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Friday, June 23, 2017

Meritocracy and Privilege

BBC Radio 4 - Moral Maze, Meritocracy and Privilege

"Little Prince George of Cambridge is an extreme example of a more general truth. We don't live in an equal or even particularly meritocratic society and most of us don't seem to care... Social mobility is silting up... some [blame] feminism. More middle class women in the workplace blocking the way for ambitious working class men. Most blame pushy bourgeois parents. As if wanting the best for your child is some form of sin...

Equality of opportunity is not merely unachievable but would be repugnant if you could achieve it. I think it's amongst the worst concepts that anybody's ever come up with... the only criteria by which we determine how people's outcomes rank are their biological merits. So if you are beautiful and clever and you have good digestion, and you are good at telling jokes, then you should flourish. And if you are none of those things then you should fail, and no one is allowed to help you to achieve any different rank from that of your purest biological merits. It is the politics of the eugenicist...

I would say that what you're conflating here is the concepts of justice and fairness. So fairness is really a residual concept. That is that if we don't have any better reason, then we should allocate things equally. If I'm cutting up a pie and I don't have any other reason for doing things, then if I don't give it equally to each of you, then I'm guilty of being arbitrary. But there are other principles that come ahead, in particular those of family, property and promise. And those 3 come ahead of fairness which will often mean that the right consequence is that which respects people's property, people's familial obligations and the promises that they have made...

[A] phrase that is often used in this context... leveling the playing field... this is a very interesting metaphor... there's a question first of all whether we're in in a game or on a playing field to begin with...

[Equality of opportunity] seems to presuppose that we're running a race against each other. And we've all got to start at the same starting line, wear the same clothes and boots because there are a few scarce, very valuable prizes at the end of it. We've got to make sure it's a fair race so the best people or the best qualified get those prizes. I think what we've got to do is question if that's the type of society we want to be living in...

'If you're trying to appoint the best general to leave the army in the case of war I think it is very clear that you need people of particular merit. If you're talking about giving a place to a student to go to university it's actually not so obvious that there is a social reason for giving that to the people who are absolutely the best qualified. Why is that? Well their qualifications may not reflect their underlying potential. It may be there are other social reasons why you want to change the demographic in some of our leading universities'...

'It's rather dispiriting that the professor of a university sees social rather than educational purposes for the end of the university'...

'If we constantly emphasize to people that their social and economic backgrounds are a determining factor, aren't we in a way teaching a kind of learned helplessness that makes people think: the likes of me can't cope. I mean what we really want is somebody who thinks it doesn't matter what my background is, I'm as good as the rest of them'...

[Peter Saunders] 'The research I did on the 1958 birth cohort shows if you take the top quartile of ability distribution measured by an IQ test at age 11, only five percent of the children in the top quartile, irrespective of their social class or origin, only five percent of them fail to get into some kind of middle class position'...

'The Institute of Fiscal Studies has done research on university recruitment which shows that they are probably the most meritocratic institution in-'

'Have you been to Oxford or Cambridge? Have you actually been there? Have you been to Oxford or Cambridge and then been to Barnsley and have you noticed that there is a slight difference in the social makeup of the two places?'

'Is this how we get to factual truth? Though emotive-'...

'There is no social class component to university admission. Once they're taking children at the age of eighteen. If there are problems they're happening before the age of 18. They're not happening at entry to university, which is what makes the government's social mobility strategy so mad when it's trying to impose quotas, social class quotas on university entrance'...

'I thought his position was absolutely chilling and nascently totalitarian. It was only mitigated by the fact that he was completely incoherent'"
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