Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Aspiration, and why 50% at university isn't as mad as it seems

One of the biggest obstacles to creating real equality in this country is that children have parents. Inheritance is an oft loved target of the redistributer- taxing inheritance (or, as the conservatives ludicrously call it, the "death tax") is inherently redistributive and metriocratic- being lucky enough to have rich parents really has no connection to your skills or drive. Yet this isn't actually a massive cause of inequality.

The main issue is that people with better educated and better off parents are going to be better off. They will have a financial safety net that other children do not have, which will allow them to study more, take masters courses, excetera. Perhaps more importantly, they will be driven to succeed. The reason people go to Eton isn't just because of the contacts, or excellent teaching standard, its also because of an instilled belief that said graduates CAN do anything they like, which really is invaluable. Its certainly possible for anyone to succeed (financially), although much more difficult for some- aspiration is part of the motivating force that will lead people to change.

Now we can't really cut out most of this inequality: I don't see a solution that isn't absolutely horrifying. What we can do is ensure that children do have as much educational support as possible. So decent schools with inspirational teachers, and the ability to get to university if they want to go. And this is where the governments 50% target is important. Yes, its arbitary, and meaningless, and also tied to an increase in fees, but it does underline a goal to get people who do not have parents that attended university attending university. There is an issue there, in that there should be other routes of aspiration- apprenticeship courses and so on, but I do think the government supported those too.

The thing about privelege is its subtle and unthinking. The reason people get angry at feminists, or when the are accused of being racist (hint, we are probably all racist to some extent, and probably say and do racist things occasionally), is that we don't notice the privelege we have. The aspiration we get from knowing that our parents, and people similar to us, have succeeded, will help us succeed in turn.

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