A united country — given time

Keith Hudson

Unbelievable?  Perhaps not.  Nursery schools where fond proprietors put names on notice boards of those alumni who’ve made it to Oxford or Cambridge Universities (that is, approximately 13 years later)?  More modestly — or perhaps (probably) . . . because they haven’t been in existence long enough — those other equally expensive nurseries who merely post the names of those who’ve successfully got into the most exclusie preparatory schools? All this is mainly going on in and around London, of course.

These believable facts have been gained from an article: “The children who aren’t allowed to fail” by Tanith Carey in today’s Daily Telegraph.  This, incidentally, is another reason why this newspaper is delivered through my letter-box every morning — besides its Business supplement and its daily crossword.  I han’t noticed this on the DT‘s website.  But where else — except in the Financial Times or The Times — would I be able to read the rather more domestic circumstances of those who belong to what I consider to be the most significant feature of modern Britain — or of any advanced country, in fact.

This is the emergence of a new, new middle-class — the prolongation in numbers and chronology of the ‘new’ middle-class that first emerged in the early decades of the 19th century.  It is a sub-population of a largely culturally united and generally prosperous part of the population comprising the rich (even the very rich) down to new entrepreneurs and those professionals in the newer skills of the modern service society.

About 15% of the total, this sub-population — which I sometimes term as the ‘over-class’ — is dramatically different from most of the rest of the population.  Since 2008 it has been surviving in good heart, which most people have not, even if the daily newspapers of the over-class (all three of them) are feeling the pinch at the moment while they find their feet in the internet world.  (Incidentally, I think the above three will probably survive in the next ten years while most of the rest of the dailies will not,)

Good quality children’s nurseries are yet another example showing that the well-educated members of the over-class are well-informed of what neuroscientists are telling us.  This is that the earliest months and years of a child’s life, quite besides his or her genes or epigenetic inheritance from parents, are crucial in fixing the parameters — of socialization, of intellectual reach — that will remain for the rest of his or her lifetime.  This is why better-off parents are anxious to find the best possible nurseries for their children and why, as Tanith Carey relates in her opening paragraph, one mother who, as soon as her child was born, dispatched the father to deliver (in person, for safety) the application forms for several of the best nurseries in town.

Now that the goverrnment is going to increase the number of nursery places available to ordinary folk, will this help to heal the educational gap between the over-class and the major sub-population of the country. The answer is yes in principle, but there are a number of practical provisos, such as: 1. Will there be enough of them? 2.  Will they, hopefully, not be over-regulated as are the state secondary schools? and 3. Will both they and the state schools be thrown open to free parental choice, so that both nurseries and schools experience the same benefits that apply to any other consumer products — that is, that quality emerges in the end.

Oh, and a fourth proviso: So long as immediate results are not expected.  This sort of make-over of education will take at least two or three generations to start to heal over the gulf that is now taking place. This, if it is not bridged within a generation never will be because the over-class may not be willing to carry on subsidising the rest of the population as it does now.

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