A BBC documentary informs us that Prince Charles has often tried to influence government policy. He was even courageous enough to talk sense to David Blunkett, telling him he should bring back grammar schools – those institutions sometimes referred to by The Times Educational Supplement as “grammer schools.” Blunkett comments:
“I would explain that our policy was not to expand grammar schools, and he didn’t like that. He was very keen that we should go back to a different era where youngsters had what he would have seen as the opportunity to escape from their background, whereas I wanted to change their background.”
Just the sort of remark you would expect from an old class warrior. Actually, it is indisputable that grammar schools did enable youngsters to rise above their origins. The opportunities provided by grammar schools were real and not fictitious, whereas Blunkett’s airy talk about “changing their background” is so nebulous as to be void of all meaning. What we have to understand is that socialists favour equality. They want to assign everyone to the same level. Unfortunately this always means levelling down: the perfect example of socialist levelling is the prison uniform. It is also indisputable that not everyone is suited to an academic education. There is nothing “elitist” about this. It’s horses for courses. Some people are not suited to a practical education. I wasn’t. The woodwork master slung me out of his class for creating a three-legged stool so palpably atrocious that I was not allowed (as the other lads were allowed) to stain and varnish it, but was ordered to paint it red as an awful warning. And I was held up to mockery and scorn for making a Horlicks of the paint job. Once, before one of my regular canings for truancy, the headmaster said, “You know, Mullen, I sometimes think you come to school only to play cricket and enter the poetry competition.” He wasn’t far wrong. Though I did like the girls in their candy stripes who used to sit around the field and watch us play cricket.
What a pity that Blunkett and all the other socialist ideologues were not permitted by their class prejudice to notice that grammar schools were a way – perhaps the only way – of improving the prospects of the poor. What is beyond doubt is that the system of universal comprehensive schooling has massively failed the poor. The department of Education’s own figures admit that, after eleven years of full time, compulsory education, 43% of our children leave school unable to read, write and count efficiently.
That is the consequence of the politics of envy.