Almost everyone agrees that social mobility is a good thing. People of talent must be able to exercise their gifts and not be held back by stigma or social convention. In practice, this means that many intelligent people born to working class families should have the opportunity to forge what, for what of a better term, we could call middle class careers. Upwards social mobility is, at heart, individuals moving from the working classes to the middle classes.
Not long ago, everyone seemed to accept this. Many working class families were delighted when their children, including some close friends of mine, joined accountancy firms or became investment bankers. Now, we are told that this mobility has become less common under Labour than it was under the Conservatives. Why?
John Harris, a member of the suicidal left (so called because they think the best way to combat the rise of the Conservative Party is to sidle up closer to Marx) thinks it is all a conspiracy. Oxford and Cambridge deny places to poor kids due to networks of privilege and patronage. That’s rubbish, of course. On the contrary, I think the left much shoulder much of the blame.
Reading the Guardian, there seems to be nothing the left likes more than denigrating the middle classes. They are blamed for taking up the best school places, clogging up the health service and causing pollution with their people carriers. In short, the middle class are to be despised and feared in equal measure. But if, as it must be, upwards mobility is to become a member of the middle classes, it is hardly surprising that fewer working people have the aspirations to join them. Bettering yourself becomes akin to switching sides to the enemy.
The way to encourage aspiration is to tell young people that ambition, wealth and prestige are good things that they should want for themselves. Telling them instead that it is wicked to be a banker or lawyer is like telling them they should know their place and leave being middle class to the toffs.
Discuss this post at Science, History and Religion - James Hannam's Forum
Click here to read the first chapter of God's Philosophers: How the Medieval World Laid the Foundations of Modern Science absolutely free.