Grammar school

I went to a grammar school, the first generation of post war, south London, working class boys to do so. I had been preceded by my cousin, David, on my mum’s side of the family and followed by Mike and Richard on my dad’s side. Many of the teachers would have had direct experience of the Second World War in a school that was situated on the edge of the London Docks that, 13 years before I joined, had been subject to the blitz. It probably gave them a certain view of life which I experienced as wanting something better for the children they taught. There was an ethos about the school which instilled in me, a desire to learn; something that sticks with me to this day. What my wife calls “my insatiable appetite for knowledge”. Not a bad result for a school.

Interestingly, I was also interviewed for Alleyn’s School in Dulwich where, I am told, the headmaster’s first question was “What car does your father drive?”. This, I feel, tells you a great deal about the values he was looking for in his pupils. So why am I writing this? Well, because that prize bozo, Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson, has done it again. What has he done? Well he has opened his mouth and, in his usual inimitable fashion, nonsense has come out. Moreover, it is of a level of intellect that you would dismiss even from the bore in the local pub. Appropriate, as his topic was, among other things, IQ.

According to The Guardian last Thursday, he is quoted as saying that inequality is essential to fostering “the spirit of envy” and hailed greed as “a valuable spur to economic activity”. At which point, I feel that he displays a great deal of his own mindset. He also called for the “Gordon Gecko’s of London” to display their greed in order to promote economic growth. Please send him a copy of “The Spirit Level” someone and try to remove those horse blinkers he wears. He then went on to say that “Whatever you may think of the value of IQ tests, it is surely relevant to a conversation about equality that as many of 16% of our species have an IQ of less than 85” while calling for more help to be given to those with an IQ of 130. Of which, presumably, he is one. To those that have, shall be given and to those who haven’t, shall be taken away.

Please note the part about the value of IQ tests with its acceptance that many think that they don’t actually measure intelligence. Surely you can’t use something that is not proven in an argument to prove things which flow from the need for its actuality. Finally, he goes on to say that it is wrong to persecute the rich and madness to try to stifle wealth creation. This conflation of the two is a not untypical argument from those who are lucky enough to be wealthy, when wealthy and wealth creators are not necessarily the same thing. Indeed, in a country where much of the wealth that exists is actually inherited, they will, likely, not be the same. It needs saying again and again that those who work in financial services, despite the fact that they generate money, don’t actually produce anything. A pound note may help to pay for your washing machine but it needs a human brain or a team of people to invent and develop one.

Apart from the assumption that wealth creators are motivated, largely, by money, what really galls is not the idea that some people are less able than others but the implication that they are, therefore, of less value. Yet, as those who have read anything that I have ever written will be aware, I know of numerous examples of people who actually appeared to have less ability but went on to do what other, seemingly, more able people couldn’t do. From the people who were homeless and unemployed who built their own homes to the group of people with special needs who, with volunteer help, built their own horticultural training centre. What was even more remarkable, in this latter example, is that one of the young lads with special needs finished up supervising some of the other volunteers.

We can all contribute and we usually do. Why, then, should some receive more remuneration in a year, than many will earn in their whole lifetime. Indeed in ten or twenty lifetimes. Especially when it is from among the former and not the latter that those who bear the greatest responsibility for our current economic woes, are employed. Can we please have a sensible debate about wages, usefulness and value in our society and can someone please direct Boris to the nearest circus where his talents are so obviously suited?

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