Thursday, 21 November 2013

The Great British Class Education Divide

As a Sociology student I find studying class division extremely interesting and well, lets face it, without class there would be no Karl Marx and no Sociology. Putting that point aside, no matter how hard you try to deny it, the study of social class is extremely relevant in today's society, especially when it comes the education system.

Before I go on to the main topic of my post, I'll give you a bit of a background from my world. Firstly, I gained my GCSEs from a state run comprehensive school. I had the choice to go to private school but quite frankly, didn't see the point. I was more concerned with where my friends were heading and my own convenience. I gained my A Levels at a college, which personally I felt was one of the best experiences of my life. Now I attend the University Of York and I am currently in my final year. Overall I feel like I have had the best education I could possibly want.

I didn't realize 'class' was an issue within schools until I began to study sociology and A level. I didn't think 'class' played a role in your position at university or your background. Well, that was until I attended university. It wasn't my course that highlighted my naivety nor was it university itself, it was my fellow peers. I hold no judgement on what school you went to, what fees you paid or even what colour your uniform was. However I found myself sucked into conversations with flatmates and course mates about what schools they attended, how high up in the league tables they were and how much they paid each term. There were even discussions of what universities people had applied to with one of my flatmates making a snide remark about myself getting an offer from Durham. Quite frankly I could not care less yet a large population of students seemed to feel the need to express their educational history. I then began to notice things more intently. The attitudes, behavior and even beliefs of surrounding students. For example, if I disapproved of the certain laddish behavior of a particular club/society, in my head I began placing it down to their particular 'rich boys' upbringing as did many around me. If I found someone condescending towards me I would judge them on their sheltered private school education. I had gone from 10 years of not caring to suddenly, and wrongly, judging people based on their background.

All of which leads us to this weeks current headline on campus. It has become such an outrage that it has reached national headlines. A small group of students painted themselves black for a costume event in order to impersonate characters from the popular 80s movie 'Cool Runnings'. They then proceeded to cause over £2000 of damage on campus property during a drunken rampage. What caused most outrage was the later reference in one of York universities student run newspapers as 'Eton Mess' 'Old Etonian' and 'Public School boys' as a label when discussing the deviants (You can read the article here). Readers were more disgusted with the reference to the boys educational backgrounds then to the actual deviant acts committed. Similarly, British tabloid papers such as the Daily Mail also often criticize students by rooting the cause back to their 'public school' background such as Oxford students and Eton alumni.

In my eyes, the focus on class is an archaic approach and sets us as a society in a backwards way of thinking.  Why are we not focusing on the actual criminal acts committed and the offence caused to surrounding students? In my eyes, we strive so hard to reduce inequality in schools and higher education yet we are the ones reproducing this labeling. I can't quite get my head around it. Obviously this isn't the sole cause of inequality, for example the constant need to rise university fees is another stupid move by this country. If our focus is on improving social mobility then sometimes I feel we're going the wrong way about it.

I want to hear your thoughts on this whole issue and whether you have faced any experiences in this area.

Well, look at me writing a semi serious and almost valid blog post. How did I do?.....Okay I'll just stick to writing about falling over and embarrassing myself in public like usual, in the future.

Thanks for reading!

L.Bel xoxo

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