the only criteria.

  30. adam
    Posted April 9, 2011 at 4:09 am | Permalink

    There are too many working class people in football. It is clearly discriminatory. Posh kids dont feel welcome

  31. Bernard Otway
    Posted April 9, 2011 at 6:09 pm | Permalink

    Complaint about censorship.
    I take a cautious line with all contributors when they mention names individuals who might object to their claims and associations as I do not want to spend time to defend any action brought or to apologise for inappropriate material. Don’t get mad with me – just find a way of writing what you want to without personalising it so much. I believe in free speech and free debate, but not in dodgy claims and stretched analogies.

  32. Electro-Kevin
    Posted April 10, 2011 at 9:44 am | Permalink

    This from Peter Hitchens:

    The phrase ‘social mobility’ has been twisted round by the elite to mean the opposite of what it once did. In their mouths it signifies ‘crude discrimination against those who seek to advance themselves or their children through effort and talent’.

    This is a wicked perversion. Here is what it really means: when this was still a free country, you could climb thanks to your talent and hard work. My favourite example is that of Lord Denning, one of six children of a Hampshire draper who became the greatest judge of our time.

    One of his brothers, Reginald, helped plan the D-Day landings and became a general. Another, Norman, became an admiral, and Director of Naval Intelligence. The boys’ mother, Clara, must have been quite a person, but Whitchurch National School and Andover Grammar School should take a little credit too.
    In their austere, disciplined, orderly classrooms, children from poor homes could learn real knowledge, and gain the habits of work and diligence that might take them to the very summit of our once-open society. If they had talent, it would be nurtured and encouraged.

    If they were studious, they would not be bullied for it, but rewarded.
    Faced with ferocious exams, which it was possible to fail, they learned that real life wasn’t easy and had to be tackled with application and determination. That’s how a proper middle class, confident, strong and open to talent, is made.
    But those who now shape and direct our society long ago destroyed these places. Believing it was kinder, they scrapped the discipline, the order and the rigour, and turned the exams into feeble jokes.

    When the truth became clear, they refused to change their minds but carried on as before. The three Denning brothers would rapidly have had their hopes crushed by today’s state school system.

    If three such boys – or girls – now exist, we will never hear of them, except perhaps in the courts, because the corruption of the best is the worst of all, and a bright and energetic mind, when all the doors of ambition and hope are slammed in its face, can easily turn to wrongdoing.

    I cannot express on paper just how angry this makes me, or how angry it ought to make you. The nearest I can come to it is this – to say to Nicholas Clegg, David Cameron and Edward Miliband that they are all three of them (words left out ed) enemies of promise, enemies of their country, and enemies of the poor.
    And in each case the crime is especially serious because of their own immense personal privilege. I hope all their political careers end in abject, howling failure, preferably with them being laughed out of office, the only punishment they are likely to understand.

    Because all three of them, and their wretched parties, have set their faces against the honest self-improvement that is the mark of a free society. Instead, they gargle the discredited slogans of equality – an equality they don’t even believe in for themselves or their children.

    You will have to ask yourselves why the leaders of supposedly democratic parties in a supposedly free society have endorsed a policy that is more or less identical to that of the Eastern European communists of the Forties.

    More importantly, you will have to ask yourselves why on earth you have continued to vote for them, knowing what they are and what they stand for.

  • About John Redwood


    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, and graduated from Magdalen College Oxford. He is a Distinguished fellow of All Souls, Oxford. A businessman by background, he has set up an investment management business, was both executive and non executive chairman of a quoted industrial PLC, and chaired a manufacturing company with factories in Birmingham, Chicago, India and China. He is the MP for Wokingham, first elected in 1987.

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