Grammar School

I find this article very interesting, in a slightly queasy and guilty way. Queasy and guilty for a few reasons – one of which is that I’m not very keen to agree with Roger Scruton about anything. But then I promptly feel queasy about that thought, too, because it’s the basic principle of B and W that facts (and where possible ideas and opinions) should be judged on their merits rather than by association or ideological affiliation. That is to say, I’m almost obliged to acknowledge that a conservative isn’t automatically wrong about everything. But then will I end up agreeing with Rush Limbaugh about something? Oh please no –

Well, we all know the feeling, I suppose. Our Shanghai correspondent David Stanway said much the same thing in his blog on Monday (scroll down to August 4).

Reading another of Mark Steyn’s masterpieces in The Spectator , I am forced to admit that the idealism of youth is no longer an option, particularly in West Africa. I am also forced to admit the ineluctable truth that one becomes more right-wing as one gets older. Ten years ago, I wouldn’t even have looked at The Spectator.

Just so. Mind you, I usually manage to tell myself that I’m not becoming more right-wing, I’m just becoming more skeptical or observant or wised-up or nuanced or some such flattering spin. Then again other times I can’t help thinking I’m simply becoming more misanthropic and choleric and short-fused and scornful. But those are good things to be!

Ah well, never mind. I know there are some limits. I’ll never admire George Bush or Ronald Reagan, I’ll never rejoice over tax cuts for the rich, I’ll never join Scruton in getting dewey-eyed about fox hunting, I’ll never, ever become a god-botherer. That will have to do for now.

But another reason I feel a bit torn about the Scruton article is that I always feel torn about this subject – the competing goods of egalitarianism and meritocracy in education (and elsewhere). I would like everyone to have an education like the one Scruton got at High Wycombe Royal Grammar School. Yes and I would also like pigs to have wings and the land to flow with milk and honey. Even if societies were willing and able to spend the money that would take, there wouldn’t be enough brilliant teachers to make that possible. So…I’m just stuck with feeling torn, as always. Such is life, I’m told.

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