So the Tory candidate for the By-Election at Eastleigh, Maria Hutchings, has gone and said state schools aren't good enough for her children. Queue people who are clearly a little too 2d on issues of liberalism rushing to her defense.
"Free choice!" they cry! "Don't judge people wanting the best for their children" they implore.
Bullshit. Let's not get in to some stupid, hypocritical liberalism. If these people have free choice to choose what is best for their family, we also have a free choice to criticise.
Taking it at it's core level when MPs and ministers choose to put their kids in to a private school they are admitting the failure of their own institution. If the state cannot provide enough of a standard that willingly spending thousands and thousands of pounds on education in a private sphere is a more acceptable option, then the state must not be performing well. By proxy, the state education system becomes one that is good enough for the poor, but not for the rich.
And this is the core problem, it's not *actually* about education levels, it's about class and it's about perceptions of quality (rather than actual quality) of being educated.
I put a metaphor forward... if I was building one brand of car, but chose to buy a different brand, doesn't that send the wrong message out about my car? We see this over and over, celebrities that endorse one type of product while using another (Alicia Keys, Blackberry vs Apple, for example). We see through this behaviour easily, we know the difference between being paid to give lip service to one idea while personally believing something different. Quite rightly we question the integrity of these people in the task or job they've been paid for.
A friend said, quite rightly, that you might make (as CEO of a company perhaps) that brand (say, Vauxhall) but want to buy a "better" one (like a Jaguar). Now, is that because the Jag is truly a better car? Arguably there are better quality components, subjectively better design....the reality is that it is better more through status than it is through more relevant measurables such as reliability and efficiency.
Yet the feeling is I should buy the Jag, this is because I want to fit in with my peers, and act appropriately to my job title and income. Is this not what it happening with private education? People that have got themselves significant incomes, wealth too perhaps, that think that they must put their kids in to private education for the right outcome, yet not necessarily anything to do with the outcome of real learning...that if they don't spend the thousands that they are failing as a parent? Maybe it's more active a decision...they want their kids to get the best job, and they know (through rubbing shoulders) that an Eton education is going to grease the wheels a whole lot more.
Yet this greasing of the wheels only happens because of an inflated credibility given to the private schools through association along side their results. "Who you know, not what you know" is not referring to your going to a private school because that school is good...but because it proves that you are "the right people", my kind of people, my class.
This is why politicians, when facing this choice, should make the choice to go for a state education rather than private. By doing so they are making active steps to destroy the structures of nepotism that suck the life out of aspirations of those from "lower" backgrounds than those that don't have to think twice about throwing extra money at an education institution. By doing so they are resisting the greedy urge to give their kids an unfair leg up the ladder and the passing along that this kind of selfish attitude is ok in a civilised society.
And you know...if they have an issue with the provision of their local school, especially in the environment we find ourselves in now with how schooling priorities and strategies are formed, and don't feel that from their position as a national politician (with a significant and better than many financial situation) that they can influence that individual school for their individual kids at an individual level...I wonder what exactly is the point of them having a job as an advocate and representive of the people in the first place.