A couple of interesting blogs on elitism today. First Ben Archibald on Reclaiming Elitism at http://nabidana.com/uncategorized/reclaiming-elitism/ and second Prof Richard Moorhead on whether it is wrong for elite universities to favour public school pupils at http://lawyerwatch.wordpress.com/2010/12/03/is-the-profession-wrong-to-favour-public-school-pupils/#comment-314 .
There’s nothing wrong with having, supporting and developing those with “elite” abilities provided that this is not at the cost of ignoring or providing insufficient care to those, the majority, who are non-elite. So, investing in the 2012 Olympics and in the development of British athletes who can do well at those Games is fine, provided that this doesn’t mean that ordinary people are less able to participate in sports than they might otherwise have been. Grammar schools would be OK if we could be confident that they were providing education of that sort to all who would benefit from it and that those who would benefit from other sorts of education got that to at least as high a standard.
The second blog looks at the evidence produced in December 2010 by the Sutton Trust looking at the impact of school type on degree performance. Broadly this concluded that comprehensive school-educated students who received BBB at A level outperformed at degree level grammar and independent school-educated students with the same A level scores. The comprehensive-educated BBB students on average performed similarly to those from selective schools with AAB or ABB. This suggests that the “elite” are mispopulating themselves by favouring those from public schools because the public school products are achieving less than those from comprehensives of similar ability. Two of the solutions to this would be to make entrance requirements for all comprehensive students lower or to engage “talent coaches” as many elite US universities do to go and find diamonds in the rough. The first would shift the windfall of luck from students from selective schools who might coast more at university to those from the highest performing comprehensive schools. The second would trust to the discretion and skill of the talent coaches. This seems somehow wrong and a bit too “American” but is it really so different from getting spotted by a scout from a Premier League football team, a casting director doing a tour of Rep Theatre or an A&R man happening to hear your band when it is supporting the band he was meant to be seeing?
As long as lacking luck doesn’t mean inevitable failure, luck and elitism aren’t such dirty words.