Monday, March 19, 2007

It makes my blood boil

I give you due warning. This is going to be a very bad tempered post.

I am in fact furious.

The reason?

The news I read over the weekend that in a spectacular piece of social engineering, universities are going to be required to ask applicants if their parents are graduates, in order, apparently, to redress the balance that means poorer children don't get to university.

Don't get me wrong. I am all in favour of poorer families getting to university. I am in favour of people with disadvantaged backgrounds having help to improve their circumstances. But I don't think this is the way to do it.

Surely, the most obvious way of improving our social mix at university is to improve our basic schooling. For far too many children in this country their only options of being educated are at best mediocre and at worst appalling. For a bright child born into a family whose only choice of school is the local sink, their opportunities to escape are limited. Unless they have very determined and pushy parents (which the chances are they won't), they will spend the fourteen years they are at school learning very little and come away with no more chance of getting to university then flying to the moon.

From that point of view, I can see the seductiveness of opening up unversity places by weighting the odds in their favour when they come to apply. But apart from the very obvious fact that their complete lack of education so far will mean they are unable to cope when they get there, two wrongs don't make a right. Favouring the people who have come from poorer backgrounds means those with the advantages of two parents who have been to university, will lose out, which is equally unfair. Added to which surely we want our unversities full of the best and brightest students, irrespective of background. Suppose a really clever kid who has the misfortune to have parents who are graduates gets rejected and a poorer kid gets the place, who isn't all that bright. Is that right? What is wrong with people gaining places on merit? Or saying that some people are cleverer then others? It's a fact of life. They are. And giving disadvantaged children a leg up in this way won't change that.

And this is why I am so angry.

If this goes ahead, in seven years time no 1 may not win a place at university, though she is likely to be fully qualified to do so, because Spouse and I have scuppered her chances by going to university ourselves.

What makes me mad as hell about this, is that though we both come from middle class families (as I have mentioned before I am sick to death for being beaten over the head for being middle class. Without the bleedin' middle classes much of this country would fall apart), we are also first generation graduates. Fil was keen to be a vet, but the war came along and he ended up being an insurance clerk. He and mil made huge financial sacrifices so that their sons could have a decent education and get to university.

My father wanted to go into law, but ended up a teacher. He did eventually take a degree, part time, as a father of six, while working full time. He was hardly privileged. Born in Liverpool to a pair of teachers, his early life was very difficult as my grandfather died when he was five and my grandmother couldn't get work. They only escaped by coming down south, but his young life was very tough.

My mother also lost her father young, and her older sisters and brother had to put any thoughts of higher education out of their minds as they needed to support the family. My mother was lucky enough to pursue her dream of nursing, but she would never have been able to go to university.

Watching the sacrifices my parents made to allow me to go to university has always made me hugely sensible to the privilege of going there. In another time I wouldn't have had that chance. And in fact, my grandmother (whose name I blog under) was offered a place at Liverpool University to read English, but wasn't allowed to go because her father didn't believe women should be educated. I was unaware of this when I blithely packed my bags and headed up north to Liverpool in 1984, but once I found out, I was aware more then ever of how lucky I am.

And now because I had the good fortune to have parents who appreciated the importance of education, and who made great sacrifices so that I and the rest of my siblings could have an advantage they never had, my children are going to suffer.

It is criminal. It is unfair. And it is plain wrong.

And I doubt very very much if it will help the people it is intended to. Because all that will happen is that the middle classes will get even better at fiddling the system then they always do, (It gives me such joy to think that the only way my children are likely to get on in life is to become a bunch of skiving, cheating bastards) the kids from the disadvantaged backgrounds may well get to university and drop out unable to cope (because you can bet your bottom dollar no one is actually going to give them the tools they need to survive), thereby ending up with a huge sense of failure, and if there any middle class kids out there who do have principles, they certainly won't be making the grade.

I think I'll enroll my lot as plumbers right now.

At least they'll be rich....

PS. As I am so cross about this, I decided I may as well try and do something about it. So I have just put in an epetition on the subject to no 10. (There is something spectacularly nice about being able to do this. Even if it comes to nothing, I have just I hope wasted someone's time enough for them to get cross too...) It takes five days to get a yay or nay, so if they let me do it, I shall post details here, and anyone as cross as me, go tell everyone you know to see how many signatures we can get...

14 comments:

rivergirlie said...

i just don't get this. it's extremely invasive and, i would have thought, quite contrary to the principles of data protection. it's absolutely nuts.

liz fenwick said...

there are times when i wonder why we live here.....i still don't understand why a large group of people here think it's wrong to work hard and be rewarded for that regardless of your background?????

100 Words said...

Someone mentioned the name Jane Henry in conversation today. Without wishing to sound really, really weird, what are your plans next Sunday?

h&b said...

My mum has just got back from 5yrs of living and working in the UK ( recruiting teachers in the school system ), and some of the stuff she's told me is just mad.

Not that we haven't got our problems here,

but .....

Jane Henry said...

River girlie (glad I know where you are btw!)/LizI can't help getting the feeling with New Labour that they just hate us - the normal people who work bloody hard, and try to do things properly. We just get shat on more and more. And as far as education goes, how many of the Cabinet got where they are because they were clever and poor but went to a grammar school, or a very good comp? Lots I suspect, and yet they seem determined to kick the ladders away from under them.
The world's gone mad. I am trying to write a post about it, but angsting so much about potential offence caused by speaking my mind, I haven't done so yet...

100 words... well it does sound A little wierd... And there's me telling my ten year old to be cereful in chat rooms (!) - however, the usual run of things chez maniacmum, goes, Spouse up and out to the gym, me take sprogs to church then back to cook sunday lunch for everyone and mil, followed by a session in the garden. This week matthew, I'm going to be planting spuds... However you have hugely intrigued me.

You can email me at: jules@marathonmum.com if you like!

h&b I don't know, maybe it's not as bad as I paint it, but we are so hamstrung by political correctness in this country and afraid of offending people, we are in danger of chasing our own shadows. It is a bit bonkers.

Anonymous said...

I share your frustration. But then again because that ladder has been pulled the ladder away, I doubt our kids will be able to afford uni anyway!

I actually don't think Tony Blair has ever given a monkeys about anyone, this is not a serious attempt to redress the inequalities in society. If it were implemented, those with money would find a way round, some of those whose parents didn't get to university and who were well educated would benefit, and everyone else would lose out. So another way to help the rich whilst pretending to do the opposite.

I can't actually see any university agreeing to this and with Blair on his way out hopefully this will be one mad idea condemned to the bin! Here's hoping.
Mad Twin

Jane Henry said...

Hullo mad twin, nice to see you here again...
Apparently Oxford have said they'll ignore it, but there will be funding implications apparently, so it sounds to me like it will go ahead unless people make enough fuss. Bil and sil seem to think it is fairly likely. Spouse is thinking of writing on no 1's UCAS form that he is into drilling...

Jane Henry said...

Hullo mad twin, nice to see you here again...
Apparently Oxford have said they'll ignore it, but there will be funding implications apparently, so it sounds to me like it will go ahead unless people make enough fuss. Bil and sil seem to think it is fairly likely. Spouse is thinking of writing on no 1's UCAS form that he is into drilling...

100 Words said...

Ah well, I expect there's more than one Jane Henry in the world. The one my friend knows is accompanying him to a pub in north London for a spot of gastro-lunch.

Forgive the enigmatic / downright creepy line of questioning.

Jane Henry said...

enigmatic and creepy line of questioning forgiven as you've just given me the best laugh of the day...

As a mum of four and happily married for 17 years I think my days of assignations in north London pubs are sadly behind me.

Besides, I'm not being totally honest on this blog, Jane is a pseudonym....

Helen said...

Hello Jane. I don't think I have posted on your blog before, but I'm a fellow novel racer. Hello!

I just had to reply after your post. I completely agree with you, and for all the same reasons. Both myself and husband are graduates - the first generation in both families to get degrees after our grandparents worked hard to get a better life for their children and so on. It was in fact my now deceased grandfather who was not allowed to go on to university by his own father, I don't remember why now, so I am incredibly grateful that I had supportive parents and indeed the chance to go to university just before the fees were implemented as I'm sure that would have put me off going...anyway I digress. I just wanted to say I'm with you on this. My husband has long threatened to start his own political party because of all this madness - maybe he should!

Jane Henry said...

Helen, nice to see you here. Sorry I probably won't come by yours too often as am getting a serious bloggy habit which I MUST get under control.

Glad I am not the only one who thinks the world has gone mad!
love Janex

Nic said...

I also am a first generationer - my grandfather wasn't even allowed to go to grammar school, even though he passed the 11+ because was the oldest and was needed on the famr.

I worked my arse of to get to Uni, not to please any pushy parents (in fact they were bemused) but because it was that or the pizza factory.

Sometimes I just want to nuke the lot of them...

nutmeg said...

Seems very non-sensical from down here in Oz - but like H&B said we have our own goons running our show (of all political persuasions)!

My husband and I are first generation grads too and I wouldn't like to get pushed out of the line because of some belief that we are privileged - seeing we are only one generation removed from probably being considered for this scheme! Crazy!