Monday, 14 February 2011

Propagandists for privilege argue eugenics on university admissions

Here is my letter to The Sunday Times regarding the disgraceful article they published by columnist Minette Marrin. They operate a pay wall so I can't link to the article or quote from it. You'll get the gist from my letter:

Sir,

In an astonishingly crass, patronising and offensive article unworthy
of your pages, Minette Marrin states "the less bright tend to have
children with others who are less bright and tend to produce
corresponding children...it is conceivable that you would not, in
fact, expect inherited intelligence to be equally distributed across
all socioeconomic groups."

You know that the rich fear their privileges are threatened when their
propagandists in the press resort to arguments akin to Nazi-like
eugenics in defence of an education system which ensures that the best
education and therefore life chances go predominantly to the children
of the well-off. She sums up her argument as that life isn't fair so
university access "can never be fair". It is the task of
"unreconstructed socialists" as she calls us, to work to ensure that
society becomes more fair. Without this imperative we would still be
living in feudal serfdom. Just as the NHS was established to ensure
that people receive treatment on the basis of their need, so all who
believe in fairness must work to ensure that elites, which are of
course inevitable and necessary, must be formed as a result of
equality of opportunity rather than parental wealth.

Yours faithfully,

John Slinger


I also sent the following letter to The Sunday Times about the amusing but unedifying sight of Oxford admissions tutors trying to claim that treating everyone exactly the same at the time they apply somehow constitutes a 'fair' system. Of course, objectively, it is fair. But despite all their training (no doubt much of it at top public schools and Oxbridge), they always seem to omit to mention the hugely unfair secondary school system which proffers up the students for them to then decide on. My letter tries to get to the nub of this argument by use of analogy. Yes, I am an opinionated bore. I am in fact working to achieve my aim of being a remunerated opinionated bore, but with no success so far. But equality of opportunity (as opposed to pure equality) is, to me, so obviously something that all right minded people ought to aspire to, that I am saddened to see how blinkered so many people are when it comes to their own privileges being threatened.


Sir,

Oxford's head of admissions says it would be an "intellectual
contradiction" to lower offers from state school applicants when they
already reject so many privately-educated students with top grades
(Oxbridge snubs Clegg on grades, Sunday Times, 13.02.11). Surely the
real intellectual contradiction comes in viewing it to be fair to
treat all by the same criteria at the point if application, when the
educational system which these students lived through up to that point
is patently unfair in giving better opportunities to those whose
parents are better off.

We wouldn't accept a hospital consultant claiming it to be fair that
he treats a disproportionate number of rich people in the NHS, if the
GP system which fed patients to him did so on the grounds of people's
ability to pay. Why is education different when its effect on
someone's life chances and on society is arguably more profound than
health?

Yours faithfully,

John Slinger

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