Further comments on the basic moral principle
stated the basic moral principle, it can be seen how freely it is violated in
destroyed my education, and has made it impossible for me to recover from the
effects of that destruction ever since, was not au fond the hostility and
oppressiveness of any particular individuals, but the intrinsic immorality of
the modern ideology. My parent were
operating in an environment in which there was no shortage of people to
prescribe to them how they should regard me.
legislation which prevented the taking of the School Certificate and other
exams before a certain age is a clear violation of the basic moral
principle. It was denying to the
individual who might be taking exams, or to his parents who were supposed to be
considering his interests, the right to evaluate for himself how serious were
the advantages or disadvantages, in an existential perspective, and in view of
his individual characteristics and outlook, of taking an exam of a certain kind
at a particular age.
lack of sensitivity to this basic principle of morality, even so soon after the
war when the Welfare State had been in force for only a few years, was shown by
the fact that even supposedly conservative newspapers found no fault with the
legislation. Protests were made on
behalf of a few children who were clearly going to be prevented from taking
exams that they were well able to take, but newspaper articles which discussed
them were only too willing to impose solutions of their own, on the lines of
‘If he/she is so clever, he/she can easily pass the time reading books/playing
chess/doing good works.’
shows that the willingness to impose solutions and interpretations on other
people’s lives was already well developed.
No doubt it always has been, and that is why there is little hope of the
basic moral principle being upheld except in a free market society in which an
individual can defend himself against other people’s ideas of what he ought to
want, by paying with money for what he does want.
course, the young person is necessarily at a disadvantage so long as he has to
depend on decisions being made on his behalf by a parent, and even more so if
he is dependent on decisions being made by someone who has not even some sense
of genetic bonding with him. One of the
things which would have saved my education from complete disaster, so that its
inverse could be said to be the cause of its ruin, would have been an age of
legal majority which was related to mental rather than chronological age. On
the most conservative estimates, I would certainly have been of age and free to
make decisions for myself before the School Certificate situation arose.
would not necessarily have prevented my father and the numerous partners in
crime who gave him immoral advice behind my back from putting me under the same
sort of pressure as they actually did, but I think my hand would have been
strengthened. Certainly my father got
into the way of talking as if it was something that should be decided by him
and his advisors, not by me. And even
if I had given way under the same misapprehensions as I did, it would have been
much easier for me to reverse the decision when I realised what was really at
stake. As it was, it would have been a
case of reopening altercations and negotiations to get the Reverend Mother to
agree that I should be allowed to take it after all. I would certainly never have stayed at the Woodford school for
more than the first day under my own auspices.
those most likely to be disadvantaged by the age-limit legislation were the
most precocious (in those days it was not yet explicitly stated that there was
no such thing as precocity). So this
legislation conveyed to all and sundry that there was no need to take into
account any special individual requirements that might arise from special
ability. This was treated as implying
also that the possibility of any special needs arising from unusually extreme
individual characteristics should not on any account be entertained.
latter is pretty much the principle that has been applied to me throughout my
life. Could it be that people realise
that ignoring the particular requirements which arise from outstanding ability
is a good way of providing it with the handicaps which are desirable to cancel
the likelihood of its possessor being able to make use of it? Of course by now it has become acceptable to
assert that there is no such thing as precocity or outstanding ability anyway. At that time people liked to refer
gloatingly to cases of child prodigies who had ‘fizzled out’.
implication of this was not that they had not retained their ability, but that
some strange innate deficiencies had rendered them unfunctional in later
life. From time to time throughout my
life, including quite recently, I have read newspaper articles quoting
educational ‘experts’ as remarking on the number of early high achievers who
finish up without an academic career.
This is supposed to constitute a proof that this is a perfectly natural
outcome, but it might just as well be taken as a demonstration of the hostility
towards them, and their consequent inappropriate treatment by the educational
in connection with the latest horrendous proposal for the further deterioration
of the university system, Professor Oswald of Warwick University is quoted as
saying, ‘Why exactly should Britain’s plumbers and secretaries and telephone
operators have to pay for you to come to Warwick? You will earn far more than
them. You will have much more interesting jobs.’ (The Times, 31 May 2000). This shows how hopeless it is to expect
the State to provide for the differing needs of individuals. In reality, there are many factors, of which
measurable IQ is only one, which affect the circumstances and types of activity
which an individual needs for his well-being.
It is impossible to quantify the weighting of these factors in an
individual case, and it is a violation of the basic moral principle to impose
conditions on him which take into account only very few factors.
supposing (as I do) that IQ and other innate characteristics strongly influence
the individual’s aptitudes and temperament, let us remember how heavily
outnumbered by the majority of the population at large is the minority (about
3%) even with IQs above 130, at which level a child is (or used to be) referred
to as ‘gifted’. Really outstanding IQs,
at a level which used to be described as ‘near genius’ or ‘potential genius’,
constitute a tiny minority of the ‘gifted’ population. So how can it possibly be expected that a
democratic society will provide adequately for the needs of, say, the top 1% of
the population, of whom the remaining 98% are jealous, and whose success and
well-being they resent?