Sunday, 9 August 2009

Peter Mandelson and Affirmative Action.

Peter Mandelson's answer to Alan Milburn's report on Social Mobility is to overhaul univeristy entry to provide students from poorer backgrounds better opportunities to access more popular courses at the more prestigious universities. He intends to do this by reducing the grades required to access a course, for example the standard qualification for medicine courses is three A grades but for pupils from poorly performing state schools grade B's would suffice.

This is very similar to the process of Affirmative Action in the US where quotas of places were reserved for disadvantaged minorities and later points were granted for such things as ethnic background. This proved to be the most divisive of all policies because better performing middle class students were being 'bumped off' the admission list in preference to disadvantaged candidates. In America this led to massive resentment from the 'silent white majority' who abandoned the Democrats in droves for a new right wing conservative Republican party of Nixon, Regan and Bush and look where that got us.

We must look to the lessons fromhistory and to ensure that we do not create resentment amongst the middle classes in this country by supporting this system of 'quotas' that Mandelson proposes. Any attempt to 'bump pupils off' admission lists in favour of lesser qualified will result in a backlash that will increase divsion and intolerance in this country

A far fairer system would be that utilised by Kings College Medical School in London where students from disadvantaged schools with lower grades have to attend a 'catch up year' before they start their substantive courses.

What we need is positive action to ensure that gifted pupils from disadvantaged homes receive support in their schools to achieve their potential, or has the government given up on trying to raise standards in our public schools?

Read the Times Online story here.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...
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eric said...

I believe we should cater to the silent white majority too. After all, the white middle classes don't get fair treatment in this politically correct multi-culti world. We are far to willing to listen to the rights of minorities.

Quite right of you to say so and refreshing to hear from a Plaid politician.

Plaid Gwersyllt said...

Plaid Cymru is a broad based party and has a range of ideological views including left libertarianism.

The main thrust of my blog is that affirmative action by using quotas is wrong in that it breaches equal opportunity legislation. On the other hand positive action is perfectly legal and I fully support it. Positive action raises standards whilst affirmative action lowers standards.

MECCAnopsis Cambrica said...

Agreed. The only way for all citizens to feel they have a stake in their country is for things to be fair and opportunities equal for everyone. Dropping standards to try to redress imbalance is not a solution. Divisive policies like this try to solve one problem and end up creating others.

The middle class of course is not exclusively 'white' just as the working class is also not exclusively 'white' so the issue of the middle class taking umbrage at their children missing out on places to less well-educated working class kids is not about 'race'. Although over the years we have assumed that 'class conflicts' were largely over. If certain groups in society are doing worse than others, and providing we don't attribute some Darwinian explanation to this, then efforts must be put in earlier in the education system. This applies as much to why boys don't do as well as girls at certain stages of their education etc.

The more 'less-qualified' people that come away with degrees the more the degree itself becomes devalued especially where a certain level of intelligence and academic rigour is required for a particular job. Probably this why many of my friends stayed on to completed their Masters and why now many feel they need a PhD to compete.

Plaid Gwersyllt said...

Appreciate what you say about white and race, I only used that as an example to illustrate the problem that affirmative action caused in the US and white flight into the arms of a right wing Republican Party...lesson from history...rise of the extreme conservative right in Europe caused by resentment and a perception of unfairness. What Mandelson is proposing will only increase that resentment amongst some sections of the community.

MECCAnopsis Cambrica said...

And I agree on your point about the US.

The resentment is entirely justified when better qualified candidates are blatantly being passed over in favour of less qualified ones from an under-represented group (whatever that group is).

The whole of society benefits when we have the best people for the job and we will all suffer if we drop standards. We do absolutely favours to under-represented groups by such actions.

Plaid Gwersyllt said...

As regards the first posting I have been asked to delete it as a source has informed me that it is inaccurate and is not a true representation of the circumstances.