Ban private schools? – taking away the xmas presents
It’s been suggested that I have problem with these two cases:
1. Rich kids get big Xmas presents poor kids won’t get. So, by my own reasoning, we must take the rich kids presents away to make things “fair”. But that’s ridiculous.
2. Some kids are taught to read etc. by their parents. Other parents are unwilling or unable. Therefore, we must prevent parents teaching their kids to read etc. to make things “fair”.
Actually, I am not committed to doing either of these two things.
First, my concern is with what will impact on the opportunities of children to develop their native talents and abilities. Extra toys won’t much. So I won’t be taking the toys away.
Second, I agree that, where there’s an unfairness (sufficient to warrant action to remedy it) between what x receives and what y receives, if we can realistically remove the unfairness by bringing whoever has less up to the level of whoever has more, then we should do that, rather than taking away from whoever has more.
So, in the case of parents teaching their kids to read, the solution to the unfairness caused by those parents who won’t or can’t is to help bring their kids up to the level of the rest, rather than prevent those parents who can teach their kids to read from doing so. This is achievable.
We can’t apply this kind of solution in the case of the best private schools, however. We cannot all receive an Eton-quality education (it’s unaffordable) and elite peer-group (it’s statistically impossible).
Third, my view is that there is, in any case, a basic level of education everyone should receive. Everyone should be able to read and write well, and should be given the opportunity to learn. So I am not committed to preventing parents from teaching their kids to read and write on the grounds that not all parents can or will do this. That would obviously be a great injustice.
Possibly a harder case for me is where a parent provides lots of additional help with reading at home, beyond what most others are providing. Am I committed to banning that?
I seem to remember that in his excellent How Not To be A Hypocrite (a book on when it is and is not hypocritical for lefties to send their kids to private schools) Adam Swift (another one for banning them, I seem to remember) suggested that the difference between this case and simply buying your kid a place at a posh school is that the former is part of a loving, nurturing natural parent/child relationship, whereas the latter is not. The former would involve imposing rules on how parents should interact at home with their kids (clearly unacceptable) but the latter does not. That makes all the difference.
While I don’t favour banning such extra help, I am not sure I agree with Swift’s justification.
I do take Joe’s point that it is unfair that some should have more native wit and talent than others – so are we going to do something about that unfairness too? (corrective brain surgery to dumb ’em down – or shall we let the IQ-of-75 guys become brain surgeons too?) Of course it is unfair. However, remember:
(i) if we deem it actionably unfair that the dim should be less financially well-off through no fault of their own, then there are other options open to us, e.g. we can simply redistribute wealth.
(ii) I am arguing on two fronts: moral and pragmatic. True, if a thick person wants to be a brain surgeon, we should not let him. Is that unfair? No, because he’ll be crap at it and people will die. There’s a pragmatic case for not letting him.
There’s a pragmatic, and moral, case too for allowing all to achieve to the best of talents and abilities. That is in all our interests. Private education constitutes a serious obstacle to this. I am suggesting we remove that obstacle.
Finally, remember my analogy with universities. We would object, on moral and pragmatic grounds, if the top universities started flogging off all their places to the highest bidders. This would be deemed unacceptable. The negative impact such a policy would have is pretty obvious, isn’t it (we don’t need to do lots of studies and research, do we?)?
Well, I am simply objecting, on the very same grounds, to the very best schools flogging of their places to the highest bidders.
My question is: if you would object to the top universities flogging off all their places in this way, why are many of you so against my suggestion that we stop the best schools doing the very same thing?