“The educated differ from the uneducated, as the living from the dead.” – Aristotle
Aristotle’s proclamation is outdated and undeveloped in the context of modern Britain. Now, the privately educated are demarcated from those who have had a state education. The difference between these two groups manifests itself in a gulf of opportunity in admission to the highest-ranked universities and the highest-paid jobs.
This problem is neither recent nor getting worse. However, the fact remains that private schools still hold a monopoly of the best teaching talent, the best facilities, the best academic and cultural links, and importantly a separation of students from the most disruptive elements of the education system.
In comparison to this, state schools, especially those in urban areas, have suffered in comparison. While undoubtedly many students can prosper in state comprehensives, this is clearly a less common phenomenon. State education is most damaging for the middle-group of students, a majority of the student population, who are caught in-between the high achievers and the troublemakers. It is these students, the majority who are not born as straight-A students and, if exposed to such instances, are liable to imitate the apathy and misbehaviour of the troublemakers present in state schools, are protected from such distractions, and are given the extra-facilities and higher-standards of teaching in private institutions that they require to prosper.
I would argue that this situation is not only unfair, but also damaging to society. It is a fundamental right to be educated in the modern world, something which is a necessary component of every functioning society, with justification of its virtues unnecessary to expound here. Surely this entails, in a society ever-more obsessed with equal opportunities and accessibility, that all children should receive the best standard of education possible, and be given equal chances to prosper from their childhood, something which would enable truly the most talented and deserving to be the highest achievers. But this is not a situation possible with a private education system, something which divides people immediately from their entrance to education not by talent or enthusiasm, but by financial position. This is not fair, and condemns masses of people to under-achievement and unfulfilled potential purely due to the financial situation of their parents. It may be an extremely unpopular position amongst those who feel they have earned the right to enhance their children’s future, but when has the prosperity of one’s parents been a fair justification of having better opportunities – this is just one example of how the justification for private education is completely undermined by any acceptance of social justice.
An end to the private education system would help to enable the majority of middling students to prosper through better standards of teaching and greater opportunities, while distractions and the minority of troublemakers would surely be significantly lessened, or at least be spread more evenly amongst all schools. It is the concentration of trouble students which, in addition to damaging their own prospects and the prospects of others, allows gangs to form and anti-social behaviour to dominate newspapers and divide communities. This is, as with much of the inequality mentioned, a wider social problem and clearly would not end immediately with the destruction of the private education system, but surely this would be a progressive development.
It may be a socialistic stance, and its actual employment may be very difficult to organise, but the abolition of private education would be of much benefit to the whole of society, a reversion to the basic values of education, and a true move towards equal opportunism in Britain, rather than a continued retention of the financially based hierarchy of education which damages the majority by benefiting the few – Marx would have a heart attack, but then again so should anyone who believes in equal opportunism.