Class war in the classroom

England’s green and pleasant land

Speaking a lot while saying nothing is a modern politician’s stock in trade. This ability gets more refined the further left you go down the political spectrum, and it reaches genius level when the Left are leading in the polls.

Sir Keir Starmer justifiably feels the election is his to lose, and he is well aware that ships aren’t the only things that can be sunk by loose lips. That’s why yesterday he delivered a speech full of vacuous platitudes and hardly anything else.

Yet there is one Labour policy that obviously tugs on his heart’s strings so persistently that he simply had to declare it publicly and unequivocally. If we are elected, said that Knight of the Realm, the first thing we’ll do is slap a 20 per cent VAT on independent school fees.

Those superrich can afford it, explained Sir Keir. And the new tax revenue can provide a welcome boost for the Exchequer. The reality is somewhat different, but then, as Starmer’s fellow socialist, Stalin, once said, “If facts are stubborn things, then so much the worse for facts.”

A survey shows that up to half of all independent school pupils will have to leave the private sector as a result of the new tax. The children of the superrich will of course stay in: their parents will regard an extra 20 per cent on the school fee as pocket change. But those hardworking parents straining every financial sinew to educate their children properly will no longer be able to afford it.

As many as 224,000 pupils will migrate into already overcrowded state schools, which will not only wipe out whatever fiscal gains Starmer sees in his mind’s eye, but will create a £1.5 billion hole in public finances.

Does Starmer know this? He may or may not, but it doesn’t matter one way or the other. A true warrior doesn’t mind taking casualties, and a class warrior is no exception. If it takes £1.5 billion to win yet another battle, it’s money well spent.

Socialists are by definition committed to levelling, and not only the economic kind. They must realise that the state can only ever level down, not up, and so they do. Speaking of the subject in hand, they know they can’t make everyone equally educated. But equally ignorant just may be a goal within their reach, and in some ways it’s even better.

For education doesn’t just impart information. Above all, it teaches children to think, and socialists have a vested interest in suppressing that nascent ability. A properly educated child may grow up with enough analytical ability to figure out that nothing socialists ever promise has any substance to it whatsoever. It’s all pernicious ideological puffery, and properly educated minds won’t stand for it.

Hence socialists everywhere rely on the young whose minds aren’t yet wired properly. And the poorly educated young are even better: they’ll salute any subversive slogan with alacrity.

Such is the background to the class war raging in British schools since the sixties. At that time Britain’s education system was the envy of the world. Since then it has become its laughing stock.

Children at that time were streamed according to their ability. The abler ones, some 25 per cent of the total, went to Grammar Schools where they received an education that compared favourably to most of today’s university degrees. The others went to Secondary Modern Schools, where the education accentuated practical knowledge and skills.

That division wasn’t cast in iron: underachieving Grammar School pupils could drop down to Secondary Modern, while those who did well in the latter could move up to the former.

Both type of schools were free, so the issue of the parents’ wealth didn’t come into it. However, those who could afford it still sent their children to fee-paying public schools, mostly for social reasons. All in all, the system worked extremely well by making a quarter of all people well-educated and the rest of them competent.

That wasn’t good enough for our class warriors. They preferred equal ignorance to unequal education, which is why they vowed to eliminate Grammar Schools. Labour Secretary for Education, Anthony Crosland (d. 1977), didn’t mince words: “If it’s the last thing I do, I’m going to destroy every fucking Grammar School in England.”

So they did, or as near as damn. Instead Labour introduced comprehensive schools, whose curricula had to be oriented towards the lowest common denominator. The old adage, “an army advances at the speed of the slowest soldier”, applies to class war as well.

Fast-forward a few decades, and the country’s education system lies in ruins. Over half of all pupils leave comprehensive schools unable to read and write properly; the simplest mental arithmetic is treated as a show of genius. Drugs and pregnancies are widespread even at the pre-teen level, and most schools are nothing short of hellholes.

Some, very few, are still decent, and many parents take a beating on house prices to move to an area where such schools exist. Most can’t, and hence the proliferation of fee-paying public schools and other independent establishments, such as faith schools.

In the past, when public schools had to compete with free grammar schools offering a similar level of education, they had to keep their fees low. Now they compete against mind-numbing comprehensives, which is no competition at all. The law of supply-demand kicks in, and public schools now charge exorbitant fees in the certainty that desperate parents will pay whatever they can, and sometimes more than they can.

Thus the same enmity Labour used to level at grammar schools is now levelled at public ones, and for pretty much the same reasons. A recent survey of Labour voters has shown that 80 per cent of them are in favour of banning all independent schools altogether.

I remember how struck I was witnessing that sentiment when I moved to Britain from the US in 1988. In those days, Americans wanted to emulate successful people, not punish them. Class war was still waged, but it was of a Phony variety: very limited engagements of small forces conducted with rather understated passion.

Yet talking to my new London colleagues over a pint I was amazed at the venom with which they spoke of private education and medicine. Banning them was the dominant aspiration, which struck me as spiteful and mean-spirited.

Some Americans I knew had socialist leanings as well, and they too railed against fee-paying schools. But I had never once heard anyone demand that all such schools be banned – class war hadn’t yet reached the stage of indiscriminate slaughter there.

This attack on independent schools is the only policy Starmer has so far enunciated clearly. However, this is a foretaste of the policies they’ll implement once they’ve had their landslide.

Those who insist that Labour have changed are in for a let-down: socialists never change their spots, although they may at times cover them up for tactical reasons.

8 thoughts on “Class war in the classroom”

      1. Some of the confusion is Mr Boot’s fault. He writes about “fee-paying public schools”, but in fact most fee-paying schools aren’t Public Schools. Eton, Harrow, and a few others are Public Schools, but there are hundreds of other fee-paying schools that don’t aspire to be “Public Schools”. They’re mere “Independent Schools”, and long may they flourish!

        Note also that in a few English counties there are still non-fee-paying Grammar Schools, of the kind that Mr Boot nostalgically describes, and long may they flourish too!

  1. Anyone who has children has witnessed the decline of educational standards. While my own education was lacking in classical foundation, my children’s has been completely bereft. I do not remember any of them having to memorize a single line of poetry. I know of only two books they read and discussed as a class: Hatchet, a wilderness survival novel that was a far cry from, say, The Call of the Wild and Upton Sinclair’s socialist diatribe, The Jungle. The latter was the only novel in the curriculum of the high school literature class. The remainder of the reading list were articles from newspapers (broadsheets) and magazines. Literature?

    While I tried to remedy my situation later in life, I doubt that many others these days will do the same. Few will ever know the pleasure, upon completion of a complex project, of sending the boss the text message: “Look upon my works, ye Mighty, and despair!” Or when hearing someone say “Nobody can do (or has done) that”, smiling and thinking of Odysseus and Polyphemus. Tragic.

  2. The apparat doesn’t actually want Labour to be in power. The apparat wants the Conservatives to remain in governance, why? Because the Tories are still perceived as ‘Right-wing’- consequently, they have done, and will continue to do, everything possible to push through ‘Left-wing’ legislation to signal virtue. Paradoxically, Labour coming once again to power would dampen Leftist passions. Because all those inflamed activists will then become complacent, with only the ‘Angry Brigade’ types still screaming for blood.
    No, the strategic vote is Labour.

    1. I don’t believe in strategic voting because there exist too many imponderables for us to form a strategy. Other than that, I can only repeat myself: the Tories are rubbish, but a Labour government will be even worse, and this isn’t one of the imponderables. Moreover, Starmer’s gang can cause structural and possibly irreversible damage to the country and her constitution. Blair showed how.

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