Marvel at this unintentionally revealing Guardian story about the lengths middle-class parents go to to get their children into church schools. It opens with a Jewish mother admitting that she feels hypocritical attending Church of England services so that her two kids can get into the local church school. At least she is honest about her motivations—both to the vicar of the church and to the author of piece, Natasha Walter.
Everyone in the article takes the word “selection” not to mean “selection by aptitude”, but “selection by class”—which is, of course, what the current English educational system cultivates beautifully, so I suppose I shouldn’t complain—but notice how the author uses two of her interviewees to taint parents who want their kids to go to a “nice” school with the gravest Guardian slur: the ‘R’ word. One is a mother, “a BBC producer” no less, with offspring at a school with a “a lot of Turkish and Afro-Caribbean children”:
“It sticks in my throat that they dress it up as religion,” she says passionately. “I love the school my kids go to. I remember going to one open day there, with Turkish singing, Indian dancing, English line dancing. To me, that’s what living in London is about – seeing a black kid in a hoodie next to a little girl in jilbab doing a line dance together. It’s just amazing. That’s how it should be. But up the road there are these white Christian kids turning their noses up at that, and it makes my blood boil. My feeling is that if these parents are so freaked out by the kids they are living next door to, they should get off back to Berkshire. It’s not about religion. It’s about snobbery and racism.”
Diane Reay, professor of education at Cambridge University, has been researching the school choices that parents make for many years. She agrees that middle-class parents do make choices based on their fear that their child might lose their class status, and that schools are becoming more polarised as a result. She talks about the “white flight” not just into selective faith schools, but also into schools that select through their wealthy catchment areas, or, of course, school fees.
It’s that rhetorical racism again.
“As a whole, this part of north London is a great melting pot, home to immigrants from all over the world, many of them Muslims. On its outskirts is a very good, very oversubscribed church school, St John’s Highbury Vale, which siphons off many of the Christian children, particularly white middle-class children, from the area. Of the three churches that feed the school, the most ethnically mixed congregation is at St Thomas’s.”
Can you imagine a Guardian journalist writing an article about how Sikh or Islamic schools “siphon off brown children”?
The piece ends:
At the end of our interview, Coles [vicar of St Thomas’s Church in Finsbury Park] asks what is, I think, the most pertinent question of all for the church and for the parents who use the church to get into certain schools: “Why wouldn’t you want your children educated with the children of your neighbours? How else are children going to learn the most important lessons of all, about tolerance and understanding?“.
Yeah, why can’t those sheltered middle-class kids open their horizons to, for example, having their heads kicked in because they’re interested in studying? After all, the most important lesson any future Guardian reader can learn is to “tolerate” and “understand” thuggery.
The real “snobbery and racism” here—don’t you just love the line about “a black kid in a hoodie”?—is the pervasive underlying assumption that poor or immigrant mean “nonacademic”, though perhaps after a few more years of ideological vandalism this prejudice will be fully grounded in fact.
What a bunch of arse. I went to a Roman Catholic boys’ school for my A levels and there were plenty of non-white students there, both Catholic and non-Catholic. Have things really changed so much in six years that faith schools are now exclusively white? I’m betting not.
And as for this bit “that’s what living in London is about – seeing a black kid in a hoodie next to a little girl in jilbab doing a line dance together. It’s just amazing. That’s how it should be” – yuck. Admittedly I’m an idealist, but I think that “how it should be” should be that Katie Weston and her ilk should realise that the colours of those kids’ skins are irrelevant.
(Do you think her attitude results from her job at the BBC or did she get the job because of her attitude!)
There is so much to pick apart in that article, but I must do the ironing.
My favourite is the Guardian-clone parentspeak about insisting that their children “mix with all sorts” when the parents in question do nothing of the kind themselves…..You won’t catch them line dancing with anyone, and especially in a jilbab or a hoodie.
One does hear the arguments around racism re Jewish parents choosing Jewish schools. Actually if you look at the typical population of London Jewish schools these days, you’ll find a good proportion of the kids are not white, reflecting the younger demographic profile of expat Israelis and Jews from other Middle Eastern countries who now live in the UK.
The irony is that the Jewish woman in your article would probably have got a much better deal by sending her child to the Jewish school that’s manageable from where she seems to live.
One thing my years of inspection work have taught me is that there’s a really strong correlation between the promotion of a religious ethos and academic achievement. And it isn’t dependent on social selection either. I know of several totally inner city faith schools which are not patronised by the aspirant middle classes, but where the results are outstanding, way beyond the average for middle class white suburban mainstream schools.
If there’s another thing the Guardian mind set finds as impossible to cope with, it’s that religious practice might have some very beneficial impact on academic achievement. No, no, nooooo. Can’t have that. It has to be all about covert racial segregation. Never mind evidence.
The key point that the article doesn’t appear to mention is that Finsbury Park and lower Highbury are areas with a high immigrant population. This means that in the schools which are most multi-cultural there are a large proportion of kids whose parents can’t speak English and for whom English is not a first language.
I was moved by my parents to the school mentioned in the article (St Johns) from a more ‘diverse’ school (Gillespie Road) when I was six years-old (in the late 80s). This decision had nothing to do with race/diversity/white flight (St Johns would, I think, by national or even London standards be seen as a very diverse school), but instead with the fact that by the age of six, no one at Gillespie school had attempted to teach me to read. When my mum enquired why she was told that they were too busy with the kids who had real difficulties (because English wasn’t spoken by their parents/ was their second language/ they were just thick) and it was assumed that I would be taught at home.
I had a terrific time at Gillespie, made lots of friends, became tolerant etc etc etc. I just never learnt to read, or write, or do mathematics, (boy that was a surprise when I turned up at St Johns…) nor can I remember a teacher attempting to teach me any of those things. So much for snobbishness….
“black kid in a hoodie.”
It would be funny if it wasn’t so infuriatingly tragic. Can someone’s ignorance of culture run so deep that they would earnestly equates a ‘hoodie’ with a person’s ethnicity/religion?
If I was to say to my african-american lab colleague that I considered the ‘jeans-hanging-around-the-arse, propped-up-by-a-strategically-placed-hand-on-the-crotch’ fashion to be an integral element of african-american cultural identity, I probably wouldn’t get to finish the sentence before I had to bend down and pick my teeth up off the floor.
Ah, ‘The Middleclass White-Guilt Support Group’. Sign up now for our daily newsletter, The Guardian, and extend your victorian-era sympathy to all the poor, put-upon stereotypes living in the shitty part of your neighbourhood today.
The children of Indian and Chinese immigrants are the highest achieving children at schools in England, outperforming white students. This despite some obstacles, for example, English may not be their parents first language, they often live in inner city areas, and have family responsibilities and duties that children from other communities may not have. Despite this, they top the lists, because their parents work them hard and their families have a massive emphasis on education. Try telling the parents of a young Hindu or Sikh child that the curriculum needs to be changed to bolster the self esteem of this minority group or that educational theory and they will look at you as though you are mad. Chinese and Indian families have high expectations for their children and don’t abide these Guardianista attitudes, they are ethnic minorities, but because they repudiate so much Guardianista cant just by the way they are self sufficient without recourse to the helping hand of white liberal saviours of the oppressed ethnic minorities, they are basically ignored. Nothing proves how mendacious and superficial they are.
Doubt race/colour is really that important to most (do any whites apart from the NF get bothered about Trevor McDonald?) but culture is a major factor. EVERYONE prefers to associate with those of their own background although we don’t seem to see migrants accused of racism for making a beeline for the areas all their compatriots live in. Multicultural societies basically just don’t work and we should insist on migrants having a proper commitment to the society that they voluntarily choose to live in. That will usually includes a decent standard of education, a proven economic ability and an adequate standard of English.
Much of the predudice against migrants is due to a proportion admitted under a lax system who, quite frankly, are bloody awful! That Met term “black on black violence” for example is nothing of the sort, it’s mostly Jamaican drug gangs and some easily led youths. Proper immigration controls could do wonders for race relations in this country.
Can’t help feeling that if Xoggoth and the late Enoch went out for lunch, Enoch’d be the one storming out during the garlic breads.
The most characteristic thing in the article is of course:
“In the end we decided to go private. England is such a class-divided society, and I realised there was no getting away from that even in the state system, so it would be most straightforward to go to an independent school.”
An almost perfect summation of Guardian liberalism
Yesterday’s article was an interesting one. However, it’s about London, and reinforces again the problem that too much education policy in this country is made for that far-away place of which I know little, and care even less. Here, in admittedly leafy north-west Leeds, we have the choice of good primaries and when the children are older, three really excellent comprehensives. What does concern me is creeping religious fundamentalism, and specialism that means either/or choices (languages/science).
I take Judy’s point about Jewish schools, and I defend the need for Jewish schools for two reasons. One, no other group have been the victims of a holocaust. If it’s part of a strategy for the preservation of identity, I won’t argue. Second, of all the major religions Judaism (if one believes in God) is the closest to being right. Both my own religion (Christianity) and Islam are based on disputed readings of the Old Testament.
Whether religious education and religious schools are justifiable for the rest of us is open to question. I’m not sure that I see the strengths Judy sees in the average CofE or Catholic school. We Christians are not disappearing, and so much teaching of religion is such sentimental, ahistorical Jesus-wants-me-for-a-sunbeam twaddle. Very few teachers can read the Old Testament in Hebrew, or the New Testament in Greek. Getting them to teach religious education is like having driving lessons from a blind non-driver.
If Church schools are so ill-equipped to deal with their core mission in an intellectually coherent way, why have them? Or why not separate schools for those of us who want our children brought up as democratic socialists, as soccer-hating Rugby League fans, or whatever?
So why are all those points in favour of Jewish schools to be discarded totally for all other religious groups John? And other people have been victims of genocide (if not Holocaust), for example would you allow a school for Sudanese children only, but not for Cambodian children? Either faith schools should be allowed, or they should not. I don’t know either way, but selecting some mainstream faiths as worthy and not others is one of the shortest routes to hypocrisy I can think of.