I read a thought provoking article in The Times this week. Entitled “We Need A Revolution”, my first instinct was to leap to an immediate disagreement. Having studied a gamut of revolutions and revolts spanning the twentieth century, I was not keen on Britain lurching into a dictatorship. Had we not learnt from Stalin, or Mao? Much less the oleaginous Robespierre? However, I had misunderstood. The article is a segment from a book called The Fourth Revolution, published this year, and follows the journey of the rapidly rising east. “Better government has been one of the West’s great advantages” states the article “now the Chinese want that advantage back.” The part of the article that captured my attention the most was the reference to Singapore’s ‘elitist model’. This involves spotting talented youngsters, luring them in with scholarships and spending a fortune teaching them. This sort of method is ubiquitous in the East. Teachers need to have finished in the top third of their class. These high standards are branded as meritocratic, but shouldn’t everyone be aiming for them?
This ties in with a truly dreadful episode of The Moral Maze that was aired a few months ago. It broached the subject of ‘elitism’, with one woman branding it as ridiculous that intelligent children ought to be segregated. What about the less clever in society? What if it lowers their self esteem? It seems almost necessary to refer to that Orwellian quote “all animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.” Not every human is going to be as intelligent as the next. Nor should we be pushing for this as a nation. There’s no sense in complaining about declining healthcare, poorer standard of education, and our university standards being on the precipice if we aren’t willing to separate the wheat from the chaff. We’re able to do it with sport, aren’t we? 541 athletes were sent to the 2012 Olympics, and 23 men will be going to Brazil’s World Cup this summer. Can you imagine if an academic decathlon was televised in such a manner? Would as many watch? Take University Challenge, a programme which requires an expanse of general knowledge and extremely prompt buzzer reactions. Most of the comments to be found on social media about the show were acrimonious, to say the least. The winning team, Cambridge’s Trinity College, were branded as ‘nerds’, and questions were posed such as ‘have they ever been kissed?’ Being clever comes with a connotation of social awkwardness and an inability to behave normally in most circumstances. Shows like The Big Bang Theory have been highly criticised for portraying physicists in this manner, yet this is how the general public seems to think of the highly intelligent, as ostracised from the rest of the human race. When we see footballers on the pitch, do we say to ourselves ‘that’s great footwork, but did they ever get more than five out of ten in a spelling test?’ The answer is no.
Universities have “lost confidence” in the A/A* grades, opting for a test to determine the standard of the student instead. In 2003, 370 pupils got ten or more A* at GCSE; by 2012 the figure had soared to 1,577. Standards are slipping quickly, kickstarted by Tony Blair’s education reforms. Books that I read at twelve or thirteen, such as Lord Of The Flies, are appearing on the GCSE English syllabus. Since Tony Blair encouraged more people to apply for secondary teacher training in 2005, students who have failed GCSE modules and are severely lacking in a basic understanding of literacy and numeracy have found themselves at the front of the classroom. Most exams are composed of forty percent coursework. Why did this happen? It stemmed from the need of Tony Blair for constant high performing children. Not everybody was born to achieve the high grades – and nobody wants to talk about this, or challenge it, but they know it to be true. When everybody is walking away with A stars, the grade loses its meaning. Not all children are expected to make the ‘A’ or ‘First’ team in sport, so why is it the case academically? Returning to my aforementioned point about the Moral Maze, not one person on the panel discussed the elitism in sport. How are youngsters supposed to feel when they are laughed at for coming in last in a race? Or when they’re not considered able to make the cut at all?
“But that’s just sport.” The voices say, “That’s how it is. Competitive.” Academics should be just as, if not more competitive, than sports. We need doctors, lawyers, engineers and chemists more than we require someone to play for a cricket team. The emphasis on equality should never be introduced into the world of academics. What if children think they’re stupid? A question often posed. The one that never seems to be asked, or answered, at any rate, is: how does this equalisation of the academic system in Britain affect the cleverest children? The brains of the future are being raised to believe that academic excellence is not important; they are losing the all too vital competitive streak that will carry them into the future. We’re living in a world where success in academia is not considered important, but mocked. Why would any child want to pursue intelligence when the path is filled with mockery and easily attainable grades?
It’s time for everybody to stop fooling themselves about equality. As tried and tested by many nations, it is a failed ideology that Karl Marx constructed with no intention of carrying it out. We need the intelligent, more now than ever. The Elitist Model is something we should prise from Singapore’s shaking Eastern grip, and mould it into British society. Don’t raise the children of today to worship Wayne Rooney whilst mocking Sheldon Cooper. Think instead, of the future, and not of the power to offend but the power to encourage.
We need a revolution. Elitism must once again be brought to life in Britain. There are lugubrious times ahead of us if we do not comply to the Eastern model.