A Critique of British Private Education


In this essay, i am going to analyse how elitism is prevalent in the British educational system and what this means for the political atmosphere within the nation. I will focus on the elitist argument that the state is monopolized by an entrenched élite, who limit social mobility within the political ruling class. There is much evidence for these claims that a ‘superior’ élite has solidified itself within educated society, the core principle of this argument relating to that of private (‘public’) schooling and how the rich buy their children a better education – within the educational system laid out by their bourgeois forebears. But this hardly touches on the argument, the actual issue here is the social education that the children of these wealthier families attain whilst they are subject to private sector schooling. I would go so far as to say that this education is similar to that of elitist indoctrination of the mass of the middle class (or more specifically upper-middle class), in that those who are wealthy enough to get private schooling are absorbed into the ruling élite through the private school system. The fact that this annexation of the ‘greater’ middle class takes place is of great concern to the claims that Britain is a liberal democratic country, with a sound meritocratic society – as all good liberal democracies should/claim to have. This undermining of equality, the key principle of modernized, democratic society, is an intolerable stain on the British people, and in fact the government themselves. It undermines their legitimacy domestically and their prestige abroad, that that is ignoring the fact that it is simply an abominable set of affairs anyway.
However, how do we change this sorry state of affairs?It would be quite easy to suggest a nationalization of the private school system, which would cure many ills of the horrific two tier educational system in place today, but as the élite are in control of the state which would implement these changes then there is little that we can do. We also have to consider the fact that the existence of private schooling created a regional inequality of education, and not just something of negligible importance. Parents who have the money to send their kids to a better school, but oppose public schooling, will simply move their family to a place where there is a high performing state school – and yes these do exist. In this way the system is further enhancing the already geographically unequal educational system. Whilst we cannot deny these parents the right to move, if the private schools were nationalized then these pupils who are omitted from the state school system would be reintroduced and although a transitional period of continued elitism of the ex-private schools would occur there would undoubtedly be a more meritocratic element to the educational system. It would also be easier to tackle the regional inequality as the private schools would receive funding from the central authority and therefore the more needy schools can be given the vital help that they need to help the disadvantaged. So why don’t we do it?

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One thought on “A Critique of British Private Education

  1. We don’t do it because at heart the British are envious and bourgeois no matter their circumstances. Most peoples’ aim in life is to get ahead – one way or the other – and getting ahead can only be confirmed by having others in less fortunate circumstances with whom one compares favourably. We are content with poverty provided there are others still worse off. One manifestation of this was the so-called Thatcher generation. We used to call it “keeping up with the Jones’, and then outdoing them”. There is such strong support for the monarchy among the disadvantaged of us because they dream of one day enjoying privilege themselves. One need only compare the early history of British Trade Unions to those on continental Europe to see highlighted our British love of exclusiveness.

    In a nutshell, most British people are mediocre snobs.

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