University 'wants the best'?
In the Daily
Mail of 8th June 2002, it is reported that middle class parents
are being put off by the violence in state schools (and high time
too) so that the percentage of the population, at present 7%,
attending independent (fee-paying) schools may increase.
Can it be
that state schools, deteriorating all the way from the post-war
inception of the Welfare State, have now become so bad that the
obvious physical risks are overcoming the wilful blindness to
the almost equally obvious psychological risks on the part of
politically correct parents (and these days, who does not want
to appear politically correct?)
Since it is
impossible for anything realistic to be said about differences
in innate ability and temperament, or the hostility to ability
and certain personality characteristics within the educational
system, the vague rationalisations that are uttered, and after
some fashion believed in by most people, are totally misleading.
University] wants the very best people regardless of their background',
Mr Andrew Dilnot, the new Principal of St Hugh's College, Oxford
is quoted as saying, and recently other people associated with
Oxford University have expressed virtuous intentions about increasing
the percentage of state school undergraduates from 'underprivileged'
backgrounds. (Oxford Times, 2002.)
doesn't want the best. If it did, it would long since have provided
me and my associates with salaried academic appointments and opportunity
to use our abilities in progressive research. In fact, it has
practically no interest in the advancement of scientific knowledge
per se, and has no more wish to believe in the existence of exceptional
ability than the rest of the state 'educational' system. If you
don't want to believe that something exists, you may well consider
it unwise to give it any opportunity to show that it does.
When I talk
to people these days there is a presumption that ability is evenly
distributed over all categories of the population. If you draw
attention to indications that this is not so, people are likely
to challenge you to provide a politically correct way of accounting
for them, and are offended if you do not, or if you question the
assumption that, for example. parental encouragement or the lack
of it is the only and sufficient explanation of a statistical
difference in academic success between the offspring of 'middle-class'
or successful families, and those of 'working-class' families.
So the new
Principal of St Hugh's College and others who hold forth on this
issue probably has in mind an underlying assumption that the intake
of universities should be equally derived, pro rata, from those
who attend state schools (93% of the population) and those who
attend fee-paying schools (7%). In fact, even with a massive lowering
of standards over the last fifty years and 'positive discrimination'
in favour of state school entrants, Oxford has found it difficult
to achieve an intake of 50% from the 93% of the population at
discrimination' in favour of state school candidates implies,
by the way, 'negative discrimination' against people with high
IQs who have been to fee-paying schools.)
after so much 'social engineering' and redistribution of income,
it may plausibly be surmised that the average IQ at fee-paying
schools is a good deal higher than that at state schools.
It is also
a consideration that state schools are hostile to innate ability
and to the personality characteristics likely to lead to success.
Auberon Waugh wrote in an article:
Of all the crimes and disasters perpetrated by British governments
since the war
. I feel the only one to compare with Mr (now
'Lord') Stewart's murderous policy in Nigeria
is the imposition
of comprehensive schooling. Quite apart from its exacerbation
of class antagonisms - even in calm backwaters as Somerset, middle-class
or hard-working children of any class are regularly beaten up
as snobs - it has removed any prospect the working-class child
might ever have had of improving himself, escaping from the miserable
proletarian rut which the 'workers' create for themselves wherever
they have the upperhand.' (article from the Spectator, 28.02.1981,
published in Another Voice, Sidgwick & Jackson Limited, London,
1986, pp. 31-32)
have become far worse since then, although writers like himself
who might draw attention to such things are even fewer and farther
It is very
likely that a high proportion of those with IQs over 150 or so
who go to state schools, are so discouraged and demoralised that
they leave without making any attempt to get to university, or
go to university in a bad psychological state and fail to complete
the course or get an indifferent degree. I have known several
people who fitted this description.
their IQ the more antagonism they are likely to encounter from
state schools and local education authorities, so if Oxford insists
on 50% (or even more) of entrants being from state schools, it
is ensuring an intake with a declining level of average IQ.
If Oxford really wanted 'the best', it would need to take into
account that those with the highest IQs and the greatest potential
for research are likely to arrive suffering from years of hostility,
even if they manage to reach university at all. It would need
to exercise 'positive discrimination' at the postgraduate as well
as university entrance level. Those with high IQs who arrive at
university after many long years of suffering, particularly under
the auspices of the state system, and who may also be taking their
degrees at far too late an age in terms of their own development,
are unlikely to recover fast enough in the course of three years
in the university environment to do as well as they need to do
in their degree examination in order to have the sort of academic
career which they so badly need to have.
And yet it
may still very well be the case that they are among those most
likely to make significant advances in research, or even to teach
a subject in which their own exam taking came too late.