The madness of playwright Alan Bennett

This title, as you doubtless realise, is supposed to be consonant with the title of Bennett’s most famous play.

To achieve this phonetic effect, I had to compromise accuracy to some extent. For Bennett’s virulent attack on public schools isn’t so much mad as stupid. Even worse, it’s symptomatic of leftie thought, if you’ll forgive the oxymoron.

Speaking at Cambridge University, Bennett delivered himself of a diatribe jammed to the gunwales with at least two centuries’ worth of destructive idiocy: “[Private education] is not fair… Governments, even this one, exist to make the nation’s circumstances more fair, but no government, whatever its complexion, has dared to tackle private education.”

This is typical of our times: someone who’s competent in one field feels competent in all others, a claim that our celebrity-worshipping public gobbles up with relish.

Bennett is a decent playwright, a sort of poor man’s Terence Rattigan, not much more than that. Hyperbole reigning supreme in our lean times, he’s often anointed with more exalted adjectives than ‘decent’, yet it’s not my aim here to debate aesthetics.

Be that as it may, his ability to spin a good yarn doesn’t automatically qualify him as an expert in government, which his statement proves to resounding effect.

Governments don’t “exist to make the nation’s circumstances more fair”. They exist to keep the nation free, safe and just. This means protecting people’s life, property and freedom of legitimate action from wickedness, be it on the part of the state itself, domestic criminals or foreign enemies.

When a government is successful in this, its only legitimate, undertaking, all people will be able to seek their own level. Common sense suggests, and empirical evidence proves, that the number of levels is roughly equal to the number of people, and this applies to everything: wealth, culture, education – you name it.

The only way for a government to reduce the number of aspirational levels is to forfeit its legitimacy by excising from its remit the protection of freedom and justice. In other words, for a government to indulge in levelling so dear to Bennett’s heart, it has to turn itself into a tyranny.

This theoretical postulate has been amply proved wherever governments have pursued egalitarianism – with uniformly disastrous results. At one extreme, these ranged from ruining the nation’s economy by dispossessing the economically gifted groups to ruining the nation’s culture by eliminating the educated classes.

At the milder end, socialist governments achieve similar results more slowly and by less violent means, the degree of approximation to the ultimate carnage depending on the government’s zeal.

Specifically in the area on which Alan Bennett chose to enlarge, Britain has proved that any attempt to make everyone equally educated can only succeed in making everyone equally ignorant.

The wanton destruction of grammar schools (and Mr Bennett himself benefited from grammar-school education) predictably achieved the opposite effect from the one intended. It didn’t so much level the playing field as drown it in mud, thereby making it unplayable.

Hence the proliferation of minor public schools: responsible parents are willing to make tremendous sacrifices to prevent their children from turning into little Mowglis, unable to communicate in human speech.

To Bennett this constitutes “unfocused parental anxiety” about “class” and children having to mix with “rough” classmates. Karl Marx did reduce the entire complexity of life to class antagonism, but Bennett must realise that his spiritual father’s ideas have been compromised everywhere they’ve been tried.

The country in which I grew up was a prime example of this. Having gone to a school where half of the boys carried knives (I have a scar in my back to show for it), I can’t blame parents for wishing to protect their children from similar experiences.

Nor can I blame them for pinching every penny to keep their children out of schools that don’t even approach the literacy level taken for granted 150 years ago. It’s not about belonging to a certain class, Mr Bennett. It’s about hanging on to what’s left of our civilisation.

Bennett’s solution to the egregious unfairness of it all? Public schools must be rolled into the comprehensive system – the same one that has turned our education into the laughingstock of the world.

Of course socialist halfwits never give a serious thought to the practicalities. In this case, public schools are privately financed out of funds established for the purpose.

This means that an attempt to do what Bennett suggests would involve downright confiscation of private property – but then of course socialists never balk at this sort of thing. That’s what fairness is all about.

It’s abhorrent to Mr Bennett that some schools are better than others. What’s abhorrent to me is that he tries to justify this nonsense by dragging Christianity in.

Mr Bennett clearly worships the Gospel of Christ the Socialist, a heretical notion first mooted in the 1960s, the playwright’s formative years. The intervening half-century seems like an adequate time for some reflection, but Bennett must have been too busy knocking off his popular plays.

Nor does he seem to have made any effort to develop his logical faculty. Public schools, he says, are un-Christian because “Souls, after all, are equal in the sight of God and thus deserving of what these days is called a level playing field.”

The second part of the sentence is a flagrant non sequitur to the first. Souls are indeed equal in the sight of God, but only a mentally retarded chap would conclude from there that therefore, in this life, all schools must be identical.

Mr Bennett clearly understands Christianity as badly as he understands government. Spiritual, unearthly equality of all before the omnipotent God isn’t tantamount to the physical equality of all before omnipotent government.

Yet that’s what socialism of every hue preaches, or rather that’s the inevitable result of sermons similar to the one delivered by Alan Bennett. Christ himself disavowed social egalitarianism when he said, “For ye have the poor with you always…”

It’s woefully ignorant to be unaware that Christ’s mission was to show a spiritual path to eternal salvation, not to equalise social conditions in earth. Then again, socialist passions, when in full flow, trump all others.

Mr Bennett seems like a nice enough man, and he should realise that socialism isn’t nice. Sorry to be putting it in such simplistic terms, but I don’t think he can understand anything more complex. 



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