No, sir, neither all men nor all children are created equal

ThomasJeffersonTo be fair, Thomas Jefferson may have put this idea into words, but he didn’t invent the ‘thinking’ behind it. He simply inhaled the Enlightenment Zeitgeist and caught the acrid aroma of equality.

Actually, this isn’t so much an idea as an ideology, and the difference is telling. Divine revelation apart, an idea must be founded on evidence, analysis or both. An ideology, on the other hand, is founded on nothing but base emotions.

Purveyors of an ideology may post-rationalise it for public consumption. But there’s no ratio to it. In fact, the more an ideology contradicts reason, the more attractive it becomes to those unable to draw inferences from facts, which is to say to the majority.

An ideology requires no proof. It may prove disastrous, but many will still clutch the straw saving them from having to think for themselves and refuse to emulate lemmings on a march to the abyss.

Conversely, an idea is that pudding whose proof is in the eating. Since we’re fallible, our take on facts may be wrong, our thinking faulty and the resulting idea spurious. When that proves to be the case, an honest thinker abandons the idea and thinks again.

This brings us to Mrs May and her commendable decision to overturn the 1998 ban on grammar schools introduced by Tony Blair, the most revolting personage ever to inhabit 10 Downing Street.

England’s secondary education, until 1965 the envy of the world, has since become its laughingstock. Way back then, state schools were divided into two broad categories: secondary modern and grammar.

The former, while teaching some academic basics, mainly prepared pupils for careers in trades. The latter, covering about 25 per cent of all children, was a fast track to university. Academically, most grammar schools matched most public schools, and many of our prominent figures, including Mrs May herself, went through them.

Then the egalitarian ideology kicked in, proclaiming that all children were equally able. Some, alas, were less privileged than others. Hence eliminating grammar schools would open paths for the underprivileged to fulfil their untapped academic potential.

In 1965 Education Secretary Anthony Crosland set out to destroy what he called “every f***ing grammar school”. He must have been aware that by doing so he’d be destroying education in any meaningful sense, but that made no difference.

That was exactly the end for which his progressive loins ached. Education didn’t have to be good. It just had to be equal, which in practice meant equally abysmal for anyone not blessed with parents able to pay for private schooling.

As a side effect, this consigned to eternal misery the very poor in whose name the socialists acted. The bootstraps of free grammar schools by which the clever poor could pick themselves up were cut.

Another side effect was replacing aptitude with money as the ticket to good education. Since most comprehensive schools were dreadful, those parents who didn’t want their offspring to grow up illiterate had to cough up for private schooling.

Now free of serious competition, public schools vindicated economic wisdom by raising their fees, which these days may be as high as £40,000 a year, well too rich for most parents’ blood. Ability to learn was thereby replaced with ability to pay, and meritocracy with plutocracy.

Results of the first half-century of comprehensive ‘education’ are appalling. A survey of teenagers aged 16 to 19 in 23 developed countries placed British youngsters at 23 in literacy and 22 in numeracy, which doesn’t exactly redeem the underlying ideology.

During that period Tony ‘Anthony’ Blair introduced a total ban on new grammar schools, spreading coarse salt on the academic field to make sure nothing would ever grow again.

It’s this ban that Mrs May is proposing to overturn, giving me a rare opportunity to say something nice about a politician, and our parliamentarians a chance to reaffirm their frenzied commitment to destructive ideology.

Labour and LibDems are joining forces with a few Tories (!) to block this “retrograde” legislation in the Lords. Like all ideologues, they don’t care how daft their rationale sounds.

The dafter, the better is the essence of glossocracy. Forcing people to accept manifestly unsound statements is proof of power, and that lot realise this as well as their Bolshevik predecessors did.

Thus LibDem leader Tim Farron: “A new generation of grammar schools would help a very small number of the richest children while ignoring the needs of millions more children…”

But grammar schools are free – what do riches have to do with anything? ‘The richest children’ are more likely to go to public schools anyway.

Labour education spokesman Angela Rayner: “Selection belongs in the dustbin of history and has no place in modern society.”

Dustbin of history, eh? It’s comforting to hear our parliamentarians quote Trotsky, before acting on his ideas.

Labour leadership contender Owen Smith wouldn’t be outdone: “Grammar schools entrench disadvantage – they don’t overturn it.” But they do, Owen, demonstrably so. However, when ideology speaks, facts and reason fall silent.

I do hope Mrs May has the political nous to push this excellent legislation through. She may get into my good books yet.


2 thoughts on “No, sir, neither all men nor all children are created equal”

  1. I absolutely agree with the main point of the article, but there is, sadly, a sense in which Farron’s warning might turn out to be justified – in the short term at least.

    The arrival of comprehensive education (basically, the imposition of the lowest common denominator of the old Secondary Modern schools) led, as you say, to the rich parents favouring private education. But that wasn’t the only way they helped their children gain an advantage. They became adept at gaming the system so as to get their children at the few excellent comprehensives; many of which were ex-grammars. The stakes were so high that many moved so as to get into the right catchment areas. Until every town gets its own grammar school, this will of course continue. In addition, coaching and cramming will be paid for, unfairly boosting those who can afford it.

    It will take years before we get a “level playing field” again, and thence to a genuine meritocracy. But let’s hope that May keeps her nerve. The political opposition (and the “professional” opposition, from teachers) will be intense.

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