There’s something very disingenuous about this article – or is it just plain deceitfulness? Here’s the headmaster of a top fee-paying school lamenting the fact that his fellow-private sector colleagues won’t do more to support the state education sector in this country. Apparently, he finds it surprising. As if – as he clearly seems to believe – private and state education are symbiotic, two sides of the same coin, mutually interdependent and both equally necessary; hence equally harnessable in the interests of general goods, such as greater equality, social mobility etc. . . . Phrase it how you like. But they are not.
Doesn’t Mr Seldon get it? The private sector only exists because whole sections of British parents can’t bear the prospect of subjecting their delicate offspring to the proximity of the unruly underclass? That they want the underclass to stay corralled, under-educated and fully mindful of their servile vocation, if they must have a vocation at all? That social mobility, greater equality is the last thing in the world they intend to support, because how then to guarantee their own children, talented or otherwise, their rightful inheritance at the heart of this country’s elite? What’s the point of elites, indeed, what’s the point of having pots of money, if the condition doesn’t maintain its exclusivity? Why on earth would the favoured want their chosen schools diverting precious resources to precisely those people from whom they are striving to keep their own sprogs at arm’s length? Am I not seeing something here?
Cinderella-type fables, in which the poor little girl/boy becomes/marries a prince/star – Pretty Woman, Pygmalion, The X-factor; the plot of just about every Mexican soap I can remember – are very popular in countries where vast income and social distribution is endemic and accepted by all as an immutable fact of life. They are part and parcel of a masochistic consolation prize, a permission to dream of aspiration when all else is bound to fail. Is Mr Seldon dreaming? He hardly needs consolation, I imagine, for his own material circumstances. Perhaps his fantasies are of a Christian kind; of those favoured by birth who cannot quite bear the manifest injustice of their own privilege; something akin to survivor’s guilt. It probably is better, actually, than no guilt at all. But in Seldon’s case it’s still pretty irritating.