Social Mobility, a ‘Motherhood & Apple Pie’ issue, but which boils down, in practice, to “what sort of school did you go to?” about which an astonishing amount of cant is spoken.
The Labour narrative is that a self-selecting caste of Public Schoolboys deny entry to the upper echelons of public and business life. Snobbery and the old-school tie represent impenetrable barriers to the working class, however talented”. While Labour accept upward social mobility happens, it is a near totemic belief in the movement that the vicious class enemy must be watched, lest they slip back to their evil ways of only hiring the sons of people with whom they play Golf / Rugger /Polo / Bloodsports (delete according to taste).
The Tories think social mobility is due to either Grammar Schools or Thatcher’s banking reforms.
There are intelligent views on social mobility, like Chris Dillow at Stumbling and Mumbling whose position on the subject can be characterised as Marxist High Tory is one worth reading.
For some reason only known to David Cameron, Alan Milburn was asked to prepare a report on Social Mobility which contains the absolutely astonishing idea that I should declare whether or not I received Free School Meals to a putative employer. the Company should then collect this information and transmit it to Government. Of couse you already disclose your education to your employer (you submitted a C.V. didn’t you?) But Alan Milburn seems to think this should then be collected, for audit by some Government authority. OfSnob? OfPosh? To what end? A maximum number of public schoolboys? A public register of people called ‘Rupert’? Quotas for same? “Naming and Shaming” for companies whose directors went to Charterhouse together?
I cannot see any sane policy which could possibly fall out from these data. So why collect the information? Just let people be. People fron similar backgrounds go into similar employment. The best predictor of what you do, is what your parents do. They’re your role models and frame your idea of ‘normal’. So this should not be seen as a problem, it’s just people prefer the company of people like them and so people from similar backgrounds tend to make similar choices. Politicians need to understand some WANT to be soldiers, nurses or builders. And thank goodness, otherwise the bayonets won’t be fixed, the patients tended or houses built. Not everyone WANTS to be a Lawyer, if they did, we’d be America. Stop putting people in little identity boxes so they can be counted. The very act of counting them will strengthen in-group bias by reinforcing trivial differences between individuals into impenetrable barriers. Stop collecting data whose only existence is so Government can homogenise society in its own image. Stop assuming that any difference in outcome between groups is down to prejudice. It might be down to choices. Stop telling people who don’t want to be Lawyers that they’re shit.
One of my political heroes, Sir John Cowperthwaite who ran Hong Kong banned officials from collecting economic data “lest some damn fool try to do something about it”. Hong Kong was the Fastest Growing economy for the second half of the 20th Century. If you leave them alone, people tend to make better choices than Government.