Posts Tagged ‘High School’

John Quiggin on the Absolute Failure of Trickle-Down Economics

January 8, 2019

John Quiggin is an economics professor at the university of Queensland Down Under. His 2010 book, Zombie Economics, is a very thorough demolition of the economic theories that have formed the current dogma since the election of Thatcher and Reagan in 1979 and 1980.

One of the theories he refutes is ‘trickle-down’ economics. This is theory that if you act to give more wealth to the rich through tax cuts, deregulation and privatization, this wealth will trickle down to benefit those at the bottom of the socio-economic ladder. It was one of the central planks of Thatcherism. And even in the 1980s, it’s effectiveness was highly dubious. I remember watching a documentary about it on the Beeb, which illustrated the theory with a pyramid of champagne glasses. When the glasses at the top of the pyramid were filled to overflowing, the champagne flowed down to the glasses lower down. So, Thatcher and her cronies claimed, their programme of free market economics would benefit everyone in society by enriching those at the top, from whom it would trickle down to the rest of us. If I remember correctly, the programme itself argued this wasn’t happening. And it hasn’t since. on pages 155 to 157 Quggin shows how the policy has not worked in America, and in fact the poor are massively poorer off. He writes

The experience of the United States during the decades of market liberalism, from the 1970s until the Global Financial Crisis, gives little support for the trickle-down view. The gross domestic product of the United States grew solidly in this period, if not as rapidly as during the Keynesian postwar boom. More relevantly to the trickle-down hypothesis , the incomes and wealth of the richest Americans grew spectacularly. Incomes at the fifth percentile of the income distribution doubled and those for the top 0.1 per cent quadrupled.

By contrast, the gains to households in the middle of the income distribution have been much more modest. As shown in figure 4.2, real median household income rose from forty-five thousand dollars to just over fifty thousand dollars between 1973 (the last year of the long postwar expansion) and 2008. The annual rate of increase was 0.4 per cent.

For those at the bottom of the income distribution, there have been no gains at all. Real incomes for the lower half of the distribution have stagnated. The same picture emerges if we look at wages. Median real earning for full-time year-round male workers have not grown since 1974. For males with high school education or less, real wages have actually declined. According to estimates made by the Economic Policy Institute, the average annual earnings of twenty-five to twenty-nine-year-old high school graduates, expressed in 2005 values, fell from #30,900 in 1970 to $25,90 in 2000, and have stagnated since then.

Since 2000, median household incomes have actually fallen, the first time in modern history that such a decline has taken place over a full business cycle. One result can be seen by looking at the proportion of households living below the poverty line. The poverty rate declined steadily during the postwar Keynsian era. It has remained essentially static since 1970, falling in booms, but rising again in recessions.

Unlike most developed countries, the United States has a poverty line fixed in terms of absolute consumption levels and based on an assessment of a poverty-line food budget undertaken in 1963. The proportion of Americans below this fixed poverty line fell from 25 per cent in the late 1950s to 11 percent in 1974. Since then it has fluctuated, reaching 13.2 percent in 2008, a level that is certain to rise further as a result of the financial crisis and recession now taking place. Since the poverty line has remained unchanged, this means that the real incomes accruing to the poorest ten percent of Americans have fallen over the last thirty years.

These outcomes are reflected in measures of the numbers of Americans who lack access to the basics of life: food, shelter, and adequate medical care.

In 2008, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture statistics quoted by the Food Research Action Center, 49.1 million Americans live in households classified as “food insecure”, meaning that they lacked access to enough food to fully meet basic needs at all times due to lack of financial resources. Slightly more than 17 million people (17.3 million) lived in households that were considered to have “very low food security”, which means that one or more people in the household were hungry over the course of the year because of the inability to afford enough food. This number had doubled since 2000 and has almost certainly increased further as a result of the recession.

The number of people without health insurance rose steadily over the period of market liberalism, both in absolute terms and as a proportion of the population, reaching a peak of 46 million, or 15 percent of the population. Among the insured, an increasing proportion was reliant on government programs. The traditional model of employment-based private health insurance, which was developed as part of the New Deal, and covered most of the population during the Keynesian era, was eroded to the point of collapse.

Homelessness is almost entirely a phenomenon of the era of market liberalism. During the decade of full employment, homelessness was confined to a tiny population of transients, mostly older males with mental health and substance abuse problems. By contrast, in 2007, 1.6 million people spent time in homeless shelters, and about 40 percent of the homeless population were families with children.

The experience of the United States in the era of market liberalism was as thorough a refutation of the trickle-down hypothesis as can reasonably be imagined. The well off have become better off, and the rich have become super-rich. Despite impressive technological progress, those in the middle of the income distributions struggled to stay in place, and those at the bottom became worse-off in crucial respects.

(My emphasis).

Bernie Sanders in his book described just how severe the crisis in private American medical care was. It almost collapsed completely in certain states because a very large number of patients are simply unable to afford medical treatment.

And the same situation prevails here in Britain, with increasing poverty here in Britain. Millions of households now live below the poverty line, a quarter of million people need food banks to keep body and soul together, including working people with families. As Mike pointed out in a piece last week, parents are now starving themselves in order to fee their children.

The NHS is also in crisis, though for different but related reasons to those in the US. It’s in crisis because of massive funding cuts by the Tories over the last decade, and the determination of both Tory and New Labour administrations to privatise it by stealth. The introduction of private enterprise into the NHS actually raises costs, not diminishes them. It’s for the simple reason that private firms have to make a profit to pass on to their shareholders. Plus private firms also have bureaucracies of their own, which in some instances can take up 44 per cent of the firm’s income.

And added to this there is a massive increase in homelessness. But don’t worry! Yesterday, the I newspaper published a piece from the Economist telling millennials to cheer up, because in the future they’ll be able to afford their own home. Which sounds very much like simple propaganda for the current economic orthodoxy, rather than a realistic, credible prediction.

Free market capitalism has failed, despite what the press and media is trying to tell us. The Conservatives responsible for its adoption should be thrown out of government, and the Blairites who introduced it into Labour should be forced out of the positions of power they seek to monopolise. If not expelled altogether as Thatcherite entryists.

We need a genuine, socialist Labour government to clean this mess up. A government which must be led by Jeremy Corbyn.

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Yoav Shamir on the Xenophobic Indoctrination of the Israelis

November 21, 2016

This is a short segment, fifteen minutes or so, from the full length film, Defamation, by the Israeli film-maker Yoav Shamir. Shamir’s argument in the film is that Israeli society and Jewish organisations abroad, like the Anti-Defamation League, deliberately obsess about anti-Semitism as a way of indoctrinating their people with xenophobic fears about everyone else. This is done in order to whip up support for the brutalisation and ethnic cleansing of the indigenous Palestinians.

Shamir starts off by saying that he’s an Israeli, and has never encountered anti-Semitism. So he wants to investigate it. He talks to his grandmother about it, a woman who fled Russia. Her comments about anti-Semitism shock her grandson, as her remarks about those Jews, who remain in the native countries are exactly the same as the slurs anti-Semites make about the Jewish people in general. She states that she is the genuine Jew, the hardworking, decent Jew, while those who remain outside Israel are all crooks, exploiting the non-Jewish inhabitants through alcohol, gambling and so on.

He then goes to one of Israel’s leading newspapers, which has published many stories about anti-Semitism. He meets one of its leading journalists, an elderly man in his 80s and a veteran of Auschwitz, who still has the tattoos the Nazis placed on the arms of their Jewish victims. This man blandly tells him that anti-Semitism is rising in the world, and that Germany, France, Britain and America are all anti-Semitic. Britain, he declares, is anti-Semitic, as London has an anti-Semitic mayor. He also states that the newspaper is keen to play up anti-Semitic incidents, and downplay any decline in them. When Shamir asks why that is, he gets the bland answer that if there’s a rise in anti-Semitism, they sell more papers.

He then travels to America, where he meets Abe Foxman, the head of the Anti-Defamation League at their headquarters. Foxman and his colleagues inform him that there has been a rise in anti-Semitism, and they’re pursuing several incidents at the moment. Later on, Shamir asks Foxman if there are any cases his team can follow as they’re investigated by Foxman and his people. Foxman agrees. When Shamir asks his staff what cases they’re pursuing at the moment, he’s told that they’re quite serious cases. However, most of them seem to be about people not being given time off work for the Jewish holidays, and an incident where someone overheard a cop making derogatory comments about the Jews on his walkie-talkie.

He then talks to Jewish high school students at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial in Israel. The students are shown looking at a model of the gas ovens at Auschwitz, and being taught about the horrific system under which the corpses of the victims had their gold teeth extracted, before being cremated. He then films a school teacher giving her class a prep talk for their forthcoming visit to Auschwitz. She touches on how this will prepare some of them for their military service. She also states quite explicitly that everyone hates the Jews. The Polish people, she says, hate the Jews. But they are not to worry, as they won’t meet them, and there will be two secret service agents with them.

When asked about their reactions to this xenophobic teaching, the kids state that it makes them feel special, to know that everyone in the world hates them.

This is a disturbing movie, and the repeated assertions that all non-Jews are anti-Semitic, blandly made as if they were a simple statement of fact, are nothing short of outrageous. If the shoe was on the other foot, and a non-Jewish politician stated that all Jews, or all Israelis, despised the gentiles, it would almost certainly be met with anger and condemnation from spokespeople for the Jewish community. And rightly so, as such claims are at the heart of the stupid and vicious conspiracy theories that claim that Jews exploit gentiles, or are engaged on a centuries-long project of global conquest, as outlined in the forged Protocols of the Elders of Zion. But these statements are not challenged, despite the fact that they are for a very large part, manifestly untrue.

I’m not bothered about the comments from Shamir’s grandmother. She’s of a different generation, one that arose long before our modern sensibilities about race. She’s like the embarrassing older relatives many of us have, who go on about Blacks or Asians. Their attitudes are unpleasant, and dangerous in so far as the people who hold them tend to be the people voting for Nigel Farage and UKIP here in Britain. But it’s not at the same level as the official xenophobia and racism being spewed out by the newspapers and the Israeli school system.

I’m not complacent about anti-Semitism in the West. Racism is on the rise throughout Europe, partly as a reaction to the poverty inflicted on the mass of ordinary people across the continent through neoliberal economic policies, and a political class that seems intent only on its corporate enrichment. It’s also fed too from fears of Muslim terrorism and violence following 9/11, and the refugee crisis, which has seen hundreds of thousands of people flee north Africa and the Middle East for what they hope will be better lives in Europe. Racism was a powerful factor in getting Trump to the White House, where he’s appointed Steven Bannon, an anti-Semite, as his ‘head of strategy’. It’s a powerful force in elevating Marine Le Pen’s Front National to a position as a major political force in France, and the Alternative fuer Deutschland in Germany. And there is a very nasty tradition of anti-Semitism in eastern Europe, which is getting stronger, with attacks on Gypsies and now Muslim immigrants.

But to claim that all non-Jews are anti-Semites is, quite simply, a ridiculous, outrageous lie. Let’s take some of the countries the various Israeli speakers in the movie claimed were anti-Semitic, beginning with Germany.

Yes, Germany was murderously anti-Semitic during the Third Reich. But apparently today the situation is the exact reverse. There are still Nazi thugs and hooligans, like the National Democrats and Schonhuber’s German Republican Party. But, probably in reaction to their anti-Semitic past, according to the BBC modern Germany is very pro-Jewish. So much so that Radio 4 a few months ago broadcast a documentary on how the country attracts many young Israelis to spend time there after they’ve done their national service. And a few weeks ago, the papers on this side of the North Sea reported that a sizable chunk of the British Jewish community had taken out German citizenship in opposition to Brexit. I’m not sure if the people, who did this will actually be moving to the Fatherland their grandparents and parents left. I think it’s like the various Brits, who took out Irish citizenship on the grounds that they had an Irish grandparent. They want the benefits of a connection to the EU through their ancestral homelands without actually moving there. But nevertheless, if Germany was the terrible, anti-Semitic monster that the Israeli bigots claim, somehow I don’t think the Jewish Brits now taking out German citizenship would want to do so.

Ditto with the Jews in France. Despite Marine Le Pen and her storm troopers, a poll of French people conducted after 9/11 found that 95 per cent of the population consider Jews French. Of course, this means that 5 per cent don’t, which is a problem. But the message there is that the overwhelming majority of French people aren’t anti-Semitic, at least in as much as they regard Jewish French people as their compatriots.

My guess is that the same is probably true of this country. I’m very much aware of the Nazi antics of the various NF/BNP splinter groups, such as the explicitly anti-Semitic and neo-Nazi National Action, whose leaders do believe in the obscene lies of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. They’re a pain and a menace. But they’re also miniscule, a mere handful of violent thugs. As for the mayor of London being anti-Semitic, excuse me, but ‘eh?’ If the film was made when Boris was mayor, this statement is wrong. Boris is, in my opinion, a vile individual, with racism one of his many unpleasant traits. But I’ve never heard him utter an anti-Semitic comment. All the racist remarks he’s made, or alleged to have made, seem to be about Blacks and Asians. If the remark is about Saddiq Khan, then again, I’ve never seen anything to indicate that he’s anti-Semitic. Unless, of course, this comes from the smear that somehow he supports Islamic terrorism. Which he doesn’t. He has associated himself, so I gather, with very conservative Muslim preachers, some of whom may hold anti-Semitic views. But this is speculation, and I’ve never heard or seen evidence that Khan himself is an anti-Semite.

As for America, the country is a staunch supporter of Israel, and very many of its favourite entertainers and celebrities are Jewish. Again, the Nazis, the Klan and the Alt-Right are out there, but the impression I’ve got is that, as a country, America has been very pro-Jewish. In fact amongst the American Conservatives, I’ve noticed that there is the perception that they believe that Europeans are all anti-Semites, and so view the rest of us on the other side of the Atlantic with suspicion.

The anti-Semitic incidents Shamir shows in this clip being discussed by the ADL are clearly in the movie because they are trivial. I don’t doubt that they’re annoying and distressing, to those to whom they occurred. I’m sympathetic to the frustrations and annoyance of the people, who couldn’t get time off to celebrate their religious holidays. With the rise of aggressive secularisation in Britain, it’s also happening to Christians over here. And I don’t like to hear people talking disparagingly about minorities. But these aren’t the same as assaults, and threats of physical violence. I am aware, though, that since Trump’s election Jewish businesses have been vandalised with Nazi slogans, including references to Kristallnacht, the infamous vandalism of Jewish shops and businesses by the Nazis.

But what is really chilling and outrageous is the way the Israeli education seems deliberately designed to reinforce these fears. It’s entire understandable and right that Israeli young people should visit Auschwitz, as an example of the massive campaign of extermination the Nazis initiated during the Holocaust. However, it is a chilling and vile smear that all of the Polish people are anti-Semites, and that these kids are to be kept away from them for their own protection. I’m very much aware that there is widespread anti-Semitism Poland, as there is in many other parts of eastern Europe. But I also know that the part of the Yad Vashem memorial to the Holocaust also contains a list of the many righteous Polish gentiles, who risked life and limb to rescue and shelter their Jewish countrymen during the Nazi occupation of their country.

Part of the joy of travelling is that you meet the native peoples of the countries you visit. Not only does meeting and talking to them broaden your mind by exposing you to their culture and their frequently very different perspectives on events and issues, but they’ve also been an integral part in creating good international relations after the carnage of the Second World War. When I was studying German for my ‘A’ levels, one of the foreign excursions we were offered as an adjunct to the course, was to the Sonnenberg Conference in Hannover. This is an annual meeting of school students in Germany from across Europe. And I think it was set up, at least in part, to heal the divisions between Germany and the other peoples of Europe after the War. I didn’t go, but those who did really enjoyed it.

My old college, where I took my first degree, also offered an exchange with a Polish college. The students, who went on this also visited Auschwitz, naturally. But they also met and enjoyed the hospitality of their Polish friends and exchange partners. Those I talked to about this were really impressed at how hard Polish students worked, and the way they were able to achieve good grades and a thorough understanding of their subjects, despite serious shortages in the kind of equipment we take for granted over here, like stationary and pens.

I’ve no doubt whatsoever that meeting other people from all over the world broadens your outlook, and creates genuine international understanding. But these Israeli kids were denied that. They were to be kept separate, guarded, told to fear the Polish people around them. As for the two secret service agents with them, you wonder why they were there, and who they were protecting. It seemed to me that they were there not to safeguard the children from gentile attack or vilification, but to make sure they didn’t become too close to the Poles. The real danger there, according to the Israeli military and educational authorities, seemed to be that Israelis could become too friendly with the people they were intent to demonise as the terrible ‘Other’.

And this has created the fear that makes some Israelis see themselves as special. And this feeling that the world is against them has led to the Israeli authorities angrily denouncing any criticism of the barbarous treatment they mete out to the Palestinians as ‘anti-Semitic’. Because they’re taught by their school teachers and army instructors that everyone else is anti-Semitic, and so any criticism they make of Israel must come from this deep anti-Jewish racism, not because of a decent outrage against the persecution of one people by another.

Shamir’s film is also important for the perspective it gives on the anti-Semitism allegations in the Labour party. I’m sorry for bringing this up once again, now that so many of the people accused of anti-Semitism have been cleared, but Luke Akehurst and the Jewish Labour Movement are still around, and still likely to cause trouble. The people slandered as anti-Semites, in the vast majority of cases, were decent, non-racist and even actively anti-racist people, with proud personal histories of fighting against anti-Semitism. They were accused of anti-Semitism because they made the unforgiveable crime of speaking out against the persecution of the Palestinians, or trying to put the Holocaust into perspective of one of the very many genocides that have sullied human history.

The Israelis, and Zionists like Akehurst, need to demonise and vilify such people, in order to ward off the entirely justified criticisms of Israel and its own maltreatment of its indigenous people. They need to demonise the peoples of other countries, Jews as well as gentiles, as ‘anti-Semitic’, or, if they’re Jewish, ‘self-hating’, in order to create that sense of election that allows the butchers in the Israeli armed forces to kill and massacre without compunction.

This is a monstrous disgrace. There are very many Jews and Jewish organisations abroad and in Israel itself, which are committed to defending the Palestinians and trying to create a better, more just Israel and a free Palestine. They include not just secular Jews, but also deeply religious people versed in the Bible and the Torah. Those in Israel may be subject to horrendous persecution, simply for speaking out. I’ve mentioned before how Ilan Pappe, the Israeli historian, who writes extensively on the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians, was forced out of his teaching post and then his homeland by the authorities.

This xenophobia needs to be challenged. It needs to be taken into account whenever the odious Mark Regev, the Israeli ambassador, starts ranting about anti-Semitism and lying about his political masters’ abuse of the indigenous Arab population. It needs to be brought up whenever the Israel lobby in the Labour party start lying and smearing decent people as anti-Semites. Racism everywhere needs to be fought. This includes not just the disgusting xenophobia of the Nazis, the Holocaust deniers, and racial populists like Trump and Farage. It also means the Israeli system, that fills its young people with unreasoning terror of other nations, in order to deform their personalities to get them to perpetuate the same horrors Jews have suffered on the Palestinians.

C.A.R. Crosland on the Anti-Democratic Nature of the British Public School System

June 28, 2016

I found this description of the profoundly anti-democratic nature of the British public school system, and its pernicious effect in creating class inequality and blocking genuine modernisation and social, political and technological improvements in British society in C.A.R. Crosland’s The Conservative Enemy: A Programme of Radical Reform for the 1960s (London: Jonathan Cape 1962). Despite the fact that this was written well over fifty years ago, it’s still, unfortunately, very true and is amply demonstrated by the current Tory government, headed as it is by the old Etonian limpet, David Cameron.

The public schools offend not only against the ‘weak’, let alone the ‘strong’, ideal of equal opportunity; they offend even more against any ideal of social cohesion or democracy. This privileged stratum of education, the exclusive preserve of the wealthier classes, socially and physically segregated from the state educational system, is the greatest single cause of stratification and class-consciousness in Britain.

It is not, of course, the only cause. The effect of being for so long a great imperial power, and the psychology of discipline, hierarchy, and master-subject relationships which this induced; the persistence (and indeed continual reinforcement ) of an hereditary aristocracy; the absurd flummery surrounding the Monarchy; the obsessive snobbery (even amongst a section of the intelligentsia) about birth and titles; the deep-seated differences in accent; the national propensity to kowtow and manoeuvre for precedence – these would produce strong feelings of social deference and superiority whatever the educational system.

But the school system is the greatest divisive influence. It is no accident that Britain, the only advanced country with a national private elite system of education, should also be the most class-ridden country. The Scandinavian countries, the least class-ridden, have no significant private sector; such few private schools as exist are mainly for backward children. In France, while many private primary schools exist, middle-class children normally go tot he public lycee at the secondary stage. In Germany there are half a dozen would-be-English public schools. But only an insignificant minority even of wealthier children attend them, and the carry no national prestige; an Old Salem boy may care as passionately about his alma mater as an Old Etonian, but his prospective employer or bank manager, let along the rest of the population, could not care less. In the United States, it is true, there are not only a large number of non-exclusive private Catholic schools, but a growing number of ‘smart’ upper-class private schools which, being often academically superior to the state schools, confer an advantage in getting into the best universities. But disturbing as this trend is, these schools still do not constitute a nation-wide elite system with the divisive social influence of the English public schools; nor, given the anti-elitist psychology of the American people, are they ever likely to.

No historically-minded champion of the public schools could possibly deny that schools can have either an integrative or divisive social influence. For it was indeed the historic function of the public schools in the nineteenth century to assimilate the sons of the new and self-made middle class into the ranks of the hereditary ruling class; and even today they fulfil an integrative role for the sons of self-made men. Similarly the American high school, whatever else may be said about it, has brilliantly fulfilled the function of assimilating ethnically diverse groups into a common national culture. (As a matter of fact, most of what else is said about it by English critics is false. They always assume that its lower educational standards are due to the fact of its being ‘comprehensive’, whereas in reality they are due, as the quite different Swedish experience demonstrates, to certain specifically American factors – the attachment to ‘life-adjustment’ education, the automatic ‘social promotion by age groups and the lack of grading by ability, the preference for vocational courses, the acute shortage of teachers, the low quality of many of the teachers, and so on.) A school system can either increase or diminish social disparities; and the British public schools manifestly increase them.

And they do not even, today, provide efficient leadership. It is again no coincidence that Britain, the only country with a national elite system of private boarding schools, from which its leadership is still disproportionately drawn, should be falling so badly behind other democratic countries in the achievement of widely-accepted national goals – behind western Europe in economic performance, Scandinavia in social welfare and urban planning, the United States in technology and innovation. In the nineteenth century the public schools, disagreeable as they may have been, did at least train a leadership perfectly fitted to the needs of a growing empire. For this training, their characteristic features – the boarding, the hierarchical discipline, the emphasis on games, the carefully-nurtured sense of innate superiority – were precisely apt. They are not, however, (although now considerably modified), equally apt for a mid-twentieth-century world full of computers, Communism, trade unions and African nationalism. This is hardly surprising. The quality of leadership is not, after all, an absolute and unvarying quality. It is specific to particular situations; and what makes for good leadership in one situation may make for bad leadership in another. The public schools today, although providing ‘a good education’ in a rather narrow sense, do not generate the right type of leadership for a democratic, scientific, welfare world.

Almost every emphasis which they inculcate – on manners and ‘character’, on the all-rounder and the amateur, on the insular, the orthodox and the traditional – is wrong from the point of view of contemporary goals. it is this which partly explains those national characteristics which are at long last becoming the subject of widespread hostile comment: the reluctance to innovate, the refusal to grapple with problems, the lack of pride in maximum professional achievement, and the cult of the gifted amateur, of the smooth and rounded Wykehamist who can turn his hand to anything with a natural, effortless superiority, and with no need to stoop to the humourless professionalism of Huns or Yanks. Fundamentally this reflects a failure of English elite education to achieve the highest of all education ideals: that of fostering inquiry, dissent, and critical intellectuality. A country in which the most damning insult which Lord Salisbury could fling at Mr Iain Macleod was that he is ‘too clever by half’ is not a good prospect in the modern world. Some of our upper classes are as anti-intellectual as the Know-Nothings.

But this attitude might be attributable to aristocracy, not to the schools themselves. Unfortunately, parallel faults can found in those fields which traditional represent the culmination of the British elite system of education: the Civil Service, and Oxford and Cambridge. Beautifully adapted to its pristine task of administering a going concern without excessive interference, the British Civil Service remains notable for its honesty, industry and administrative competence. But it has failed to adapt to a world which requires the long rather than the short view, active planning rather than passive administration, novel rather than traditional ideas. Thus the Treasury has been astonishingly behind France, Holland and Sweden in adopting long-term economic planning. The Foreign Office was ponderously slow to wake up to the existence of new and revolutionary post-war situations in the Middle East and elsewhere. The Ministries of Health and National Insurance have introduced new social policies without even a research unit to investigate their probably effects. The Ministry of Education takes decisions for or against different types of school without conducting any research into their different consequences, and has little idea of how many teachers we need to carry out its own policies. The typical Whitehall attitude of mind-thorough and precise, but pedantic and unadventurous – is in part a reflection of the Oxford and Cambridge background from which most Civil Servants come. But are Oxford and Cambridge really as good as Harvard and the Sorbonne! Their farcical performance over the introduction of sociology – a lamentable compound of hidebound traditionalism and facetious superciliousness – makes one doubt it….

The need is not for more public-school-type education for the top few per cent of the population. Indeed, the whole notion of an elite-type education is inappropriate in Britain today. For both our greatest need and our largest untapped resource now lie below the level of the cleverest few per cent – although disastrously many even of these are still slipping through the net. From the viewpoint of efficiency as well as equality, we need less concentration on an educational elite and more on the average standard of attainment.

The case against the public schools, then, has grown stronger even in the last few years. First, the type of leadership which they provide is seen to be less and less appropriate to the national goals of the 1960s. Secondly, as we grasp the fact that intelligence is partly an acquired characteristic, we see even more clearly that the whole notion of an exclusive and privileged education is inconsistent with equality of opportunity. Thirdly, despite the gradual process of democratic reform in other directions, the socially divisive influence which these schools exert show disturbingly little sign of abating. (pp.174-8).

This is clearly a dated piece, as Britain was, until we left the EU, something like the fifth largest economy in the world, and England has led the world in the number of patents that come out of our universities, quite apart from the more obvious points such as the collapse of Communism. But as this government’s policies amply demonstrate, the wealth is increasingly concentrate in a very narrow circle of the extremely rich, at the expense of everyone else. And while Britain may be scientifically immensely innovative, those innovations have tended to be developed elsewhere. Maglev transport is a case in point. The idea of trains powered by magnetic levitation was the idea of the British scientist, Laithwaite. There were serious experiments in its application by British Rail, until this was axed during the cost-cutting of the early 1970s. Research was then taken over by the Germans. Which partly explains why Volkswagen’s slogan, Vorsprung durch Technik – something like ‘Advance through Technology’, isn’t translated into English.

In short, the main function of the British public schools is to lock the upper classes in power, and the rest of the country in a quasi-feudal class servility. And one of its products, Boris Johnson, looks like he’s going to be the next PM.

Oh, couldn’t we have at last at least one leader, who went to a comprehensive!