Sunday, 21 May 2017

How much do we want social mobility?

A local resident asked to support the TeachFirst manifesto. My reply, below, may not be what she expected.

We live in a very unequal society and this, as the Spirit Level showed, harms everyone - though it harms the poor a good deal more than the rich. We Greens believe in reducing inequality by a variety of means including paying a Universal Basic Income and increasing taxes on the rich.

The measures in the TeachFirst manifesto look sound and would help to reduce educational inequality and improve education generally. But I have a couple of reservations:
  • There's too much emphasis on university education. For many young people good vocational training would be easier to access and more valuable than a degree in one of the less useful subjects. (I write as someone educated at a Technical School.) Its also what we need as a society - look how well it works in Germany.
  • Social mobility is two-edged. Since the number of management and professional jobs is not increasing measures that give more of them to the children of poorer families will give fewer to the children of other families. Attempts to make that change will increase the competitive pressures in schools - and that's already grossly excessive. So these measures need to be linked with measures that make the less well-paid jobs more attractive and enable those who do them to live decent lives. When I was young that was possible. It's now very difficult.
Which brings me back to my start. Greens want a fairer society but we also want a different society. One in which hospital porters as well as doctors, teaching assistants as well as teachers, are paid enough to live decent lives. That needs many policies, notably on housing, pursued over many years.

That's why I'm Green.

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