David Cameron’s “elitism” – is it any good?

19th January, 2010 4:03 pm

CameronBy David Beeson

In writing these posts, I have to admit that on occasion I do engage in what, in some quarters, might be regarded as criticism of David Cameron. Whenever I do, many of those who post comments on my pieces accuse me of engaging in “class war”. Each time this happens, my mind fills with images of pots and kettles tumbling around.

David Cameron confirmed my feelings again yesterday. He’s announced new plans to encourage graduates with “good” degrees from “good” universities into teaching. All this hinges on just what one means by “good”.

Cameron’s main concern is with science and mathematics teachers, but it’s clear that he wants “good” teachers in other subjects too. I’m a French graduate, with a “good” degree (in the sense he means: the class obtained) and though it isn’t from one of the universities he would no doubt regard as the “best” (Oxbridge) but from London, at least it wasn’t from a former Polytechnic (former polytechnics have, it appears, become universities that are generally far from “good” in Cameron’s estimation).

Now I loved the subjects I studied. It’s almost shaming to admit my degree of geekiness, but I enjoyed the 12th century Song of Roland; the poetry of François Villon who simply disappears from the historical record in the middle of the fifteenth century, presumed hanged for unspecified offences; the great seventeenth century playwrights; and, my personal favourites, the giants of the Enlightenment in the eighteenth century, Voltaire, Diderot and their associates. Excellent stuff. But would it have made me a good teacher?

The aim of French teaching is to get our young people up to a level of knowledge of the language that allows them to communicate in Paris or, indeed, Brussels. It’s far from clear that the best way of doing that necessarily lies through talking to them about the limitations of Leibniz’s teleology and Voltaire’s assaults on it.

I also have difficulty imagining, say, a fourth year boy from Hackney wanting to tell his Lord that he found his life painful, and even if he did and chose to do it French, I’d hope that he would refer to God as “Dieu”, the 21st Century word rather than ‘Deus’, as Charlemagne does in the Song of Roland, and he would describe his life as “pénible”, the modern term, rather than “penuse”, as in the twelfth century version.

In fact, I’m far from convinced that simply having excelled academically in one of the grander, older universities necessarily makes you a better teacher. What it does, though, is make you much more attractive to someone whose world view is essentially that of a crashing snob.

So who’s waging class war? Me or David Cameron?




Latest

  • Comment Featured Uncategorized Britain seems to be fragmenting but English socialism is being reborne

    Britain seems to be fragmenting but English socialism is being reborne

      by Tom Kelsey and Jon Wilson The referendum brought to light deep fractures that risk destroying the left, and with the prospect of a bruising leadership election the divisions seem to be getting wider. Working class voters in once industrial towns and cities think their political leaders are out-of-touch with no understanding of life in a country many feel is rapidly changing for the worse. The idea of the nation, particularly of a resurgent England, has become a channel […]

    Read more →
  • Comment Featured Uncategorized As the dust settles on the vote for Brexit, it is time to reach out to our democracy’s missing millions

    As the dust settles on the vote for Brexit, it is time to reach out to our democracy’s missing millions

    At a critical point in the development of the Labour party leadership, this article offers a few thoughts on a future Labour agenda for democratic reform that transcends internal politicking. After four years of working at Bite The Ballot, a party-neutral youth democracy movement – and one that unites decision-makers of all persuasions in its work – I can say that British politics still has a long way to go on the road to democratic renewal. Though the pieces are still […]

    Read more →
  • Comment Featured We must bring politics back to our communities rather than leave people to rely on Westminster “elites”

    We must bring politics back to our communities rather than leave people to rely on Westminster “elites”

    All told, it’s not been a good few months for the standing of our politicians. Whether you think there was a good case to have a referendum on the UK’s membership of the EU or not, the reason we were all put through it was ultimately one of internal Conservative party management. A fundamental question about who we are as a nation and how to best represent our interests was embarked upon because David Cameron thought it was his best […]

    Read more →
  • News Kinnock: Labour must show that its socialism can “work in practice”

    Kinnock: Labour must show that its socialism can “work in practice”

    Neil Kinnock has criticised “ideological flights of fancy”, and said that Labour needs to show that socialism can “work in practice” before it can be successful. The former leader has said that winning parties have to be “professional” as well as having a “sense of belief”, and launched a strong attack on “career politicians”. “You can enchant people by ideological flights of fancy, but that’s not going to help them at all,” Lord Kinnock told BBC programme Conversations this week. He said […]

    Read more →
  • Comment Featured Wayne David: Top-down change no longer works – we must boost democracy from the ground up

    Wayne David: Top-down change no longer works – we must boost democracy from the ground up

    If we are serious about extending political engagement and closing the gap between people and politics, Labour needs to do two things. Firstly, we need to have a coherent and powerful narrative about bringing power closer to the people. And secondly, we need to have a series of practical proposals to make the political process more accessible and relevant to people. Even though Labour was the party which introduced devolution in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, and recently favoured “permissive” […]

    Read more →
x

LabourList Daily Email

Everything Labour. Every weekday morning

Share with your friends










Submit