The binary approach of socialists to education, and life

Eternal Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn is incensed by the idea of grammar schools making a comeback.

Despite a lot of evidence to demonstrate the widespread and catastrophic failure of the comprehensive system when it comes to meeting basic educational criteria, Corbyn, who once got divorced because his wife wanted send their child to a grammar school, has tethered himself to the doctrine of mediocrity.

He said: “I want a good education for every child. Selectivity at 11 divides communities, divides children and ends up giving a good chance to a minority and a less chance to the majority. I don’t think that’s a very sensible way forward for our country.”

What is striking here is an implicit acceptance that comprehensives are poor (less chance to the majority) and his complete disregard for educational outcomes, as if the education system is to be used to, quite creepily, unite communities and children. But the worst is his deluded belief that selection only benefits a minority, as if teaching all types of pupils the same way, with their varying aptitudes, abilities and circumstances is the way to ensure “as sensible way forward for our country”.

Let’s be honest, no education system is perfect. Let’s be more honest, all education systems are deeply flawed. But because education is of sufficient importance to society we have determined that we must subject children to at least twelve years of some form of factory-farmed learning. Every single human being is different so it stands to reason that one point of learning (the teacher) per a variable number of children is only going to be of limited use to any given number of children. With it being practically impossible to teach every child on a one-to-one basis it’s logical to produce as many options as possible to try and ensure the best possible fit for every individual. And selection is the best, if not the only, way to produce that.

Anti-selection socialists tend to flavour their opposition to grammar schools with healthy dollops of patriarchal patois vis-à-vis fairness and the ability of children to withstand supposed rejection almost without ever cognizing that their opposition is based on their own privileged preconceptions about what they consider to be a ‘good’ education.  Having enjoyed the fruits of an academic background themselves, the vast majority of Labour MPs, and indeed some Tories, have a natural bias towards that system, to the point where they would universally apply it to produce academic conformity at the expense of all the other knowledge in the world.

But here’s the nub of the matter – for some reason socialists never seem to realise that just because someone gains something, it doesn’t mean other people lose out. With education as it is with markets.

Sara touched on this last week when she talked about the creation of wealth. The socialist world view is essentially binary – there’s good and bad, rich and poor, winners and losers and fairness is deigned to be the sharing of the good and the rich and reducing the number of losers. But the world isn’t bipolar, it’s much more complex than that. Just because someone will go to a grammar school, it doesn’t mean that anyone loses out by not.

Neil Wilson is CfL Campaigns Director.
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The views expressed in this article are that of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Conservatives for Liberty