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May 15, 2008

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alabastercodify

Good god - are you feeling alright?

For every sinner that repenteth...

Jackart

It's lovely to see you praising my Alma Mater...

And I agree, they will work damned hard to find something you're good at. That's education rather than mere Training...

Devil's Kitchen

Yes, Chris; this is precisely what I have always said and, indeed, I have written about precisely these aspects at length (and not in your admirably pithy style).

But I must echo the sentiments of the first commenter: are you feeling alright? Or has the move mellowed you...? ;-)

DK

MatGB

"shouldn't the left, when it thinks about what an ideal education system would look like, take some cues from private schooling"

Yes:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/education/7183247.stm

And yet this policy idea was criticised in far too many otherwise fairly sane circles as being 'right wing'.

Planeshift

Ok, so why don't state schools do the same thing?

Is it because: (1) the state strangles them with targets, bureacracy and only judges success on exam pass rates, (2) state schools lack the resources of private schools to work with each individual and create excellence,or (3) all teachers in state schools are mean and stupid.

We can do something about (1), and ignore (3) as being self evidently absurd and something only believed by Daily Mail editors. However if the reason is (2) then this implies state schools need a lot more resources, and on this blog you've previously questioned whether education spending is worthwhile.

John Meredith

Absolutely they should. It used to be common in leftish circles to hear someone or other denounce private schools not just in principle but as examples of educational feebleness. These people would angrily claim that the public school ideal suppressed free thinking (or why would so many public school boys be 'right wing'? Stanstareezon!)and turned out biddable, broken, sexually ambivalent establishment lackeys with no broader understanding of history, politics, culture etc. Forcing yourself to believe this went along with clinging to the idea that the comps were sending out huge numbers of comparatively brilliant and well-informed free thinkers who would intellectually steam-roller the effete, privately educated classes whenever they were allowed to meet them on equal terms. But that idea seems to have slipped away. Do they even study history in comps now, or is it considered too elitist?

So, vouchers all round?

John Meredith

MattGB, you missed out a fourth possible: (4) state schools don't have to compete for their intake and so lack the incentive to do the heard things (they get paid anyhow).

Of course, any state school in a 'middle class' area does effectively have to compete with the private sector, but those schools tend to do rather well.

John Meredith

Should be 'hard things', of course. Wish I'd been to secretarial school.

John Meredith

And that comment should have been directed at Planeshift. I'll get my coat.

John Meredith

Should be 'hard things', of course. Wish I'd been to secretarial school.

John Meredith

Should be 'hard things', of course. Wish I'd been to secretarial school.

kinglear

Bang on Chris. Nearly 50 years ago I was told by a school master at one of the great Grammars ( King Edward VI in Birmingham) that the difference between state and private schooling was that the state merely required you to GET the answer.
The private sector wanted you to understand HOW you got the answer ( and possibly several different ways of getting it too.)

Planeshift

"(4) state schools don't have to compete for their intake and so lack the incentive to do the heard things (they get paid anyhow)."

Actually they do, ever since the 1988 education act gave parents the right to choose schools. Thats why you'll find waiting lists for schools with good results, and surplus places in schools with bad results.

And 'memebot'...

John Meredith

"Actually they do, ever since the 1988 education act gave parents the right to choose schools"

But in the majority of cases, the 'choice' available to parents is bogus. Ask around a bit and you will see. The 'good' schools in good areas are dominated by those who can afford to live near them. Other parents generally have a 'choice' of two or three more or less identical schools that are mediocre or bad. Those schools need not change because they get paid whatever they do (within bounds). It is called 'producer capture' I think.

The 'memebot' thing is just silly. If you want to talk about state education policy, vouchers are going to come up. I realise why you would prefer they didn't, because you can thereby avoid constructing an argument in contra. But it might do you some good to have a go instead of simply trying to cut the discussion off with mild insults.

Andrew

Quasi Cursores....

Chris Williams

Once upon a time, I went to Eton, on a course. I was really impressed by the talents of the masters, by the level of the facilities, and by the educational philosophy of the place. On the other hand, being numerate, I was also able to notice that the teachers were getting paid exactly twice what the ones in my comp (a few of whom were in the same league) got, and the level of capitalisation was probably an order of magnitude higher. Even at the time I noted that you'd have to be an idiot to piss away an endowment like that. Of course it was better.

Oakham, with its higher budgets and capitalisation, can afford to give the kids a wide range of extra-curricular activity: that's what the parents pay for. It would be worth commenting if they weren't getting that. They're being socialised into the upper-middle class quite nicely. That's the point. It's also more fun than an exam mill. That's also the point. If you're nice but dim, you don't need the GCSEs. 'Private Means' will provide.

I imagine that many/most teachers in the state sector would rather not be running exam mills (note, for example, the attitude of the teaching unions to SATs), but that's the state for you. As you know.

I also find it interesting that several right-wing commentators on this thread are reading the post as a vindication of private education per se. Marxist analysis is obviously too appealing to resist in this case.

dearieme

When a chap undergoes a sudden accession of Good Sense, one wonders whether he has fallen under the influence of a Good Woman.

John Meredith

Should be 'hard things', of course. Wish I'd been to secretarial school.

John Meredith

Should be 'hard things', of course. Wish I'd been to secretarial school.

John Meredith

Apologies for the multiple repeat postings. I have no idea why this is happening. I'll try to stop it happening though. Talk about limited rationality.

Shuggy

"Bang on Chris."

Bang off Chris. Here's a couple of reasons why:

"drawing out whatever latent talents a student has."

Really? If a pupil has a talent for rapping/electric guitar/basketball/home economics/lap dancing - do you really think private schools 'nurture' these? Let's keep it real, ok? They nurture those talents that are signalers of belong to the ruling class.

Private schools narrowly prepare their students for the world of work too. It's just that the sorts of jobs they are likely to do are rather different from those who go to school in the east end of Glasgow.

Dipper

Yes - Bang on Chris.

In Olden times, The Public schools produced the leaders, the grammar schools produced the professional advisers, and state schools produced the infantry.

I'm reminded of this everytime I hear a New Labour minister speak. Their lack of ambition for state-school pupils for anything beyond the lower reaches of American corporations rings loud and clear.

Fortunately, a lot of state-school teachers seem to think differently.

Tom

Forgive me for what I bet many of you may perceive as naivity since I'm only young, but it's all fine and dandy private schools being great and those who are able to afford it taking advantage of it, but, well, what of the poor? Shouldn't we focus on improving comprehensives so everyone gets equal opportunities, or would everyone somehow be able to benefit in an entirely private funded system, not that I'm saying that's what's being proposed.

Shuggy

"but it's all fine and dandy private schools being great and those who are able to afford it taking advantage of it, but, well, what of the poor?"

Out of the mouths of babes. Yes, Chris - what about the poor?

Chris Williams

Actually, Chris D, if you'd had the bad luck to get a scholarship to Leicester Grammar School when you were a nipper, you would have quickly discovered that the private sector (especially the Thatcherite bits of it) is just as capable as the public of running a boring and monomaniac Gradgrindian exam mill.

chris

Gentlemen - I'm haven't turned, or fallen under the spell of a good woman. The reason I despise so many public schoolboys is precisely that their education was so good, and they made so little of it. Worse, some of them mistake the good fortune of their early environment for their own achievements.
The question: what about the poor? is precisely the issue. It's prohibitively expensive to raise state schooling to the quality of the best private schools - let alone to compensate for worse home and local environments. This is why I think equality of opportunity is a wholly unrealistic goal, and a degree of equality of outcome is more feasible.
Shuggy - white men should not be encouraged to rap, or play electric guitar; I fear private schools encourage the latter too much anyway. Mind you, having seen some of the girls at Oakham, your suggestion that lap-dancing be nurtured will give me many happy hours.

John Meredith

"Really? If a pupil has a talent for rapping/electric guitar/basketball/home economics/lap dancing - do you really think private schools 'nurture' these?"

Yes, they really do. There are better and worse, of course, and they organise in different ways, but the private schools I looked at (not the top flight but still beyond my means in the end)all offered opportunities in al these areas except for lap dancing, although all other manor of dance was available and I think those skills are easily transferable. In addition,of course, there was a fantastic range of academic opportunities not available in state schools. Many people really do send their children to private schools because they value education in itself, rather than simply for its instrumental purposes.

Kevin

Have seen both state and private systems up close. Don't have any answers to the concerns voiced above, just a surprised observation (& maybe this is what Chris is seeing too): the two are not comparable. Don't understand why this is such a secret, but it explains why so many people in the know - parents, professional politicians - will impoverish themselves to buy private education. With demand this inelastic - there are few substitutes - the private sector might thrive even without charitable status... but then it could distance itself further from the dumbing fumbling of government.

Mark Wadsworth

Vouchers it is, then!

Bob B

Quote: "On the other hand, being numerate, I was also able to notice that the teachers [at Eton] were getting paid exactly twice what the ones in my comp (a few of whom were in the same league) got, and the level of capitalisation was probably an order of magnitude higher."

One among several paradoxes in all this is that two "maintained" [= official jargon for non fee-paying] schools within walking distance of where I sit achieved better average A-level results than Eton in the exams last-year:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/education/7180103.stm

As well as those two schools in my neighbourhood, another local maintained school, a girls school, also attained better results than Eton and several more were not far below.

A possible contributing factor is that I live in a London borough which regularly comes at or close to the top of the annual league table of local education authorities based on the average attainment of candidates in the GCSE exams:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/education/7180228.stm

Curiously, the London borough is not unusually affluent by the standards of the data on income distributions available for London boroughs and the percentage of local residents with Level-4 qualifications [graduates and professional qualifications] is below the average for London. The borough is not a big spender on education and comes near the bottom of the league table among London boroughs for per capita spending on education.

In the context, we might ask what is so special about Eton, apart from the high salaries paid to teachers and the facilities there?

To the best of my knowledge, the schools in my locality do not run army cadet activities.

BTW this news report appeared on the BBC website afew years ago: "The UK's most expensive private schools are producing pupils who achieve the worst grades at university, according to research. An eight-year study of graduates' results by researchers at the University of Warwick suggests that the more parents pay in school fees, the less chance their children have of getting a good degree."
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/education/2552523.stm

Dan | thesamovar

I have to say that Shuggy's characterisation of private schools accords more with my own experience of having gone to one than Chris' description. They're very good at making you do very well at exams, not necessarily so good at 'nurturing talents'. Incidentally, the school I went to used to 'suggest' to parents whose children were not doing well that they consider changing school. This was so that the school would do better in the league tables (and by all accounts, other schools did this even more).

dearieme

Oi, Shuggy - "If a pupil has a talent for rapping/electric guitar/basketball/home economics/lap dancing - do you really think private schools 'nurture' these?". I think it's quite possible they do; anyway, it's a factual question admitting of a factual answer, so by tradition it has no place in a discussion of schooling.

Planeshift

"If a pupil has a talent for rapping/electric guitar/basketball/home economics/lap dancing - do you really think private schools 'nurture' these?"

Well once vouchers are introduced I plan to set up Planeshifts school of heavy metal. We'll be teaching electric guitar, drums and how to make unnatural noises with your vocal chords. We'll also provide our pupils with skills that prepare them for working in the music industry such as being a roadie, sound engineer and snorting cocaine from the thighs of a stripper (this will be a transferable skill for those pupils who become stockbrokers).

And that's no more silly than setting up faith schools, which will proliferate under a voucher scheme.

ChrisA

There is a deeper issue being raised here between the way that private and public (or state) entities can allocate expenditure. In the case of a private entity no justification need be offered if the owners of an entity decide to spend money on something, that's their business. State spending however is an involuntary transfer of resources, the spenders are not the owners, so there has to be justifications and explanations, the proposers have to defend their decisions. Asethetic or softer issues are difficult to argue for and don't get much sympathy. So a private company can spend money on (say) expensive training courses in expensive country hotels, that would raise hell if the local council were doing it. Likewise payment of teachers twice the going rate can be done in the private sector if that's what the owners of the schools feel is the right thing to do.

Blissex

«Yes, Chris; this is precisely what I have always said and, indeed, I have written about precisely these aspects at length (and not in your admirably pithy style).
But I must echo the sentiments of the first commenter: are you feeling alright? Or has the move mellowed you...? ;-)
DK»

Ahhh, but perhaps you don't realize an important difference here: if the education given by the independent sector is so much better *for the children*, why shouldn't *every* child be given that education?

Or is is that those born the wealthy are more deserving than the children of the losers and thus it is right and proper that access to a quality education should be restricted by the ability of parents to afford it?

If Eton is so much better than other schools, how comes there is only one Eton and the overwhelming majority of its pupils was born with a silver spoon?

Or is that those that like the existence of a highly expensive independent school sector that gives preferential access to the best universities and the best jobs and the best old boys networks to a very just a case of "F*ck you! I am fully vested" and so will be children be?

Blissex

«I have to say that Shuggy's characterisation of private schools accords more with my own experience of having gone to one than Chris' description. They're very good at making you do very well at exams, not necessarily so good at 'nurturing talents'.» As someone pointed out above, there are two different classes of independent sector schools: finishing schools for those who will inherit if not the Earth a substantial portion of Great Britain and don't need jobs (except perhaps as opposition leaders, shadow chancellors and newly elected mayors of London), and exam cram factories for those destined to lives of work as the clerics and scribes of the first category. Surely very well paid lives of work as law firm partners, top mandarins in government, and so on, but still in areas whose access by the offspring of "hoi polloi" is restricted by exam results, where the upper reaches of those exam results are significantly dependent on the amount that parents can spend in exam cramming.

ian

"The private sector wanted you to understand HOW you got the answer"

Well my public sector Grammar School taught me that too. The trouble was that the same system effectively abandoned everyone who failed to get past that 11+ hurdle.

"Abandon hope all ye who DON'T enter here"

Backword Dave

Chris, if I were sober (which I'm not, having watched Cardiff City's defeat), I'd grab my copy of John Keegan's "The Face of Battle". Anyway, without the page references, he defends Wellington's "The Battle of Waterloo was won on the playing fields of Eton" with the logic that the English mania for games inculcated a respect of and desire for excellence for its own sake.

I should note that I live in South Wales which has accepted the English public school game of rugger as its own while also believing in socialistic principles. In short, I believe that there are indeed virtues in public school education - and everyone should have access to them.

I'll also note that those who deprecate 'child centred' education, don't understand the derivation of 'educare'. They're mostly on the right, and knocking comprehensives. The problem with comprehensives is that they're not child centred enough.

Backword Dave

Oh crap, forgot to add my new URL: http://www.daveweeden.me.uk/

Chris Williams

Apropos the "comps only teach you to parrot the answer" claim in the thread above, I've just heard this from my son: "My teacher said that it's better to work out the answer for yourself, not to be told the answer, because then it sticks in your brain." (a) He goes to a state school. (b) He is 5.

Can we generalise from this? Probably not, but yet again, it shows that arguments from educational anecdote only stand up until the next anecdote comes along.

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