The Socialist 13 April 2011 |
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Chauvinist 'thoughts' from David Willetts
Universities minister David Willetts, a prime architect of this government's slash-and-burn higher education policies, recently revealed his thoughts on social mobility in Britain today.
You might assume that the disadvantages working class people face in education have something to do with sky high tuition fees, the squeeze on university places or the systematic underfunding of state schools and education. Oh no, Willetts explains, what really holds back working class men in education is feminism!
According to the Guardian, Willetts says the problem is that "women who would otherwise have been housewives have taken university places and well-paid jobs that could have gone to ambitious working class men". The small detail that 50% of working class people are female seems to escape David 'two brains' Willetts.
Perhaps Willetts' privileged background, educated at the prestigious £10,000 a year King Edward's School, contributed to his ridiculous position on the issue.
There are deeply entrenched inequalities within education. At least 45% of students attending Willetts' old Oxford University were educated privately (compared to 7% of the general population). Shockingly, in 2009, out of over 11,000 Oxford undergraduates, only one British black Caribbean student gained admission!
Looking more broadly, young people getting free school meals are around 20% less likely to attend university than their peers who do not receive them. Clearly, the enormous inequality in society is expressed, and often reinforced, by the education system as it stands.
As was the case with all working class people, women won the right to an education and to attend university through mass struggle. These crucial steps forward must be defended. But today working class and even middle class women and men face huge attacks on their ability to gain an education from David Willetts and his Tory and Lib Dem cronies.
Willetts' comments show that they will try to divide our movement, to weaken it. Youth Fight for Education is building a movement to defend education which, unlike Willetts, we believe is a right and not a privilege.
But as the student movement and the 26 March TUC demonstration show, education is a right which men and women are prepared to fight for.