THE problem facing kids in too many British State schools is that they are force-fed a non-stop diet of slavery and deprivation. In contrast, the posh kids at Eton and Harrow get Shakespeare and Milton and they get to know who is the gentleman on top of the column in Trafalgar Square. They learn to be proud of their country whereas our youngsters learn only bitterness. That’s no way to get on in life. By the way, did you know that Nelson had a great love for Barbados and that he had a black crew member alongside him when he died?’
This is the gist of what I was told by a leader of the black community in Lewisham, south-east London, a couple of decades ago. He identified a contagion of political correctness in his local schools where there was a majority of pupils who are now termed BAME – black, Asian and minority ethnic. He lamented the curriculum impoverishment and dumbing-down that was intended to make lessons more relevant for these children. Educationally, he felt that they were being under-nourished and patronised. Ironically, these days, it is the white working class, especially boys, who are at the bottom of the attainment heap. Asians, especially Chinese, are at the top and most black children have overtaken most whites.
The contagion of political correctness has spread throughout the school system. The dice are loaded in favour of, not against, BAME pupils and, indeed, other minorities. And it is now the universities that are being fully infected by the academically debilitating PC virus. This much is evident from a report produced by Universities UK (UUK) and the National Union of Students (NUS).
According to the report, 81 per cent of white students attained a first or a 2:1 in 2017-18 compared with 68 per cent of BAME students. Baroness Amos, director of SOAS and ‘co-leader’ of the report, summed up its conclusions: ‘Our universities are racially and culturally diverse, compared to many other sectors, but we are failing a generation of students if we don’t act now to reduce the BAME attainment gap.’
This conclusion, though, needs to be seen in the context of the 2016 Sutton Trust findings on GCSE results amongst different racial groups at age 16 – the cohort of young people now at university. It was headlined:
White working class boys have lowest GCSE grades as disadvantaged Bangladeshi, Africa and Chinese pupils show dramatically improved results
What the Amos report does not address is the sad fact that the vast majority of the white working class, especially boys, fall by the wayside long before BAME students and mostly more advantaged whites turn up at university.
In the light of a report from the National Education Opportunity Network in February this year, even the Guardian felt it necessary to report: ‘More than half of universities in England have fewer than 5 per cent of white working-class students in their intakes.’
This scandalous state of affairs does not fit the narrative of BAME students doing less well in our education system than white students.
An educational diet, especially via ‘history’ lessons, that is heavy on slavery and deprivation, now the norm across most schools, feeds into this guilt-ridden over-concentration on minorities in Britain at the expense of majorities. In recent years, universities have taken their lead from schools and are now going along the same pathway.
Atonement for the sins of Empire has become a defining characteristic of our institutions of higher education. Universities are competing with each other to appear more morally virtuous. Submission to the Amos report’s demands is expected and demanded. Vice-chancellors are ‘asked’ to sign an online pledge to work with students.
Amatey Doku, NUS Vice President and Baroness Amos’s ‘co-leader’ of the UUK/NUS report, makes clear what is required: ‘From decolonising the curriculum to more culturally competent support services, many students and students’ unions have been fighting and campaigning for action in this area for years and this report highlights good practice, and clear practical steps for universities to take to begin to respond to many of the concerns raised.
‘This report must be taken seriously by all senior leaders in the higher education sector and I look forward to seeing proactive steps taken to eradicate these unjust gaps in attainment once and for all.’
In other words, make your curriculum more relevant to BAME students. Why all this fuss about Shakespeare and Shelley, George Eliot and T S Eliot when there are plenty of BAME writers out there? Who cares if this leads to a dumbing down of content? It is the attainment ‘gap’ in degree grades between BAME students and whites that matters.
That is a nice-looking uni you are in charge of, Mr Vice-Chancellor. What a shame it would be if anything nasty happened to it. Just sign this BAME pledge right here. Think of it as a type of fire insurance. Know what I mean?
Where are we heading? Education minister Lord Agnew has just let the cat out of the bag. In relation to university admissions he informed an education conference at Brighton College this week that the voices ‘screaming for lowering standards’ in higher education were ‘relentless’.
He said: ‘Why are we letting kids go to university with three Es at A-levels? I mean, why? It’s lunacy.
‘But unfortunately there’s a body of people out there because they then never have to pick up the tab for the results of that kind of madness, that’s the problem.
‘And so, as a government you just have to suck it up basically and just keep plodding forward and that’s what we do.’
And beyond the admissions process to university, your Lordship, matters are even worse. Have a chat with the noble Baroness, Lady Amos. She will put you right!