So Cambridge has got round to replying to David Lammy’s egregious social apartheid accusation.
We see the university’s new vice-chancellor Stephen Toope reiterating the specious nonsense demanded today that Cambridge’s excellence ‘is based on diversity’. Having ticked that politically correct box this academic technocrat seems concerned with one thing only. Not the truth but appeasing his accuser. We’ve done the work, we are making a real effort to ‘reach’ the disadvantaged, he wrote. We already spend £5million a year ‘to widen access to students’ from across the UK. And a further £8million last year went ‘on bursaries supporting more than 2,600 students from lower income families’. But, and here comes the but, despite ‘our real and sustained progress’, he knows it is not enough. Suitably humbled and chastened the VC acknowledges that more hard work is required.
Louise Richardson, his Oxford counterpart, who achieved notoriety recently for boldly saying ‘education is not about making people feel comfortable; my job is not to make you feel comfortable’, has yet to reply. We can only hope she is made of sterner stuff, proves a less fearful and less PC pushover.
It is depressing but not astonishing (sadly) that Professor Toope failed to give it to Mr Lammy with both barrels. Yet the accusation was spurious, defamatory and inaccurate based on statistics that Mr Lammy had ‘sliced and diced . . . to paint the bleakest possible picture’.
Why on earth didn’t Toope point out that 27 per cent of all the students at Oxford are already from BME (Black and Minority Ethnic) backgrounds and that 15.9 per cent of all BME’s are UK domiciled (by comparison with the 13 per cent of the UK population that is BME). What exactly was Mr Lammy complaining about, the VC could have asked. The university’s affirmative or positive discrimination programme was already meeting Mr Lammy’s ‘proportionality’ requirement and more.
Why did he run scared, why the quick recourse to the politics of appeasement? Why, given the ludicrous world of Lammy logic where proportional identity group ‘representation’ equals social justice, would the VC not have pointed Mr Lammy towards a far more more pressing concern – the serious under-representation of white males at British universities?
None of this way of thinking, of course, is reasonable at all. But Mr Lammy’s voice of unreason, endorsed and promoted by Mrs May’s phoney war on racism, is what dominates in the public space. It has the universities on the back foot.
David Goodhart and Munira Mirza have both published detailed critiques of Lammy’s race review report giving the lie to the thinking behind it and to its misleading claims. Both find that the statistics fail to justify Lammy’s conclusions. In fact: ‘What passes for policy discussion is now so heavily divorced from the facts and driven by ideology that there is barely any intelligent debate,’ Mirza has commented.
What a pity then that Cambridge didn’t take this opportunity to start such an intelligent debate. Perhaps this can no longer be expected. This very same centre of excellence (based in diversity) also last week caved in to student demands to ‘de-colonise the English curriculum’ and replace white authors with black writers .
Yet still the VC might have drawn on Cambridge’s own experience of ‘outreach’ to tell Mr Lammy a home truth – that far from discrimination being the problem, the real cliff face is culture.
We know Mr Lammy knows that the root of black children’s educational and every other disadvantage lies in their fatherlessness. In his own report he acknowledged that black children are more than twice as likely to grow up in a lone-parent family and that almost half of black children in Britain are raised by single parents. But he left it at that. The biggest percentage of lone-parent households is among black ethnic groups. Forty-eight per cent of black Caribbean families have one parent, as do 36 per cent of black African households. The outcomes for kids are predictable. But in Lammy logic it is still Oxbridge that is to blame for the ‘social apartheid’ that ensues. Forget the kids’ ropey homestart, it’s much easier to blame elitist Oxbridge.
So Oxbridge must compensate for everything. How are they meant to do this when every other educational and social initiative of recent years has come to naught – whether it be nursery education, Sure Start, Pupil Premium, London Challenge, Academies, or Cameron’s Troubled Families initiative; when not one has once produced a measurable improvement in outcomes? Name one – a single one – if you think I am wrong.
What’s left stretches the imagination. Would they propose that the teaching and research staff abandon their quads and courts for the paddy fields? Or turn the ivory towers over to boarding-school boot camp? From three?
This is the sorry logic of the social mobility delusion originally foisted on us by David Cameron, Nick Clegg and their favourite Labour appointee Alan Milburn. If interventions won’t make these kids intellectually competitive then it has to be quotas, regardless of measured ability or aptitude.
The ever masochistic Conservative Party also delivered us Les Ebdon along with the communist-sounding Office of Fair Access to Higher Education. Now thanks to Mrs May we are being treated to David Lammy playing the blame game to shame Oxbridge into ever more social engineering to suit his specious grievance agenda.
None of these Left wing ideologues have faced the root cause of difference, which is more to do with culture than discrimination, more to do with marriage than money. None apparently want to know that it is married status (or lack of it) that drives the economic divide and the moral bifurcation of society by class and by race, here as well as in the US.
This is the gaping cultural divide that has widened with years of Leftist / feminist anti-marriage tax and welfare policies. Changing this culture is the real challenge, not how to engineer the education system.
It is the moral path. Stirring false race prejudice and defaming our top universities is not.