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   Author  Topic: Social Utopianism  (Read 750 times)
David Lucifer

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Social Utopianism
« on: 2004-11-20 13:26:18 »
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source: Times Online
vector: rhino

I'm curious about which side of this issue virians fall on. How would you phrase this as a voting issue?

Charles v Charles head to head
By Tony Halpin
Prince sticks to his guns as Education Secretary comes out fighting for the Common Man

A HEAVYWEIGHT battle of two nations broke out yesterday as meritocracy took on aristocracy in rival visions of the purpose of education.

In the blue (blood) corner, the Prince of Wales bemoaned the tendency of “child-centred learning” to turn out subjects who lacked any sense of personal limitation. In the red (flag) corner, Charles Clarke, the Education Secretary, came out swinging for the people’s right to improve themselves, however humble their origins.

The eruption came after publication of a memo from the Prince at an employment tribunal involving Elaine Day, a former personal assistant in the Royal Household. Ms Day had written to the Prince suggesting that “bright” graduate PAs should be offered a career path within the Household.

In his response to Mark Bolland, then his deputy private secretary, the Prince wrote: “What is wrong with everyone nowadays? Why do they all seem to think they are qualified to do things far beyond their actual capabilities? “This is all to do with the learning culture in schools — the child-centred learning emphasis which admits of no failure and tells people they can all be pop stars, High Court judges or brilliant television personalities — heads of state! (sic) without ever putting in the necessary work or effort, or having the natural ability.

“It’s the result of ‘social utopianism’, which believes humanity can be genetically re-engineered to contradict the lessons of history and realities of Nature.”

Mr Clarke was swift to counter-attack on the BBC Radio Four Today programme. He dismissed the Prince as “very old-fashioned and out of time” before adding that he should “think carefully” about pronouncing on education matters again. “We can’t all be born to be king but we can all have a position where we can really aspire for ourselves and for our families to do the very best they possibly can. I want to encourage that culture rather than the other way round,” Mr Clarke said. “Everybody has a field marshal’s baton in their knapsack or however one likes to see it.”

Mr Clarke added: “I think there has often been a very patronising view, an old-fashioned view, that says that certain people cannot do certain things. In Norfolk, where I live, it used to be the case as recently as 20 or 30 years ago that people were told that they could never be better than farm labourers. I think that was an entirely unacceptable and untrue assessment of the capacity that people had.”

The Prince had made similar criticisms to the annual conference of the Association of Colleges this week. Mr Clarke told his interviewer, John Humphrys, that he had intended to “discipline myself” — then he decided to go on the offensive anyway. “To be quite frank, I think he is very old-fashioned and out of time and he doesn’t understand what is going on in the British education system at the moment,” the Education Secretary said. “I think that he should think carefully before intervening in that debate . . . The key point which I think is so, so damaging is when whole groups of people are dismissed as having no possibility, no ambitions, nothing can be done with them. I think that is really damaging.”

Politicans lined up behind the Prince or the populist. Tim Collins, the Shadow Education Secretary, called Mr Clarke’s remarks “unworthy” of a minister of the Crown.

John Reid, the Health Secretary, declared himself for Mr Clarke. He said: “I’m a meritocrat. I do believe that people get themselves out of disadvantage; that the biggest driving force for social change in this country is people’s own ambition.”

The Prince stuck to his guns at first, by telling a conference that he had been ridiculed 12 years ago for his “old-fashioned” views on tourism and architecture. “But now people realise that old-fashioned views are coming round again. Perhaps my fiendishly old-fashioned views of 12 years ago are not so old-fashioned now.”

By evening, however, Paddy Harverson, the Prince’s communication secretary, told Radio 4 PM programme that his boss had been misunderstood: “I think where the misrepresentation was, was about people suggesting he was talking about sociology and social opportunity was talking specifically about education.

“And what he thinks is that not everyone is the same, not everyone has the same talent. People have different talents and what education should be geared towards is giving everyone the chance to make the best of those talents in their own way. Rather than having a ‘one-size-fits-all’ response, everything should be geared to the individual talent and their own ability and the hard work they put into it.”
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