Challenging piece from Paul Mason. To what extent does this resonate for you, as youth worker and critical citizen?
The problem for poor, white kids is that a part of their culture has been destroyed
Let’s confront squarely what this means. If the country is populated with low-achieving, inarticulate white kids it is something that happens between the year they stop being toddlers and the year they start being Neets (Not in Education, Employment or Training).
So what is it? In short, it is their lives.
The detailed ethnic breakdown in the report makes for depressing reading. The worst performers are white Irish traveller children, then “white gypsy/Roma” children – both of which school fails by a long chalk. They are followed by mixed-race children with Caribbean backgrounds, then white British. These are the only groups who collectively go backwards in the two years researchers have been crunching the numbers. By contrast, black Caribbean, and white Irish children go forward a bit, and Chinese and Indian children a lot.
……. the problem of poor white kids cannot be properly defined: not in the language of free-market capitalism, at least. It has nothing to do with being “overtaken” – still less with any reverse discrimination against them.
It is simply that a specific part of their culture has been destroyed. A culture based on work, rising wages, strict unspoken rules against disorder, obligatory collaboration and mutual aid. It all had to go, and the means of destroying it was the long-term unemployment millions of people had to suffer in the 1980’s. Thatcherism didn’t just crush unions: alone that would not have been enough to produce this spectacular mismatch between aspiration and delivery in the education system. It crushed a story.
To put right the injustice revealed by the CentreForum report requires us to put aside racist fantasies about “preferential treatment” for ethnic minorities; if their kids are preferentially treated, it is by their parents and their communities – who arm them with narratives and skills for overcoming economic disadvantage.
If these metrics are right, the present school system is failing to boost social mobility among white working-class kids. But educational reforms alone will barely scratch the surface. We have to find a form of economics that – without nostalgia or racism – allows the working population to define, once again, its own values, its own aspirations, its own story.
READ THE ARTICLE IN FULL.