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Phew! What a Scorcher!

One of my regular purchase these last fifty years has been Private Eye the satirical magazine founded in 1961 by amongst others comedian Peter Cook, Andrew Osmond and Peter Usbourne.

I’m a firm believer in turning over every proverbial stone and exposing the shady dealings, inconsistencies, hypocrisy and cant of politicians, journalists, businessmen, celebrities, art-world critics, the Royal Family and indeed anyone else one can think of.

Like anything that becomes an institution it has gone through many changes, good and bad, and inevitably periods when, to be frank, it was at a low or mediocre ebb: as it happens currently I regard it as being back at the top of its game.

Most readers of the Eye have our favourite regular columns and sections, spoof articles and cartoonists. One of them is a thread of “Why Oh Why?” fictional rants supposedly from egotistical or deranged well-known ‘opinion-forming’ big name media columnists. I mention all this today because, as I begin, I fear that I may be positioning myself perilously close to being identifiable as one of the last of these …

My subject today is educational standards and I’m aiming my pea-shooter at the politically-correct campaigners who – in promoting the causes of minorities and the disadvantaged, equal opportunities for all, diversity and indeed (an inherent part of their argument) the limiting wherever possible of the perceived advantages that the ‘haves’ enjoy over the ‘have nots’ – are to my mind often missing one of the essential truths of existence.

The point is, life isn’t fair and ultimately all attempts to make it so are doomed to fail. Some beings will always achieve more than their peers. It doesn’t matter in what field you begin campaigning, others will always appear. Endlessly.

Take feminism. Yes, until the 20th Century, okay the 19th at a push, throughout 95% of human history women were at a distinct disadvantage, almost an underclass. There were exceptions, of course – there always are – but generally this was a fact. You cannot rewrite history. And yes, the world is a better/fairer place for the emancipation of women to the point it has now reached.

But it is in the nature of things that fairness doesn’t exist in the wild. You could argue that female deer, lionesses and cows etc. have been disadvantaged because of their lack of choice when it comes to sexual partners, simply because – with such species – the way the world works is the biggest, toughest males get to mate with all the females in their immediate society, whether that be a herd or a pride of lions.

And what about the rights of those ‘lesser’ stags, lions and bulls who never get to mate because there’s a pre-eminent male on the scene who gets all the spoils?

Their equality rights – or ‘rights of opportunity to mate’ – are slim to non-existent.

When are the world’s feminists going to begin campaigning on behalf of such poor, put-upon, inferior males?

One of the reasons, of course, is that their female counterparts (see above) are either unconcerned about the situation and/or perfectly happy about it.

If I was a female deer intent upon perpetuating my species, I wouldn’t want to have to settle for any old Tom, Dick or Harry as my partner – I’d want to mate with my male equivalent whose DNA was the strongest, most durable, superior and perfect as possible.

Not some wimp down the end of the forest or park that wasn’t prepared to fight for my favours.

My apologies – I may have veered too far down the road to absurdity in order to make my point.

Returning to my subject for the day – human education and equal opportunities. Or maybe it is the whole ‘social engineering’ obsession, which is treated in many campaigning quarters as a good thing in any event.

As my texts today I am submitting for Rusters to consider the following articles spotted upon the websites of UK national newspapers overnight:

Firstly, Eleanor Busby, educational correspondent, on the news that Oxford University is to offer a free year of study to students from disadvantaged backgrounds who have lower than normal examination grade results – see here in – THE INDEPENDENT

Secondly, Georgina Lawton writing on the same subject in the same newspaper – THE INDEPENDENT

And thirdly, Sally Weale, also educational correspondent, on the news that the charity Youth Music has called for school music lessons to major on grime, electronic and hip-hop music (instead of the likes of Mozart) in an effort to improve attendances at school of students at risk of being excluded – see here in – THE GUARDIAN

Pardon me for being just the kind of person that PC campaigners would metaphorically like to string up from the nearest tree – or at least at a stroke deprive me of my elite-Establishment, older generation, white, middle class, male, rich and ‘traditional’ attitudes to everything – in their drive to ‘equalise’ everybody in society, but I’m afraid I regard such initiatives as illogical and absurd to the point of borderline ridiculous.

And the sort of thing I’m referring to isn’t just an invention borne of the Millennial “Snowflake”, “Woke” generation, namby-pamby 21st Century either.

Back in the 1990s, when my own daughter was taking her ‘A’ levels and considering her future higher education possibilities, we discussed prospective universities she might attend.

She listed some and I asked why she had not mentioned Oxford and Cambridge, only partly because my father had been to – and I had failed the entrance exam for – the former.

My main reason was because I felt she had what is takes to do well at either of those establishments.

Without seeming frustrated or concerned about it, she replied that the ‘future education’ teacher at her school had effectively warned her entire year of pupils that – even though many of them had excellent chances of passing the exams to Oxford and Cambridge – there was literally no point in applying to go to either of these universities because they were under pressure from the Government and others to raise the proportion of students they took from state schools, which (as night follows day) inevitably meant that they had to lower the number they took from private schools … and particularly from those like my daughter’s which had the highest academic reputations.

This made my blood boil. Not so much because I was an arrogant, privileged bastard who selfishly wanted the best for my offspring at the expense of others, but simply because surely the purest form of academia is one in which standards are high and exacting.

The point shouldn’t be what background any prospective pupils have come from but simply “Can they meet the entrance standard?” – end of message.

Similar applies, in my view, to this latest initiative on music.

My appreciation of classical music in any form is minimal, but surely humanity’s goal should be to expose younger generations to the great musical works of the past in order hopefully to inspire them to the highest quality of creativity, vision and excellence.

Not abandon study of historical musical/artistic expression altogether – and in its place instead offer tens of hours of ‘dumbed down’ whatever the latest music fads are today (and almost certainly won’t be tomorrow).

With modern attitudes like these prevailing in our educational corridors of power, no wonder that internet-driven populism is on the rise and society increasingly reeks of “any-old-how-will-do” mediocrity.

And yes – cue my imminent nomination for inclusion in Private Eye’s infamous Pseuds Corner column, if not Glenda Slagg’s – it is yet another reason why these days we’re all going to Hell in a hand-cart …

About Gerald Ingolby

Formerly a consumer journalist on radio and television, in 2002 Gerald published a thriller novel featuring a campaigning editor who was wrongly accused and jailed for fraud. He now runs a website devoted to consumer news. More Posts