Guest post: The only winners have been the upper class

Originally a comment by tigger the wing on Women’s fault.

This is how I remember things were for those of us born in the fifties. When I left secondary school in 1976, all general education was still being run, and paid for, by the government. So they had a vested interest in making sure that, insofar as possible, only those teens who would stick at studying and actually gain a good degree were funnelled into university. So kids were tested at eleven to assess what kind of further learning they were suited to, and the more academically-minded kids were sent to grammar (arts and sciences track) and technical (engineering track) schools, and those of a more practical bent were sent to secondary moderns (vocational training track). Of course, regardless of the intent of the inventors of the ‘eleven-plus’ pseudo-psychological/IQ test, everybody regarded it as a simple ‘pass or fail’.

Above all this, and quite separate from it, was the for-profit educational system, of fee-paying schools. Public schools being those which would accept any child whose parents could afford the fees, and private schools being those which had stricter criteria (in addition to being able to afford the fees/qualify for a bursary or scholarship).

Regardless of intent, with few exceptions the working class kids largely went to secondary moderns and, after getting their CSEs, went into basic jobs such as shop assistants and labourers, or community college; after earning City and Guilds certificates, they went on to become nurses, secretaries and mechanics. The middle class kids largely went to grammar and technical schools, and armed with GCEs went into nice, middle-class jobs; or, with ‘A’ levels, university; and became doctors, vets, engineers, architects and the like. The upper class kids went to Oxbridge and became lawyers, CEOs and politicians.

The socialists didn’t like this at all. Dividing kids into classes at the age of eleven on the basis of an elitist IQ test is manifestly unfair, so Labour tried their best to destroy the old three-tier system and make all children go to the same secondary schools regardless of their class, and receive the same education and study for the same exams (GCSEs). It worked; unprecedented numbers of working class children started to qualify for a university education, and join the middle class. The reactionaries didn’t like this at all; they like to have people stay in nice categories for them to boss about. At the first opportunity the Conservatives introduced fees for attending university again, putting social climbing once again out of reach for most. However, once your university is making a profit from its students, you’ll want to have as many students as you can get in through the door. Community colleges became universities, and could issue degrees instead of certificates. The reactionaries have responded by regarding a basic bachelor’s degree as the equivalent of a nice set of ‘A’ levels or a certificate, thus making it harder for anyone to get into a good job to earn the money needed to pay for a university education.

Add in the rise in house prices fueled by wealthy speculators, and thus cripplingly expensive mortgages, ‘Boomer’ parents like me have found it very difficult to have enough money in savings to pay the costs of educating our children, never mind helping them with housing. The only winners have been, as usual, the upper class. Don’t blame ‘The Boomers’ for the current situation; blame the wealthy, and the left wing parties for being too absorbed with ambition and in-fighting to fight for the rights of their natural constituency.

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