Kerron came in for some stick the other day for describing the result of “The” Boat Race as:
“Some Toffs beat Some Other Toffs, Ra!”
It is perhaps a bit harsh. You’d have to extend the definition of “toffs” from “members of the aristocracy” to “members of the ruling classes” or “tall blokes whose parents could afford artificially inflated school fees or house prices, plus really tall blokes from overseas doing ‘tourists’ degrees’ in Management ‘Science'”. I hereby align myself with Kerron’s verdict and look forward to some tit posting a comment here telling me that I’ve done so because I couldn’t get in and “have a chip on my shoulder”.
I remember a bloke writing a book that argued, quite reasonably, that Oxbridge domination of the British establishment was bad for the country and practically every review I read of it (usually by an Oxbridge graduate) seemed to think that pointing out that the author had been rejected by one of those universities demolished its central thesis. Just goes to show how over-rated an Oxbridge education is.
(Anyone remember what the book was called?)
The Oxbridge Conspiracy, by Walter Ellis (Michael Joseph, 1994)
I don’t know why they call the teams Oxford and Cambridge.
“American Professionals A” and “American Professionals B” would be more honest.
But maybe it wouldn’t attract gullible tourists as effectively.
The Oxbridge Boat Race seems to be the only area where we begin to approach the obsession the Yanks have with college sports (with the Oxbridge Rugby Union Match being a distant second).
The whole “Oxbridge students = toffs” would be fair if the whole upper-class/public school == Oxbridge thing actually held true anymore. As it stands (as someone fresh out of the place), it really isn’t true anymore and the only thing stopping the statistics reflecting that is lazy newspaper journalists (and lazy bloggers?) perpetuating the stereotypes, which then just scare off people who should be applying and getting in.
The problem is not one of only “toffs” getting through the interview process anymore (I’ve met plenty of Alumni from the 60s/70s who make it evident that *was* the case), but of persuading more than toffs to actually put their ill-conceived stereotypes aside and apply to the universities that match their academic ability. The story you never see reported around university admissions time is the one about the hundreds of existing students campaigning to break through these stereotypes. But you know, good job on perpetuating them and thereby perpetuating the system that seems to cause you such angst/insecurity as your final sentence implies.
Oh dear. Even when you paint an enormous sign with the words “ELEPHANT TRAP” on it, someone manages to walk into it.
I’m so “angst-ridden/insecure”, Spider, that the fourth hit on Google for my name is my CV. I think you’ll see from it that I have a bit of recent and not-so-recent experience of Oxbridge too.
And here‘s my “ill-conceived stereotype”:
Independent schools educate about 6% of the general population.
This is the point where I normally link to a picture of my bog-standard West Midlands comprehensive being demolished just after I left it, but it isn’t online any more so I’ll spare you that round of the Four Yorkshiremen game. I wonder how many members of the Boat Race crews were educated at comps and which institutions might be “perpetuating stereotypes” by hyping up a sport that most state schools couldn’t even dream of offering to their students.
More like hundreds of existing students campaigning to preserve their parents’ chunky government subsidies at the expense of those whose can’t afford to educate their children privately.
Now sod off.
Would it be fairer to say that while the Oxbridge = Toffs stereotype may still be true, it’s not as true as it once was? For example, according to the figures in this Sutton Trust report (pdf), the proportion of students from state schools at Oxbridge went up between 1997/98 and 2002/03 (from 47 to 55% for Oxford and from 52 to 58% for Cambridge). However, assuming they’re using comparable figures to the ones that the Sunday Times are basing their table on (they caution that they’re calculating them slightly differently from HESA), it’s levelled off in the last few years.
Speaking from personal experience, I’d suggest that a lot of the private schooled students have been shunted down to “second-tier” universities. Between graduating at Cardiff in 1993 and returning to teach there in 2000 the undergraduate student population seemed to have got noticeably younger, less Welsh, and certainly further up the socio-economic scale (if not necessarily to Pure Toffdom levels).
I wonder how many state students are the beneficiaries of closed scholarships compared with those from ‘posh’ schools? Even King’s, the most egalitarian of Cantab Colleges, has two places reserved solely for Etonians.
I must admit to a personal prejudice here: whenever I hear someone use the word “toff” to refer to people other than themselves, I assume that nothing else they have to say is really going to be worth listening to and switch off. (The same with middle class Brits sneering about Americans: no point having racial/religious prejudices taught out of you in childhood just to pick up some newer, socially-accepted ones later on in life).
I thought Spidermonkey was making a perfectly valid point; as for your elephant trap, S doesn’t seem to suggest anything at all about your education or background. Angst and insecurity, on the other hand.. we all have some of that, no?
Are there any stats regarding the education of postgraduate Oxbridge students and teaching staff?
[…] Am I missing an obscure – or, heaven help me, not obscure – joke here? You’d have to extend the definition of “toffs” from “members of the aristocracy”, to “members of the ruling classes” or “tall blokes whose parents could afford artificially inflated school fees or house prices, plus really tall blokes from overseas doing ‘tourists’ degrees’ in Management ‘Science’”. I hereby align myself with Kerron’s verdict and look forward to some tit posting a comment here telling me that I’ve done so because I couldn’t get in and “have a chip on my shoulder”. […]
> Lowest State School Intake 2005
Oh, come on. Those stats don’t refute SpiderMonkey’s point in any way at all.
Kerron made a valid point crudely, namely that coverage of the Boat Race was out of all proportion to its actual importance and that the reason for that lay with persistent (and worsening) class divisions in British society—mostly a result of our education “system”. Many more people in this country follow Rugby League than rowing, but you wouldn’t know from the sports pages of our national newspapers.
His critics made no point at all by drawing attention to Kerron’s place of higher education—something that he doesn’t seem to have a problem with—and dismissing his objections on the grounds that he is envious.
My point was my usual one that, whenever you draw the unfairness of the organisation of British society to the attention of those who, by accident of birth, have done rather nicely out of it, some of them accuse of you being a poor loser. I took Kerron’s side precisely because I hadn’t been turned down for Oxford—so that even this complete non-argument couldn’t be levelled at me. And still someone tried to level it at me.
I didn’t align myself with Kerron’s mocking of the manners of the spectators, but I do like your analogy with Americans, James, and I’m going to extend it. Imagine if the most senior figures in most British institutions, including the government, the judiciary, the academies of the arts and the sciences, the serious press, and the public broadcasters, were Americans. Imagine if every year the World Series Baseball final were held in London and broadcast live on terrestrial TV. Imagine if Kerron wrote “Some Yanks Beat Some Other Yanks, Hoo-Ra!”. Imagine if people accused him of objecting to this because his application for US citizenship had been turned down.
Anyway, I can’t be prejudiced. Some of my best friends are toffs.
What are you talking about, Squander? Spider’s point, if he had one at all, was that Oxford students weren’t “upper class/public school”. It’s clear by any reasonable measure that the upper classes and public schools of Britain provide a vastly disproportionate fraction of Oxbridge intake and that is getting worse not better. We don’t even have “northern chemists” any more because state schools can’t afford to teach the hard sciences.
A technicality, perhaps – Morgs refers to the closed scholarships – although these are reserved for particular schools, they are only awarded if the candidate would have got a scholarship anyway i.e. their existence does not guarantee admission to pupils from those schools.
> Spider’s point, if he had one at all, was that Oxford students weren’t “upper class/public school”.
No, it wasn’t. Read more carefully.
> The whole “Oxbridge students = toffs” would be fair if the whole upper-class/public school == Oxbridge thing actually held true anymore. As it stands (as someone fresh out of the place), it really isn’t true anymore and the only thing stopping the statistics reflecting that is lazy newspaper journalists (and lazy bloggers?) perpetuating the stereotypes, which then just scare off people who should be applying and getting in.
He said that the stats still show public-school dominance of Oxbridge. These are the same stats that you then quoted back at him. You don’t refute his point by repeating it.
What he’s saying is that that dominance is no longer because state-school pupils can’t get in, but because they don’t apply, and that it is the popular belief that they can’t get in that stops them applying.
I also suspect that he’s the type of person who draws a distinction between “=” and “==”.
SpiderMonkey may feel free to jump in if I’ve misunderstood him. Or her, come to think of it.
> even this complete non-argument couldn’t be levelled at me. And still someone tried to level it at me.
It’s putting it a bit strongly to call that part of what SpiderMonkey said an argument. It wasn’t his argument at all; it was just a tagged-on complaint. And it’s no more a non-argument to attack someone’s point because they didn’t get in to Oxbridge than it is to attack someone’s point because they mention that someone else didn’t get in to Oxbridge.
In my original reply I (generously) allowed that Spider was making a reasonable point about the media perpetuating stereotypes and then pointed out that the undue attention paid to the Boat Race and the way in which Oxford and Cambridge themselves exploited this free advertising did a great deal to make things worse. In other words, if you agree with this part of Spider’s case then Kerron’s complaint is even more pertinent and powerful.
If I took this as his main point then what Spider wrote really is bollocks. Many Oxbridge admissions tutors do their damnedest to get state school pupils to apply to their colleges and to get them admitted, but the simple truth is it’s very, very difficult for pupils from “non-traditional” backgrounds to compete. Even when they do apply state school pupils have a lower chance of getting admitted to a top university than private school pupils with the same A level grades (despite going on to perform better on average in Finals than their matched peers from the independent sector). Why should they waste a UCAS place and wind up feeling like losers to strike a blow in the class war?
Further (as I have discussed elsewhere on PooterGeek) there are structural reasons why those who do get in will inevitably find themselves at a disadvantage when they arrive. It is perfectly rational for students with the necessary potential to apply elsewhere. This probably does the students themselves good, but isn’t good for the state of Britain. That isn’t their problem, but it is ours.
And if you want to be truly depressed, read this.
You can spin it any way you like, Squander, the lad/lass was still writing horseshit. Worse, (s)he tried to psychoanalyse me as well and that really pisses me off: unsupported illogical cobblers and Net-mediated pop psychology.
I didn’t say he was right. I said that you were arguing against a point he hadn’t made. Now you’ve argued against the point he did make. Fair enough.
Oxford? Cambridge? Feh. I went to a decent university.
That’s cool. I need to be told to keep my eye on the ball from time to time.
Is that a toff in a punt in your subsequent photo? Can you get non-toffs in punts, or is the act of getting into a punt an act of self-toffing?
I know, I know. Get toffed…
“Even King’s…has two places reserved solely for Etonians.”
Might that perhaps be something to do with the fact that both those establishments were founded by the same person? (King Henry VI in case you’ve forgotten)
Ridiculous. I can’t believe you would waste the time. Oxbridge admits purely the most intelligent people in the country, and any social ‘elitism’ or admission on financial advantages claims are not true.
Right… may I point you in the direction of this alumni list before we get into the detail of how David Cameron and Prince Harry are more intelligent than the rest of their generation, and how they have risen remorselessly through the ranks on account of their sheer brainpower, leaving their befuddled peers in their wake?
I’m afraid you’ve been ensnared in a cunningly woven web of deceit.
[…] But I’m still angry on behalf of the class most of that 1300 came from. There were plenty of people I went to school with who were cleverer than the ones I went to university with, people who could have made better scientists, better journalists, better party leaders. A lot of them will never got a chance to, no matter how hard they try. One reason I post here is to provoke posh twits with expensively acquired superiority complexes into trying to knock the chip off my shoulder. Sometimes they even step into a clearly signposted elephant traps. […]
[…] Despite the race’s place in the UK’s sporting calendar alongside the Grand National and the FA Cup Final, as one attracting attention from people not normally drawn to sport, the Boat Race is still often subject to a degree of social bigotry. Damian Counsell, who, being both an Oxford man and a Cambridge man has a foot confusingly in both camps, decries a particularly witless and unpleasant example of the genre – from what you might see as an unexpected source – here. But that’s unusual. For most people, it’s a bit of unimportant fun on what will hopefully turn out to be a bright day, not a chance to get the Kennington Common rally right this time. […]