The Education Minister, David Willetts, has recently stated that white working class boys should be targeted for university recruitment in same way as ethnic minorities. After witnessing a vast decline in applications from men for courses, Willetts argues that white working class teenage males should be placed in the same disadvantaged category as ethnic minorities and should be targeted to be recruited from universities. But why do the government insist on categorising people in races, when the issue in fact lies solely within class?
Figures show that working class white males who entered university in 2011 were 13% down on the previous year and a mere 30% of male school leavers applied to university this autumn 2012 UCAS figures have recorded. Yet why has notable absence of white working class boys in not only universities but the education system itself been highly publicised only now?
The performance of working class boys has always been of concern to Ofsted, the education standards watchdog for decades but why have no preventive measures been created to ensure that white working class boys are not falling through the system?
Perhaps the decline in university applications may be a result of the demonisation of the working class, subtly present in institutions across the country and conveyed in popular culture and media. With shows such as Little Britain, Some Girls and The Jeremy Kyle Show presenting the white working class as thick, sex-obsessed and barely interested in schooling, it is little wonder that our society is ingrained with prejudices and hostility towards them. With these prejudices perpetuating society, it is little wonder that they are put off going through an institution.
Willetts is apt when stating that the absence of male working class whites in university is 'the culmination of a decades-old trend in our education system, which seems to make it harder for boys and men to face down the obstacles in the way of learning'. It would not be unreasonable to suggest that working class males internalise negative expectations of their teachers and peers. In school, they do not enjoy learning the curriculum, viewing it as irrelevant to their aspirations. Rather, they display more respect for football and are inspired by football players.
Furthermore, historically working class families do not aspire to education. Perhaps governments needed to channel these negative perceptions of education to the working class but the previous Labour government has failed miserably. Preoccupied by policies on emigration, their education dogma 'one size fits all policy' has deeply neglected young males in schools.
Before even suggesting they should apply to university, it's about time people re-thought how to treat the working class as a category, not dividing them by races.
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