Tuesday, 29 May 2012

The Social Mobility Myth

All politicians tell you how much they care about social mobility. It mainly means they tell you about people ‘getting on in life’ and poor kids achieving their goals. In fact that is the problem in my view; the debate on social mobility by the political class is always a one way street. They only ever talk about people moving up the ladder, as if there is one massive ladder and the only way is up.

But that is nonsense and it’s a nonsense that needs replying to. The next time you hear someone talk about ‘improving social mobility’, just ask them whether they support people moving down the ladder too? For example, they all believe too many privately educated people work in law, politics, the media and even get a chance to study at Oxford or Cambridge. There are plenty of people who talk of a closed shop and how it’s terrible and how we need to change it.

If you believe they are genuine in their views (I certainly don’t agree that rich people cannot care about the poor etc), then consider that for every extra working class kid to get into Oxford, it will mean that a kid who went to private school does not. The fact is that well-paid jobs in professions are not in endless supply; and too many politicians support social mobility because they version is one that only talks about people moving up, basically a version that doesn't exist.

The simple fact is that we can talk about social mobility all we want, we can talk about how to improve it and what is stopping it. But when it boils down to it, it means that for it to be anything other than words, poor kids will have to be given more chances at these careers at the expense of the rich. I will wait with baited breath that an increasingly privately educated ‘closed shop’ graduate class within politics will decide that is something they will bring about happening.

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