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Britian Deeply Elitist - Who Knew!

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Is it what you know or who you know that matters?

Only 7% of members of the public attended a private school. But 71% of senior judges, 62% of senior officers in the armed forces, 55% of permanent secretaries in Whitehall, 53% of senior diplomats, 50% of members of the House of Lords and 45% of public body chairs did so.

So too did 44% of people on the Sunday Times Rich List, 43% of newspaper columnists, 36% of cabinet ministers, 33% of MPs, 26% of BBC executives and 22% of shadow cabinet ministers.

Oxbridge graduates also have a stranglehold on top jobs. They comprise less than 1% of the public as a whole, but 75% of senior judges, 59% of cabinet ministers, 57% of permanent secretaries, 50% of diplomats, 47% of newspaper columnists, 44% of public body chairs, 38% of members of the House of Lords, 33% of BBC executives, 33% of shadow cabinet ministers, 24% of MPs and 12% of those on the Sunday Times Rich List.

The report says the judiciary is the most privileged professional group. About 14% of judges attended one of just five independent schools (Eton, Westminster, Radley, Charterhouse and St Paul's Boys).

And senior armed forces officers are the second most exclusive group, the report says. Some 62% of them went to a private school, and only 7% attended a comprehensive.

http://www.theguardian.com/society/2014/aug/28/closed-shop-deepy-elitist-britain

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-28953881

You can find the report the media are quoting here:

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/elitist-britain

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It is hardly surprising that Oxbridge graduates dominate positions of power. The excess of public school boys is more of a concern.

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It is hardly surprising that Oxbridge graduates dominate positions of power. The excess of public school boys is more of a concern.

The public school is where they cultivate the effortless self-confidence and innate superiority that takes them through life. Probably the seeds are sown even younger.

I think the idea of Oxbridge as bastions of privilege is largely a red herring: at age 18 you're past that formative time of life. My experience: we were kind-of aware that there were toffs somewhere around, but we never really encountered them. I guess at that kind of age, we'd've had contempt for upper class twits who in turn would've had contempt for us plebs. There was a degree called Land Economy that was kind-of a standing joke: something for those with more rolling acres than braincells to qualify to inherit the ancestral estates.

It's certainly true that the universities go to great lengths to level the playing field in their student intake. See for example this story of how things have changed over a generation:

Recent news: Cambridge university to require higher A-level grades, including a newly-minted A* grade. Politically-correct establishment (“mediocrity for all”) protests feebly about discriminating against pupils from state schools.

Speaking as someone who went from a big state school[1] straight to Cambridge, I feel slightly qualified to pontificate on this subject. My schooling made me unambiguously an unprivileged child, and I assumed my acceptance at Cambridge was based on merit. That’s exactly what the Politically Correct want to see more of. Isn’t it?

So what enabled me to make that jump? It was two things: one economic (student grants), the other academic (entrance exams). The latter was crucial, because the general exams taken by everyone at 18 were wholly inadequate: anyone with half-serious aspirations to Cambridge or other well-regarded universities could expect to get 96-100%, in exams where a shameful 65% would get you the top grades. If you base entrance on A-levels, it’s a lottery tending towards Mao’s China.

That was 30 years ago. Since then it’s got worse, as evidenced by the ever-rising numbers of top grades awarded[2]. I’d certainly have welcomed a less-devalued top grade, and I’m sure the current generation of Cambridge candidates at comprehensive schools do likewise. Even if some who purport to speak on their behalf don’t agree.

I took the Cambridge entrance exam in (IIRC) January of my final year at school. In sharp contrast to the A-levels, I found it genuinely challenging and was not certain of success. Later at Cambridge, I recollect a conversation with a contemporary who found even that exam far too easy, and who attributed that to the Cambridge-focussed coaching he’d had at his (fee-paying) school. If he was right, then the PC whingers may have a genuine point, that the exams were an unfair advantage to some privileged candidates. So what should – or can – the University[3] do about it?

Well, I happen to know someone who is in his final year at school and is a candidate for Cambridge this year. Like every bright youngster, he too finds the A-levels far too easy. But he too is taking an entrance exam. Just one crucial change from my day: the exam has moved from January to July, after the end of the school year. Before it, the candidates get an intensive couple of weeks coaching at Cambridge, so they’re all prepared for it!

It’s hard to see what more anyone could do to level the playing field. I guess the PC whingers are just unhappy that it could be levelled upwards based on academic criteria, rather than downwards to a lottery. Let me commend The Gondoliers to them: WS Gilbert in 1889 saw the absurdity of levelling society by decree! Come to think of it, that’d make good reading for today’s economists and bankers too.

[1] A “comprehensive” – an invention of the socialist agenda of the 1960s that replaced selection at 11 based on IQ, and survives to this day. Most children go to comprehensive schools from age 11 to 16 or 18, but aspirational parents look down on them and try very hard to avoid them.

[2] No, I’m not saying it’s got easier since my time (I’ve no idea if it has). Just that its abject failure to distinguish the sheep from the goats has got ever worse.

[3] Or rather the colleges, who each manage their own admissions.

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The original story is slightly disingenuous. Senior judges - who top the privilege table - come from generations who were educated at a time when private wealth was an absolute requirement to qualify as a barrister in the first place. Neither grants nor loans were available for part of their training.

Edited by porca misèria

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The public school is where they cultivate the effortless self-confidence and innate superiority that takes them through life. Probably the seeds are sown even younger.

I think the idea of Oxbridge as bastions of privilege is largely a red herring: at age 18 you're past that formative time of life. My experience: we were kind-of aware that there were toffs somewhere around, but we never really encountered them. I guess at that kind of age, we'd've had contempt for upper class twits who in turn would've had contempt for us plebs. There was a degree called Land Economy that was kind-of a standing joke: something for those with more rolling acres than braincells to qualify to inherit the ancestral estates.

It's certainly true that the universities go to great lengths to level the playing field in their student intake. See for example this story of how things have changed over a generation:

OK how the heck does that link prove that universities have been leveling "the playing field"? Because it quite obviously shows the exact opposite.

There is no way the average Brit can afford the extensive high quality one on one tutoring that having a two month gap between finals and extrance exams facilitate. Thus this change obviously biases the education system more than before to those with preestablished wealth.

The same with grade inflation - it means more reliance is put on entrance exams and personal interviews (where polished interpersonal skills matter rather than intelligence).

If you really want to take only the best and brightest then you base entrance only on year end results from the age of 12 to 18 (higher weighting for later exams), with a more differentiating exam system, and a slightly lower entrance requirement from comprehensive schooled pupils, to account for the fact that for any given set of A level results the degree outcomes are higher for comprehensive schooled vs privately schooled (no doubt because the privately educated no longer have the advantage of more intensive education, greater resources and 1 on 1 tuition).

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Oh dear. Do I have to help the hard of thinking?

OK how the heck does that link prove that universities have been leveling "the playing field"? Because it quite obviously shows the exact opposite.

There is no way the average Brit can afford the extensive high quality one on one tutoring that having a two month gap between finals and extrance exams facilitate. Thus this change obviously biases the education system more than before to those with preestablished wealth.

WTF are you talking about? That was tuition provided free by the college for all candidates judged realistic. Meaning they all had at least something. Unlike in my time, when most of us had nothing, and those who wanted more time to prepare would do the exams a year later.

The same with grade inflation - it means more reliance is put on entrance exams and personal interviews (where polished interpersonal skills matter rather than intelligence).

If you really want to take only the best and brightest then you base entrance only on year end results from the age of 12 to 18 (higher weighting for later exams), with a more differentiating exam system, and a slightly lower entrance requirement from comprehensive schooled pupils, to account for the fact that for any given set of A level results the degree outcomes are higher for comprehensive schooled vs privately schooled (no doubt because the privately educated no longer have the advantage of more intensive education, greater resources and 1 on 1 tuition).

As a comprehensive school pupil, I felt patronised by A-levels being so utterly trivial that a failure to get top grades was inconceivable. But that would've been as nothing to the undermining effect I'd've felt if there had been the suspicion that discrimination had played a part in getting in to Cambridge.

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I know quite a lot of state school kids who went to Oxbridge.

I think it's fair to say they've all done well, but past a point it's who you know rather than what in this country (and most others actually).

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It's a shame that going to Cambridge seems to be the peak achievement of your life. You mention it often.

Had you ever considered that you never quite made the most of the opportunity because you were also that unconfident and not so savvy, connected, comprehensive educated kid?

Apologies if I'm getting tedious. Time for a break from HPC!

Indeed, there's been a lot of downhill since then, along with one or two lesser peaks. Probably the biggest knock was graduating into a recession, struggling to get a job, and taking the first I was offered. And then finding I couldn't afford to live in London! A hard knock to the confidence. Indeed, I am the kind of data which has led commentators to worry about a "lost generation" amongst today's youth who may be facing similar problems.

Quite a few of my Cambridge contemporaries could say the same or worse. Like A., who since his PhD has done little more than drive a taxi. Or like G., who scrapes a meagre living in music tuition for kids. On the other hand, some of them have achieved something in life.

Edited by porca misèria

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Only the guardian and the bbc are able to make such astounding revelations that nobody had any inkling of.

Basically they're just rubbing it in.

Edited by billybong

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The same with grade inflation - it means more reliance is put on entrance exams and personal interviews (where polished interpersonal skills matter rather than intelligence).

Oh please! You're acting as if anyone from a state school is an inarticulate urchin who couldn't possible compete on merit. It's even more laughable in the age of the internet when there's no mystery about anything and anyone wanting guidance on the interview process could find plenty at the click of a mouse.

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There is no way the average Brit can afford the extensive high quality one on one tutoring that having a two month gap between finals and extrance exams facilitate. Thus this change obviously biases the education system more than before to those with preestablished wealth.

The same with grade inflation - it means more reliance is put on entrance exams and personal interviews (where polished interpersonal skills matter rather than intelligence).

I went to a state school, and around 20% of my final year went to Oxbridge. Not because we paid for extensive tutoring, but because the teachers gave us old Oxbridge exam papers to practice on, and spent a couple of hours a week marking them for us.

And, as for grade inflation, it's the 'all must have prizes' left that we have to blame for that. Then you whine that universities don't trust those results. Well, maybe you should have thought about that beforehand.

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Oh please! You're acting as if anyone from a state school is an inarticulate urchin who couldn't possible compete on merit.

The one group the left hate more than any other is... the working class.

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The original story is slightly disingenuous. Senior judges - who top the privilege table - come from generations who were educated at a time when private wealth was an absolute requirement to qualify as a barrister in the first place. Neither grants nor loans were available for part of their training.

Indeed cause and effect, perhaps wealthy parents who have the right contacts to get their kids top jobs also send their kids to public school. The one I went to in yorkshire had a significant number of farmers sons amongst the intake. These guys were there to play rugby and take over the farm when they had finished university, they were destined to be high earners and it was the reason they went to public school not the result of it.

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Shock horror - majority of top jobs taken by cleverest!

Genetics take a large part here. Clever people tend to have clever children.

Do the lefties want a larger representation for mentally retarded people amongst judges?

Perhaps more judges should be from a Rotherham Pakistani background?

Edited by Oh Well :(

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No, but where is better?

Indeed if you talk to recent immigrants (the ones with educations looking for work) they all say the same thing, they come to the UK because you at least have some chance of getting a reasonable job with the right qualifications. In many countries of the world without the right contacts you have no chance.

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Indeed if you talk to recent immigrants (the ones with educations looking for work) they all say the same thing, they come to the UK because you at least have some chance of getting a reasonable job with the right qualifications. In many countries of the world without the right contacts you have no chance.

This is true but I feel that Britain is becoming increasingly 'third world' in this respect.

Nick Clegg is a case in point, groomed by Leon Brittan, and so is Camoron.

Edited by 1929crash

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Every society has been ruled by some form of elite, we have gotten closer to 'meritocratic' leadership than many (ie. clever folks rather than inherited power or brute force) but seem to be regressing. The problem with 'meritocracy' is that those who are at the top tend to think they deserve it in some sense, rather than previous generations who had a sense of 'noblesse oblige' and realised it was all fairly arbitrary, a kind of 'there but for the grace of God goes I'. Now those at the bottom are viewed as feckless, stupid or lazy, often with some justification.

There is a view that the post 45 settlement allowed a degree of meritocracy through grammar schools and the end of old boys networks. Products of this tended to marry each other and move in the same circles so we just ended up with genetic stratification rather than arbitrary classes. Many at the bottom now, would have no chance of being a doctor/lawyer etc even with the best education as their genetic material is pretty weak (particularly as these people tend to have more children and earlier)

Labour in particular have managed to incentivise short termism and vulgar culture so a bright kid from a 'lower' family will be little better off as an engineer, mid ranking civil servant etc than a doley. This must have some broader incentive effects.

I'm 30 so not looking back to the good old days but when I was a lad, whilst everyone wanted to be a footballer or a pop star, they knew it was unrealistic and would never have said so. Celebrity culture was also totally alien, I saw a recent poll where kids wanted to be 'famous' not even famous for their field, just famous...how depressing

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