Donald Trump’s Path To Victory

Donald Trump - Andy Borowitz

If Donald Trump becomes president of the United States, it will now be largely thanks to the army of sanctimonious, virtue-signalling left-wing commentators who are unwilling to (or incapable of) grappling with the roots of his appeal

Donald Trump’s path to victory in November leads directly through sanctimonious, fatuous, hectoring, intellectually snobbish attitudes like that shown in the image above, currently being widely circulated on social media.

Writer Andy Borowitz, wringing his hands about the presidential candidacy of Donald Trump, pompously warns us:

Stopping Trump is a short-term solution. The long-term solution – and it will be more difficult – is fixing the educational system that has created so many people ignorant enough to vote for Trump.

One does not have to be a supporter of Donald Trump to realise that this is exactly the kind of morally certain, unfoundedly intellectually superior leftist bilge which could yet deliver the presidency to the unstable, egotistical reality-TV star.

It is the kind of toxic mindset which endlessly repeats to itself that the only reason someone might disagree with the pro-Identity Politics, pro-illegal immigration status quo is through a mental defect of some kind.

If Andy Borowitz were capable of extricating his head from his own posterior for a few short seconds, he might note that the median annual income of a Trump supporter is around $72,000 while that of Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton supporters is just $61,000 – a whole $11,000 more. In other words, Donald Trump supporters are so ignorant and uneducated that somehow they manage to out-earn the highly “enlightened” supporters of the two remaining Democratic Party candidates.

And yet the myth persists of the Trump voter as a knuckle-dragging, uncultured simpleton who has been led astray by Evil Right Wing lies and propaganda, while even the most air-headed of Clinton or Sanders supporters is preposterously transformed into a high-minded philosopher, imbued with deep wisdom and knowledge. What dangerous nonsense.

More odious still is the implication that Trump supporters need to be “re-educated” – that their political views and priorities are somehow invalid, and that rather than openly debating and examining those views in the marketplace of ideas, the holders of Trumpian views should be quietly taken aside and indoctrinated with “good” left-wing ideas.

It is the easiest thing in the world to make a snap judgement that those people who hold differing views do so out of either ignorance or malevolence. This is an emotional comfort blanket which the American (and British) Left cling to ever-more tightly, but which now increasingly threatens to suffocate them. Assume your opponent is stupid and the best you can hope to achieve is a loud shouting match. Actually take the time to understand your opponent’s arguments and put yourself in their place, and real political dialogue becomes possible.

People support the candidacy of Donald Trump for many reasons. Some are highly disaffected conservatives or anti-establishment types nursing a “let it burn” attitude toward Washington D.C. in general. Some are dispirited social conservatives who sense that they have lost the culture war and see in Trump someone who may not share their values, but who will nonetheless give their un-magnanimous liberal foes a good kicking.

Yes, some are racist and some are Islamophobic – though this critique of Trump supporters by the New Republic is little better than Borowitz’s own fatuous take. Others simply hold the position that people who are illegally present in the United States should not be conferred with the comfort and security of American residency or citizenship. Some are very wealthy and others are very poor. And crucially, Trump supporters are drawn from every level of educational attainment.

It may be technically possible to fix the educational system so as to stop producing people likely to support Donald Trump, as Borowitz wants, but it would mean the creation of a nationwide network of leftist madrassahs, places where conservative thought and academic freedom were utterly banished, which would hardly be conducive to liberal democracy.

If Andy Borowitz really wants to fix a festering national trend, he should worry less about an educational system which sometimes has the temerity to produce Donald Trump supporters, and more about the growing inability of American citizens to handle exposure to contrary ideas without resorting either to unbearable condescension or shrill demands for the offending speech to be banished.

For as long as Democrats and assorted anti-Trump forces assume that conservatives and others who disagree with them do so merely through lack of education, they will continue to underestimate their opponents – in this case, with potentially disastrous consequences.

 

Donald Trump Hosts Nevada Caucus Night Watch Party In Las Vegas

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Jeremy Corbyn’s Ambition For Britain: Building A National Education Service

 

“What if the rise of Corbyn, a man with a political philosophy, is not an aberration, but the future?” – Douglas Carswell

For someone who is supposed to be a political dinosaur, a fossil, a cantankerous relic from a long-gone political age, Jeremy Corbyn can sure talk a lot of sense when he puts his mind to it – and when the pressure is really on.

Sunday’s long set-piece interview on the Andrew Marr show (see video above) proved that Corbyn could withstand tough personal scrutiny and difficult questions designed to throw him off-balance, and not only get through the encounter intact but also managing to leave his centrist rival candidates for the Labour Party leadership looking somehow diminished and superficial.

None of this is to say that Jeremy Corbyn has the right answers – he doesn’t – or that he is the Saviour of British Politics. And none of this changes the reality of what Britain was like the last time people like Corbyn had their hands on the levers of power, back in the 1970s. But of the four people competing for the leadership of the Labour Party, Corbyn is the only one who seems to make his supporters actually feel good about their candidate and their party.

Why is this? Well, in this age of sanitised soundbite politics, you really can’t place enough of a premium on a politician who dares to say what he or she actually means, someone willing to think out loud rather than simply regurgitate pre-rehearsed talking points.

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When Will Labour Be Honest About Private Schools?

eton college

 

Another day, another “revelation” that Britain is a deeply elitist, socially segregated country thanks to the harmful influence of private schools and their irritating habit of setting their students up to succeed with a good education and useful network of influential contacts.

The Guardian reports on the findings of the Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission. And on the face of it, the statistics are compelling:

Only 7% of members of the public attended a private school. But 71% of senior judges, 62% of senior officers in the armed forces, 55% of permanent secretaries in Whitehall, 53% of senior diplomats, 50% of members of the House of Lords and 45% of public body chairs did so.

So too did 44% of people on the Sunday Times Rich List, 43% of newspaper columnists, 36% of cabinet ministers, 33% of MPs, 26% of BBC executives and 22% of shadow cabinet ministers.

Oxbridge graduates also have a stranglehold on top jobs. They comprise less than 1% of the public as a whole, but 75% of senior judges, 59% of cabinet ministers, 57% of permanent secretaries, 50% of diplomats, 47% of newspaper columnists, 44% of public body chairs, 38% of members of the House of Lords, 33% of BBC executives, 33% of shadow cabinet ministers, 24% of MPs and 12% of those on the Sunday Times Rich List.

These figures certainly prove something, but not necessarily what the outraged commentators on the left think they prove. What these statistics show is a strong justification for the entirely rational choices of people with sufficient means to opt out of the state education system and go private. If you are at all normal and want the best for your child, why would you not place them in the hands of the system that is so much more likely to deliver the best social and educational outcomes?

Cue the inevitable wails of outreach from the usual suspects. First up, Owen Jones:

Why does the unfairness highlighted by the report matter? As it points out, elitism leaves “leading institutions less informed, less representative and, ultimately, less credible than they should be”, meaning they focus “on issues that are of salience only to a minority but not the majority in society”. If there are so few journalists and politicians who have experienced, say, low wages or a struggle for affordable home, then the media and political elite will be less likely to deal with these issues adequately. Instead, they will reflect the prejudices, assumptions and experiences of the uber-privileged.

No serious person would argue that this is not a problem – though many choose to quietly ignore the point out of self interest. It is certainly true that in journalism as with many other professions, a lack of people from diverse backgrounds materially harms the organisations doing the hiring. But an astute business or institution should already be aware of this fact, and have recruitment policies in place to ensure that they identify and attract talented people from non-traditional backgrounds. Jones and others never make a convincing case as to why the labour market cannot do this on its own, without the help of state coercion.

But as always, it is an active state to which the left instinctively turn. Jones’ take:

Certainly Britain is in desperate need of radical measures to ensure all can realise their aspirations, including the banning of unpaid internships, the scrapping of charitable status for private schools, investment in early-years education, and dealing with issues such as overcrowded homes that stifle educational attainment. But surely Britain’s chronically unequal distribution of wealth and power has to be tackled too.

Then, depressingly, the shadow education secretary Tristram Hunt chimes in:

Tristram Hunt, the shadow education secretary, said the report showed the coalition was failing on social mobility. “Under the Tories, the attainment gap between disadvantaged children and the rest is increasing, millions of hardworking people are seeing their living standards go backwards and child poverty is set to increase,” he said.

And finally the Guardian’s editorial on the subject, which sums up the landscape well enough but whose only proposed solutions are vastly inadequate to their supposed goal of ensuring that state-educated people are proportionally represented in the top professions:

The fundamental reason why so few top families can grab so many top jobs is precisely because they are able to provide the education, the environment and the networks that will eventually make their children’s job applications stand out from the pile. It is a very human, and in some ways commendable, thing for people to seek to give their kids a hand-up. No Whitehall initiative is going to counteract this urge, which is in any case shared across families from all classes. It does damage only because bankrolling unpaid work experience placements and master’s degrees, which would be ruinous for households across much of the scale, is so easy for those at the top.

Governments can – and should – extend minimum-wage laws to cover more internships, encourage universities to pay special attention to top grades earned in tough circumstances and support new routes into politics and the professions, to replace those that have closed with the withering of the unions, the local press and the culture of the apprentice. They can, and should, take care not to fragment state education in ways which – Swedish experience suggests – can leave schools prone to class segregation. But they should not delude themselves that any of it will create the meritocracy of the rhetoric unless they also do something about a wealth gap that easily warps into an opportunity gulf.

All of these people are very good at pointing out inequality where it exists, and saying that it is an outrage. Where they fall short is coming up with suitable, intellectually honest ideas for tackling it.

Having identified that attending private school gives an advantage to those students over state educated children, Labour’s proposed correctives are all variants on the same woolly and inadequate remedy. Revoke the charitable status of private schools. Subject such schools to harsher inspections or more stringent teacher hiring criteria. Enshrine reverse discrimination against private school students into law, and actively encourage businesses to look past paper accomplishments at the wider picture of an applicant (which many of the world’s best firms do already, out of self interest).

But why will the darlings of the British left, always first to proclaim their outrage at the unsurprising news that an expensive education is a worthwhile investment, not be honest about their ideal outcome? If private schools are causing so much damage and inequality in our society, why not ban them altogether? Why be content with continually talking them down and making it marginally more difficult for them to operate?

Why, instead of continually carping at the success achieved by private schools (and indeed any school that struggles free from centralised control), will prominent left-wing politicians not openly promise to “destroy every fucking grammar school in England. And Wales and Northern Ireland”, as one-time Labour education secretary Anthony Crosland muttered in private, and expand the threat to every fee-charging school as well?

If Labour is to maintain even the vestige of continued acceptance of the free market, they must hold that the final decision on hiring school and university leavers must rest with the business concerned, not with some faceless “equality and merit panel”. And this means that hiring managers must be free to compare the attributes of publicly and privately educated applicants and pick the candidates who they believe will do the best job.

A future Labour government then has only two realistic choices if they want to push down the stubbornly high percentage of professional jobs occupied by privately educated people, rather than just complaining about it – they can work to actively sabotage private schools through government policy until their educational outcomes fall back in line with their state school counterparts and the economic incentive no longer exists for most parents to choose them, or they can take the totalitarian path and simply order all of Britain’s private schools closed immediately.

In a million years, Ed Miliband’s Labour Party will never argue for the latter policy (though they might well attempt a little bit of the former on the sly) because, unsurprisingly, the modern Labour Party is every bit as stuffed to the brim with privately educated scions of privilege as is the Conservative Party. Labour do not want to see the back of Britain’s private schools because not only do Labour MPs, party apparatchiks and their families benefit handsomely from using them, a truly egalitarian education system where every child is held down to the same level of uniform mediocrity would rob Labour of it’s apparent core purpose – arbitrarily picking winners and subordinating the rights of the individual to some undemocratic, ghastly master plan that they constantly revise.

Today’s report by the Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission does little more than reveal the obvious – that paying for a private education results in benefits commensurate to their cost. Ed Miliband and the Labour Party can either accept this as a fact of life and look at ways of expanding access for talented but disadvantaged children into that better system, or they can advocate eliminating the inequity altogether and propose shutting down the private education industry.

What we should not tolerate any more from the Labour Party is their tired habit of using social inequalities to build political capital while proposing no policy solutions commensurate with their scale.

How Can We Teach British Values In School If We Are Afraid To Assert Them Ourselves?

British Values Twitter 3

Just what are British Values?

Well, apparently the concept is sufficiently fuzzy in the minds of some people that we all now need to take time to argue amongst ourselves and reach a common consensus while one of the biggest and most worrying educational scandals in recent years plays out unobserved.

In response to the ongoing scandal of Birmingham schools being compromised by activist governors to deliver covert Islamic religious teaching, the Education Secretary, Michael Gove, made the slightly awkward if well-meant assertion that in future, all primary and secondary schools will be required to “promote British values”.

The Guardian reports:

Michael Gove, the education secretary, has seized on a finding byOfsted that a “culture of fear and intimidation” existed in someBirmingham schools by announcing that the government will require all 20,000 primary and secondary schools to “promote British values”.

These values will include the primacy of British civil and criminal law, religious tolerance and opposition to gender segregation. Gove also suggested girls wearing the burqa would struggle to find their voice and must not feel silenced in the classroom.

In what is being described by ministers as a decisive shift away from moral relativism in the classroom, the education secretary took action after a landmark series of reports by the schools inspectorate into 21 Birmingham secular schools found an atmosphere of intimidation, a narrow, faith-based ideology, manipulation of staff appointments and inappropriate use of school funds.

Unfortunately, the predominant response thus far has not been one of outrage that such a thing could happen to compromise children’s education in the UK’s second city; instead, we have seen race to come up with the funniest self-deprecating anti-British putdown as expressed by the #BritishValues hashtag now trending on Twitter.

When presented with the opportunity to express outrage that local school curricula could be so easily hijacked by fundamentalist members of any faith and ‘turned’ to start promoting beliefs very far from the British values of democracy, equality, non-discrimination and obedience to the law, a majority seem more interested in having an introspective discussion about what modern British values really are (at best), or suggesting through Twitter witticisms that any concern is tantamount to xenophobic intolerance  (more common).

The Huffington Post has collated a selection of what it considers to be “the best” responses, which take an almost uniformly dim view of British culture and history:

British Values Twitter 4

(It should be acknowledged that there have also been some very sensible and thoughtful contributions from others, such as the pianist Stephen Hough).

The hashtag activist comedians and earnest scolds of Twitter currently attempting to look cool by running Britain down on social media are actually revealing a few ingrained British traits of their own – excessive self deprecation and an almost craven desire not to offend or appear controversial – which easily become insidious and harmful when taken to extremes.

There is a gnawing anxiety behind some of the mocking #BritishValues tweets. “Isn’t patriotism so old fashioned?”, they scream. “Let’s list all the bad things that Britain has done so that no-one thinks we’re being boastful”. It may come across as cool, trendy liberalism but look closer and you see that some of it is actually rooted in fear.

Somewhere along the way the idea of expressing pride in Britain, and in British exceptionalism, became interchangeable in the minds of many people with that altogether darker and more insidious disease of racism. To express the former is, in the eyes of many, to come uncomfortably close to embracing the latter. And as a result, people instinctively turn away from patriotism, and instinctively oppose suggestions such as teaching British values at school, mistaking it for something else (and, incidentally, leaving a vacuum that the far right is only too happy to exploit).

And yet there is a serious issue at stake here, with the integrity of children’s education in question. Even the Guardian’s John Harris felt the need to weigh in to the ongoing argument about the fundamentalist Muslim influence in Birmingham schools, reminding his readers that state-subsidised religious indoctrination or interference with the curriculum is wrong whatever the source, and that this is no time for those on the left to bury their heads in the sand:

At the risk of reopening old wounds on the liberal left, for all the noise from those on the right of culture and politics, it is no good crying “witch hunt” and averting your eyes from this stuff. It should have no place in any state school, and most of it is an offence to any halfway liberal principles.

But Harris still felt the need to couch his tortured article in the wider context of a state education system which is failing and falling into disarray under the hated Tory government – the harsh unexpectedness of his gentle reminder that it’s not okay to look the other way and pretend to ignore the fundamentalist corrupting of education for fear of seeming racist or intolerant having to be soothed with a good old swipe at the real enemy, those on the political right.

Efforts to stamp out casual and institutional racism in Britain, while incomplete, have come a long way, even since the 1980s and 1990s. A large part of eradicating the scourge of casual racism has been (quite rightly) to mock it, deride racist thoughts and speech as backward and out of place, and doing everything possible to make racism distinctly uncool. The campaign to eradicate racism from football is a prime example of how successful Britain has been, especially when compared with continental and eastern Europe.

But while there is unquestionably still much work to be done, we must also begin to ask ourselves if one of the side effects has been a growing inability for people to express deeply felt but harmless national pride and patriotism in any but the safest, media-approved settings (such as the 2012 London Olympic Games).

If our generation’s instinctive response when they see criticism levelled at a person or group within a religious or ethnic minority is not to check the veracity and demand action if it is found to be true, but either to flinch and avert their eyes out of shock and unwillingness to believe or to become so embarrassed that their only coping mechanism is to resort to self-deprecating humour on social media, perhaps this is the price that our country has to pay in order to purge itself of the ingrained, widespread, casual racism that was common and socially acceptable for so long. Perhaps.

But being this way makes it much harder for us to deal with the problems facing Britain today, where the pernicious influence of fundamentalists (of all religions) on the young and the lack of assimilation of some cultures into wider British society are real issues that are being only half-heartedly tackled because of the paralysing fear of saying the ‘wrong thing’ or giving the wrong impression.

When asked why it was that Americans are so much more openly patriotic than Brits, the late Christopher Hitchens attributed it to the fact that overt displays of patriotism and love of country in the United States are borne out of the fact that as a nation of immigrants, Americans have no real shared history going back more than a couple of centuries. Therefore, simple acts such as reciting the pledge of allegiance every morning in schools and singing the national anthem before sporting events have, over time, helped to forge that unity within diversity.

But what has always been true of America is now increasingly becoming true of Britain. Immigration into Britain may bring profound economic and cultural benefits, but with each successive year of high net immigration and a lack of assimilation in some quarters, that degree of shared common history is diluted a bit more. And that’s absolutely fine, if other measures are in place to balance it out – like reciting a pledge, offering comprehensive British history as a mandatory subject at schools, or, shock horror, teaching children “British values”.

At the moment, though, these countermeasures are lacking. It should come as little surprise then that certain groups within society do not feel as much desire or pressure to integrate as they rightly should, and that when the door is left wide open in places like Birmingham to influence schools to teach children according to certain subcultural norms, some people will seize the opportunity with both hands.

Unfortunately, in the age of hashtag #Britain, not only does it surprise us when this happens, the thought of condemning or intervening in these events embarrasses us so acutely that we are barely able to have a national conversation without descending to xenophobic conspiracy theorising on one side or accusations of scaremongering on the other, topped off with a sprinkling of nervously self-deprecating Twitter jokes.

As John Harris noted in his article, by this point “inflammatory language and alarmism” have now done their work and made it harder to get to the bottom of what has really been going on in Birmingham’s schools. But there is an equally powerful countervailing force working in the other direction, suggesting that any concern is an unwarranted attack on a minority and misrepresenting any calls for the assertion and teaching of British values as xenophobic, Islamophobic and a direct attack on the principle of multiculturalism. It is not.

If we carry on in this way, we will never succeed in building and maintaining the unified, diverse and tolerant Britain that we all say we want.

 

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Finally, Rejecting The Mediocre In Education Policy

On the right track.

 

It is quotes such as this, from Education Secretary Michael Gove, which remind me why I pounded the pavements in support of my local Conservative parliamentary candidate back in the 2010 general election:

“My ambition for our education system is simple – when you visit a school in England standards are so high all round that you should not be able to tell whether it’s in the state sector or a fee paying independent.

“We know England’s private schools are the best independent schools in the world. Why shouldn’t state schools be the best state schools in the world?

“I want to see state schools where the vast majority of pupils have the grades and skills to apply for university, if they want to, where a pupil being accepted to Oxbridge is not a cause for celebration, but a matter of course.

“Where it is the norm for state pupils to enjoy brilliant extra-curricular activities like sports, orchestras, cadets, choir, drama, debating, the Duke of Edinburgh scheme, and more.”

There have been many disappointments from the Conservative-led government since they came to power and ejected Gordon Brown from office. Only last week in Prime Minister’s Questions, David Cameron could not bring himself to say that taxes should ideally be cut for all citizens across all income levels – instead trying to outflank Ed Miliband and appease his supporters by claiming that the rich and successful were paying more under the Conservatives despite the abolition of the 50% top rate of income tax. But while David Cameron and Theresa May equivocate on civil liberties, and while George Osborne neither delights nor grossly offends at the Treasury, Michael Gove continues to quietly get the job done over at Education.

The Telegraph reports on Gove’s upcoming keynote speech at the London Academy of Excellence:

State schools will test children using private school exams for the first time under plans to make them the “best in the world”, the education secretary will say in a speech on Monday.

Michael Gove will say that schools must set their standards “so high” that they are indistinguishable from the best fee-paying schools like Eton and Harrow.

He will say he wants to end the perception that state education is “bog standard” by emulating independent schools with tougher tests, longer school days, more extra-curricular activities and better discipline.

There are some indisputably good ideas in the meat of the speech – ideas such as setting state school children some of the same exams used to measure ability in private schools, and using international tests to better benchmark performance against schools in other countries. It is similarly hard to argue against the renewed emphasis on extracurricular activities and discipline.

Of course, reciting a shopping list of common sense ideas doesn’t mean that the British educational system will improve overnight, or even that dramatic improvements will come about in the very short term. Neither does it acknowledge the reality that all of these changes will be of zero benefit if parents remain disengaged from their children’s education, either unable or unwilling to nurture and help them, or if poverty and the varied symptoms of socioeconomic disadvantage continue to suppress the educational attainment of poorer children. And too often, the Labour Party have more to say on mitigating these real problems than do the Conservatives.

But there is no reason why we should not hold these high aspirations for our public schools, and use this aspirational language as Michael Gove does. Indeed, there is something refreshing about it, and this is what makes Gove so appealing to many people of a libertarian-Conservative persuasion. Gone is the talk about sharing burdens, paying “fair shares”, postcode lotteries and equality of outcome, and in its place we have talk of benchmarking, experimentation, variation and unbounded possibility. It is quite hard to not get excited, even in the absence of any of the finer detail as to how we get there.

The Telegraph’s editorial mirrors this optimism and sense of a refreshing change:

This is why his agenda for state schools so terrifies the Left. It represents a much-awaited rejection of bog-standard equality in favour of the excellence that typifies the independent ethos.

We shall observe with interest the reaction from the rest of the news media as it comes in. And as always, the devil will be in the details. But with precious little by way of new policy announcements or radical ideas as the coalition government trudges toward lame duck status and general election 2015, at least one government minister is still doing his job.