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December 22, 2005

Neil Darbyshire.

Ooooh, well said Sir, well said.

This respect for knowledge and education he passed on to his children. He recognised that the way for working-class children to exploit their potential was through education. It is this ladder to social mobility that Mr Prescott is now helping to kick away by opposing all forms of academic selection in schools. He sees himself as a class warrior: my father would see him as a class traitor.

I'm sure Mr Prescott is a big fan of the works of George Orwell. However, he should realise that Nineteen Eighty-Four was a satire. When Orwell came up with the slogan "Ignorance is Strength", he didn't really mean it. It was meant to be a warning about totalitarianism, an allegory, a kind of joke! You know! Ignorance isn't strength, John - it's just bloody ignorance.

December 22, 2005 in Academia | Permalink


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1984 a joke? maybe some humour very dark, but with some really stark messages e.g. O'Brien's imagist evocation of the future: "a boot stamping on a human face – forever."

Still a great book, with eternal messages.

Funnily enough, Orwell's criticism of communism in this regard doesn't cut it - ex Soviet countries have (or had) really good educational systems and levels of attainment. One of the few positive legacies of that time that is left.

John Prescott has made a career out of talking sh*te, eh!?

Posted by: angry_economist | Dec 22, 2005 10:43:41 AM

The author touches on an important point. The British education system used to teach a version of history, particularly with regard to the Empire, that would be considered laughable today, but has not come up with a suitable replacement story.

This is perhaps because the subject is too subtle
and would also be considered controversial.

The result, though, is that much of Britain's history is ignored.


Posted by: james C | Dec 22, 2005 12:20:08 PM

It's absolute nonsense. Prescott's "working class credentials" are quite simple; he worked for a living. Furthermore, Darbyshire's father had nothing to do with "social mobility"; he got a job at the chemical works and stayed there.

The working class still got an education after the 11 plus was abolished; in fact they got a rather better education because they weren't stuck into secondary modern schools which were actually designed to give them a worse education. Finally, Prescott actually achieved his current role despite failing the 11-plus, so if anyone has to thank the grammar schools, he certainly doesn't.

Everyone's got a father that they love, but this doesn't make Darbyshire's argument any less pathetic. It is entirely possible to be in favour of education but against the 11 plus and silly to pretend otherwise. (If anything it's sillier to pretend that your case is supported by the example of someone who didn't attend a selective school and remained in the working class).

Tim adds: "Prescott's "working class credentials" are quite simple; he worked for a living."

I have, as you know, worked as a waiter. Full time, for a living, no other income. Does this make me working class? You, presumably, do something that earns you a crust. Does this make you working class? A friend, who went on to be a Tory MP, worked as a waiter at the same place I did. Does this make him working class? Or perhaps a class traitor?

I think your definition might need refinement.

Posted by: dsquared | Dec 22, 2005 12:24:52 PM

Orwell's an odd way to end it. Didn't he write a piece on how the working class weren't so stupid to want an education?

Posted by: Matthew | Dec 22, 2005 1:23:10 PM

ex Soviet countries have (or had) really good educational systems and levels of attainment.

Yes and no. In terms of amount of stuff learned regarding sciences, geography, mathematics, literature, etc. then yes. And the Soviet education system did wonders for literacy in places like Central Asis. But knowing a lot of people come through the Soviet education system, I can see that it had sever limitations. Sure, learning hundreds of thousands of facts and figures and formulae each year teaches you something, but the Soviet education system did not teach anyone how to analyse, criticise, think about problems, etc. It just filled peoples' heads with data, rather like uploading stuff onto a hard drive. Try teaching a Russian a new concept - such as safety or efficiency - and you'll know what I'm on about. Russian engineers, for example, are technically superb bu lack the ability to divert from line which they have been set upon.

The Soviet education system worked well for the Soviet Union, but as far as producing children who can survive in the modern world, it falls way short.

Posted by: Tim Newman | Dec 23, 2005 4:34:55 AM

The point, Tim, is that being working class is not like being a chiropractor or a chartered accountant; you don't actually need "credentials". Prescott's life story speaks for itself; he worked on the ships and then went into socialist politics. So does Darbyshire's dad's; he went into the factories and stayed there. It's downright silly to claim that one of them has "superior working class credentials", as if Darbyshire senior had got a first-class Honours certificate of proletarianism while Prescott barely scraped a 2:2.

Posted by: dsquared | Dec 23, 2005 8:45:40 AM


Posted by: sally | Sep 12, 2008 4:46:11 PM