‘The Great Education Panic’ is a chapter in a book called ‘Broke:How to Survive the Middle-Class Crisis’ written by David Boyle. I bought the book and read it because I was hosting a political evening in my home at which David Boyle was to be the guest speaker. The least I could do, I thought, was to accord some respect by being familiar with his writing.
The pleasure, as it turned out, was all mine because the book was an eye-opener and a fantastic validator of the panics and worries that I feel and undergo. I am not the only one who worries about surviving the crisis which, in my case, is about a stagnant public sector wage and the education system and a myriad of other things.
David Boyle talks about how the education system presents itself as giving you a choice of schools to choose from. My 15 year old daughter is doing her GCSE next year and we are in the midst of looking at sixth-form colleges and have discovered that our choices are limited for a number of reasons: Catchment area, selection procedures don’t guarantee a place and the range of subjects offered may not be what your child wants to study.
Choice! David Boyle states this succintly: “The emergence of a “choice” between state schools was bound to bamboozle the middle classes and their carefully calibrated arrangements to finesse the system. First, catchment areas began to disappear. One of the drivers of the great education panic is that parents still believe that schools have meaningful fixed catchment areas, but the reality they discover is that-where they exist at all-many of these tend to breathe in and out according to how many places there are…’
I want my daughter to do better than me and her future starts now with her GCSEs. I bought into the middle class dream of thinking that a good education is a great enabler for one’s offspring to enter a good university and, eventually, to get a great paying job. Not anymore. Look around you. The majority of job creation is happening in the lower paid sectors such as the care industry and in retail. I know graduates who are working as waitresses. This is backed up by a report written by Oxford University on the decline in professional jobs.
Midde class professional and managerial jobs are shrinking. Dr John Goldthorpe, a co-author of the study and Oxford sociologist, said:
“For the first time in a long time, we have got a generation coming through education and into the jobs market whose chances of social advancement are not better than their parents, they are worse.”
If education is a strait jacketed experience and the link between a good education and a good job is broken then where does that leave our children?
In the chapter titled: “The strange case of the disappearing professionals’ David Boyle writes about the days when you ‘could go to university and aspire to be …professionals and be paid enough for a comfortable life and live out your days with status and job satisfaction” as being bygone days. He is right.
If this is the future for the middle classes then what about the working classes? ‘The Great Education Panic’ is growing more panicky, I reckon.