I ask this because there is a rather classic Johann Hari piece of bollocks in the Independent this morning about Oxbridge and admissions which essentially makes the latter point. Go to private school and you're more likely to get a place and this is only because you're wealthy and not because actually you might be really bloody clever and deserve it.
It never ceases to amaze me the way a pupil from a private school is automagically assumed to be not worth what they achieve because they went to private school, whilst a pupil from a state school must be reletively cleverer if you take into account their social background and assess their attainment with that in mind.
Putting aside the seemingly cavalier way the achievements of one are easily swept aside whilst the lesser acheivements of others are puffed up to create some sort of equilibrium of "effort". What is more irritating is this assumption that wealth is equal to good active parents in their child's lives, whilst poverty means the opposite.
This is the single flaw in the reletivistic approach to University admissions. Just because a kid comes from a poor social background it does not follow that their parents didn't encourage them, teach them, buy them books, take them to the library. Likewise, it does not follow that a child born with a silver spoon will get all the books in the world and great educational support from their parents.
To think that outcome of life, which is complex and unknowable, can be reduced to these sort of variable pseudo-scientific considerations is some of the very worst behaviourism and essentially bad science being portrayed as good. It isn't helped along either when members of the commentariat try to bolster their argument with comments such as,
Today, a third of all Oxbridge students come from just 100 top schoolsGuess what, that means that 66%, well over half of them, don't. Yet the figure is still an outrage apparently. At what point will it not be though? 25%? 20%? 10%? 1%? When will it be that admissions from private schools are acceptable? Something tells me it never will be.
The bottom line is that good and bad parents are not defined by wealth. They're defined by whether they give a shit about their children or not and how much they do to show it. The logical conclusion of Johann Hari's argument is that if you're from a poor social background then you're parents are crap and don;t care and only reletivistic assessment of attainment will help.
Tell me, how exactly does that encourage social mobility when at it's core is the constant hammering home to one group that they cannot achieve without the state intervening, and on the other telling students that their not actually worth anything more than the content of their parents wallet?