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In Defence of the 'Public School Elite'

Discrimination is discrimination and like it or not, students from public schools do suffer at the hands of it. Why? When is any of this information relevant to whether or not you are a good enough candidate for a place at university or a job? The answer is never.

Reading Tanya Gold's scathing condemnation of Anthony Seldon, who last month dared to complain about the positive discrimination most public schools suffer at the hands of Modern Britain, served as a gruesome reminder that, even in 2013, there are those that deem it necessary to revert to childish class bashing at any possible opportunity.

In the piece written for The Guardian earlier this month about the possibility that universities could be discriminating against students that have been privately educated, Gold decides that "the elite wants everything for itself nowadays, it seems, even the clothes of victimhood" and rehashes old prejudices in an attempt to elicit outrage from readers over the complete scandal that the master of a public school had, shock horror, expressed concern over the apparent discrimination his students are subjected to.

Revealing quite a chip on that shoulder of hers, Gold continues to berate both the students and staff for complaining about the incessant bad press they receive merely for attending an expensive school. Her overall argument, in amongst the catty off sides, appears to be that the wealthy and the privately educated have nothing to complain about - least of all about a nasty and unnecessary social prejudice.

Making oh so original remarks over Frances King's decision to leave her position as Headmistress of Roedean as a result of the constant barrage of criticism she receives for working at a public school, Gold merely highlights the ridiculousness of those that attack others purely for their social background.

Dismissing King's complaints with the lazy comment "which makes me wonder if she has ever talked to the unemployed, or the disabled...I imagine they don't talk about that at Roedean", Tanya Gold fails to make any sensible contribution to the debate regarding positive discrimination, social prejudice or the downward spiral this country seems to be taking in regards to bigoted opinion.

Choosing instead to tell readers the cost of public school (Roedean, she helpfully points out, costs £28, 200 a year if anyone cares) and including further irrelevant remarks such as "I wonder if Seldon would have the courage to say it to the ghost of Martin Luther King, or to a room of state school students, presumably none of whom are clever enough to make Oxbridge, having not been educated at Wellington", Gold misses the point entirely.

Seldon was not comparing the plight of public school students to the cause championed by Martin Luther King, nor was he suggesting that state school students were stupid. He was merely pronouncing a frustration that many of the privately educated feel. Why turn this into bullish class warfare when it isn't, Tanya?

Indeed, why is it that a privately educated person cannot offer an opinion or complain about something without someone snidely using their background to dismiss them? Yes, public schools offer pupils a head start in life (if they choose to make the most of the opportunity), but what is needed is a balanced argument and healthy debate regarding education and not Gold's smug class-obsessed comments.

Imagine for one moment that Anthony Seldon was the Headmaster of a particularly under-staffed and under-equipped state school. Now imagine The Guardian running a piece slamming Seldon for complaining of potentially discriminating treatment towards his students. Gold would most likely storm the metaphorical barricades of Westminster to personally complain to David Cameron. And understandably so - discrimination against students should not take place. But that counts for all students Tanya, not just the ones that you think are worthy.

Discrimination is discrimination and like it or not, students from public schools do suffer at the hands of it. Seldon was right to complain. Today, most universities and graduate employers have the right to ask whether you were privately or state educated, how much the household breadwinner earns and whether both your parents work or not. The current overall trend seems to go against those privately educated.

Why? When is any of this information relevant to whether or not you are a good enough candidate for a place at university or a job? The answer is never.

Whether someone is privately educated or not makes absolutely no difference to their intellect or their willingness to learn. Furthermore, going to private school doesn't prevent you from developing a social awareness, protect you from family illness or tragedy or make you a terrible person. And quite frankly to assume that all students that are privately educated are extremely wealthy and privileged is insultingly unintelligent. To tar all privately educated people as 'posh' or 'over-privileged' is absurd and reveals more about the person tarring than it does about the person being tarred.

Last year, Sherlock actor Benedict Cumberbatch, re-opened the conversation into the ugly truth about 'posh-bashing' complaining that comments regarding his accent, upbringing and social class dominate interviews and are often used as a weapon against him. Nowadays, it would seem as if the privately educated should just sit pretty or face a constant barrage of criticism for daring to speak out against anything.

A person's social background, wealth or lack of wealth should not be used as a tool against them. Anthony Seldon made a very valid point that has merely been reinforced by Tanya Gold. Going to a public school or being wealthy is not a crime. Any complaints that are made about the unnecessary attacks on those that go to public school are not an attempt, as Tanya Gold would have you believe, to "steal the language of the oppressed".

Stop harping on about how lucky students are to go to private school (the majority usually know) and start recognising that in the 21st Century everyone is entitled to an opinion and to spend their money how they choose. Why not focus on the issues people raise rather than their background. Posh - bashing in 2013 is, to quote Benedict Cumberbatch, "all so predictable. So domestic. So dumb."

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