Positive Discrimination was outlawed by the Equality Act 2010. Yet, there remains an incandescent pressure amongst employers and universities to meet diversity and social mobility quotas. Now almost two decades into the twenty-first century, the functioning of the quota system is overdue a close scrutiny. In a nation whose ethnic minorities make up 13% of the population, the underrepresentation argument is distorted by our controversial obsession with political correctness, to the point where these disenfranchised groups are overcompensated for, without examining the underlying causes for such disparities. Sweeping the real challenges under the rug and opting for a quick fix is not the answer. Diversity schemes with the primary objective of meeting quotas are idealistic, forced and counterproductive.
Employers are hypocritically pledging for Equality, Diversity and Inclusion schemes while the underprivileged are involuntarily excluded from their internships. According to the Fair Internship Initiative, a harrowing 10% of the UN workforce are unpaid- a predicament ironically incongruous with its values. It's a callous slap in the face to minorities and the working class, who we sweepingly generalise for their adversities. Cutting corners by vouching for quotas will not miraculously banish this by-product of institutionalised inaccessibility.
Nepotism is still rife and even more so the higher up we go. Add the inferiority complex in the mix and you're left with despondence and self-doubt. My working class university friends' sentiments bore a striking resemblance to my own. 'It's not for someone like me' or 'I'm not good enough' are the sorts of conversations I've had with myself to lower expectations. I spent the last two years of my secondary education in a 'failing' comprehensive (it closed down). We were told by our teachers that all we needed to succeed was 5 A-Cs at GCSE. It didn't matter if we were capable of doing better. How can we believe in ourselves if our teachers don't believe in us?
Parental influence also plays a substantial role in shaping aspirations. My friend's sister got three A*s at AS Level and dreams of going to Cambridge. Her mum said she would be competing against the rest of the world and to aim for a lower-end Russell Group. Patterns of alienation and fear illustrate this shield-from-the-possibility-of-defeat attitude against aiming high amongst the traditional working class. They lack the conviction to uproot from generations of familiarity, passing down their complex onto their children. And there are endless reasons for their doing so.
Latest figures from the Equality and Human Rights Commission inform us that white working class boys are the most underachieving group in Britain. In 2015, only 24% of White boys on free meals achieved the GCSE threshold in England. (The national average is 57.1%.)
Meanwhile, a high sense of confidence is instilled in the privately educated. They are polished, with an upper hand in self-assertion, and a signature pomposity we know too well. The wealthy can afford to be risk-takers because the bank of mum and dad is a reassuring fallback. Their parents afford them £40/hour private tutors. They are showered with compliments, told they're the cream of crop, and that Oxford and Cambridge were created for people like them. Private school kids are pushed to overachieve while comprehensive kids are known to underachieve and told they'll be lucky if they get their 5 A-Cs.
This outlook must be shifted in order to boost social mobility. We can begin by ensuring Comprehensive schools kids are not neglected and given the recognition they rightfully deserve, that teachers don't facilitate a division with 'top sets' and 'bottom sets' and that every child is encouraged and well-informed of their potential to leave their mark.
Yet, the gap is widening with the proposed introduction of further grammar schools. State schools will become the bottom of the pit, where children will feel ostracised and inferior than their Grammar and privately educated counterparts. The middle classes turn an eschewing blind eye to these growing disparities in our quality of education. Their skin-deep Political Correctness is homogeneous with how not-racist and philanthropic they are, while they stealthily remain unsympathetic and embarrassed about the working class (as if showing any compassion would validate what they themselves could have been). This (un)conscious bias reverses our generational struggle to overcome the stumbling blocks to a socially mobile system.
Why are white working class boys the least likely to go to university? Why are Pakistani/Bangladeshi women less than half as likely to be employed? Why do so few black people apply to Oxford and Cambridge? The quota system is a top-down process which frustrates the answers to the above questions. Comprehensive schools house the majority of disadvantaged and minority pupils who find themselves unmotivated, lacking the enthusiasm to reach their potentials. They should be reassured that they aren't bound by thresholds, that they can be above average, that they're not any lesser for falling outside the Grammar paradigm. They should be given greater direction and encouragement to promote positivity and self-belief. It's where social mobility is most effective. Schools should be the nexus of our growth, not the object of our reticence.
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