It is 2036 and a large and growing population of under-educated, disaffected and violent white working class men has become a characteristic feature of British cities. More worrying, is the extent to which this growing underclass has swung towards support for, and membership of, extremist political parties. The folly of not heeding warnings back in 2016 and earlier about the likely consequences of turning a blind eye to the problem has now become evident.
For most people, back in those calmer times, it did not seem a self indulgent and naive luxury for politicians and the educational establishment, the ‘Blob’, to fret more about feminist issues and questions of gender identity than about the growing alienation of a white working class male underclass. Indeed, the fact that girls so out-performed boys at school was seen by many of the ‘Blob’ as a good thing, as progress for the cause of equality.
The benefit of hindsight shows 2016, in relative terms, to have still been a time of civic order and social calm, even if it was, in reality, slipping away. True, there was recognition in some quarters that problems were being stored up for the future. A 2016 report by the Higher Education Policy Institute pointed out that girls were 35 per cent more likely to go to university than boys. It correctly predicated that by 2034 that percentage likelihood would have jumped to 75 per cent.
There was a bit of hand-wringing at the time but nothing of substance was ever done. Boys had been falling behind girls for some years before 2016 in terms of public examination results and white working class boys were consistently at the bottom of the qualifications pile. An OECD report on adult skills in developed countries placed Britain bottom of the league table amongst the 16-24 age for literacy and second bottom for maths.
By 2016, then, the largely ignored and ‘no-hope’ losers were consistently the white working class, especially boys. It was they who formed a large part of the 20 per cent of school-leavers who never mastered basic literacy and numeracy. Employers frequently called them ‘unemployable’.
This nettle of male underperformance in our education system was never fully grasped. Some voices attributed it to a predominance of female teachers and a lack of male role models. Until the late 20th century there had been more male than female teachers in secondary schools. The feminisation of teaching reflected the growing dominance of girls at university.
Others saw the pressure placed on schools by increased immigration as deflecting attention away from the struggling white working class boys. Most schools gave priority status to the language learning needs of non-English speakers. This exacerbated the racial and ethnic tensions that are a feature of our society in 2036.
It takes around 20 years for educational change to have a real impact, for toddlers to go though school and higher education or vocational/apprenticeship training and to emerge as products of the education system. The seeds of neglect with regard to white working class boys that were sown back in 2016 have come to fruition in the fragmented, disturbed and dislocated society we see around us today in 2036.
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