Friday, February 02, 2024

Why expensive private schools now preach inclusivity - it's not to help the poor

Embed from Getty Images

The website of Eton College promises that “Eton believes in equal opportunity for everyone irrespective of gender, ethnicity, age, sexual orientation, belief, disability or social demographic background”. Before you dispatch your progeny to claim their free first-class education at this socialist paradise by the Thames, it is worth checking the “fees” section of the same website, which takes a rather less egalitarian line on the issue of “social and demographic background”.

There's a good article by James Marriott on The Times website about the dark side of the new-found enthusiasm for social justice that expensive public schools are exhibiting.

I think the link above will take you round the paywall, but here is the heart of the argument in case it doesn't:

A friend who was interviewed for a job at a London private school was asked whether he would run its activism society. As he astutely observed, what this ostensibly progressive group did was to introduce some of the wealthiest children in the country to the effective manipulation of the levers of political power: writing to MPs, organising campaigns, starting protests.

The pious posturing of public schools has little to do with aiding the disadvantaged and lots to do with furthering the interests of the wealthy. Fluency in the language of “inclusivity” is now de rigueur in many of society’s most exclusive institutions. Banks and corporate law firms boast equality statements and diversity officers. 

Progressive gestures and language constitute the high-society etiquette of today. Elites must be instructed in it, as they once learnt to play the harpsichord or to cross a ballroom gracefully. Providing such instruction appeals to the virtuous self-image of idealistic young private-school teachers who may be haunted by the thought that the really ethical thing would be to go and work in the state sector.


Anonymous said...

Maybe. But if rich people are not allowed to do anything to help society that probably bars lots of Lib Dems from doing so too. Including me. The idea that only the poor can be virtuous is pretty pernicious.

Jonathan Calder said...

No one is saying that "only the poor can be virtuous".

So many people who have benefited from a socially exclusive education take any questioning of the system as a personal attack. And the speed with which the ranks can close is impressive.

When I suggested on Twitter that, by being President of the MCC and giving an "alternative" Christmas message on Channel 4 in the same year, Stephen Fry was rather having his cake and eating it, I got an immediate reply telling me that the comment was not worthy of me.

Paul Hartnoll said...

Hello Anonymous,

Are you suggesting that there should be fewer public-school educated people in the Lib Dems hierachy, either lessening their overrepresentation or bringing the number down to a perfect level of proportionality - i.e. 7%?

If so, can I have that in writing?

Anonymous said...

Is there a definition of the institutions that will be required to charge VAT under the next regime? What is a "private school"? OK, I can see that the big secondary schools that charge fees will be affected - so will their feeder schools, presumably. But nursery schools? Private universities? Weekend conferences of people interested in hearing lectures on history? Where is the boundary? The benefit of the present system (or the appalling loophole, if you prefer) is that education - ALL education - is regarded as a public benefit, and thus capable of being a charitable purpose.