Sticks and stones?

An interesting five minutes driving home late yesterday, listening to Louise Bamfield of the Fabian Society debating about chavs on the World Tonight. She was there to put Tom Hampson’s argument, from his article in the latest Fabian Review, that we have to stop using the word ‘chav’. Then this morning an article in the FT by Emma Jacobs, Move over chavs, here is a pikey (the latter apparently now the insult-du-jour, according to a King’s College language consultant referred to by Jacobs)

I don’t agree with Hampson that using ‘chav’ ‘betrays a deep and revealing level of class hatred’. I do agree that it is a deeply unpleasant expression. Trying to find the discussion on the BBC website, I first found a 2005 article, Charvers, which shows that things have not moved on much in the past three years.

And equally thought provoking post, Britain’s social recession, by Matthew Taylor in his RSA blog yesterday,

This extreme level of social pessimism [found in the countries of old Europe] is accompanied by a rejection of structural explanations of disadvantage. Whilst there is growing resentment at the very rich, people are more and more inclined to say that the poor have only themselves to blame. This is not fertile territory for developing a new agenda for social solidarity and action.

The figures on expectations of growing inequality are particularly stark. One of the other points made by Roger Liddle is that education – which many progressives hoped would be a driver of social mobility and inclusion – has actually become a major driver of social polarisation. The reason for this is simply that the wages available to those lacking higher education are falling, and will fall even faster now hard times and higher unemployment rates are here again.

Making education a force for inclusion and opportunity will require more than a further cranking up of an increasingly problematic standards agenda. We need to ask what education is for and we need a system which is not about finding our whether children are able but how they are able and how their abilities can be developed.

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