James Delingpole on the famous scientist James Lovelock:
Born in 1919 into a working-class Quaker family, [...] Lovelock’s experiences at a grammar school in Brixton made him a firm believer in selective education.
‘It wasn’t the teaching, it was the kids,’ Lovelock says. ‘When I came back from the summer holidays when I was 13 there was one boy called Piercy, who said: “I’ve been spending the hols swotting up on quantum theory.” This was 1933. It was utterly new. It wasn’t taught in universities. “And if any of you are interested in discussing it…” And we did. Now this is the unique education only a grammar school could give because it had selected. No bullies. No nasties. Just kids who were intelligent enough to be interested in the world around them… Egalitarianism is utterly evil. It’s contra Darwin.’ (i)
"If it's the last thing I do, I'm going to destroy every fucking grammar school in England. And Wales. And Northern Ireland."
- Anthony "Tony" Crosland, in 1965, as quoted by his wife in her biography of him. (ii) "Tony" attended an independent school (Highgate) and went on to Trinity College, Oxford, returning after the War to read PPE and become a don there.
As so many others have done, I ask, why grammar schools? Why not abolish private schools, if he was so intent on eradicating privilege?
Or was there some subtler plan? Was it to kick away the ladder of opportunity for talented working-class children like Lovelock, so that their resentments would fester and burst out when the chance of Revolution came?
Perhaps it was not so bad as that. Maybe the aim was more to blur the social boundaries by sending all secondary school children to comprehensives.
The first comprehensive I taught at - then the largest school in Birmingham - was ferociously disciplined and high-achieving in the late 70s/80s, under a whisky-drinking workaholic martinet who didn't live to pick up his pension; but he was exceptional and had turned the school around from earlier underperformance.
I was told that when the school was first "comprehensivised" in the Sixties it had enjoyed the support of the sort of parents who previously would have sent their children to grammar or private schools. Over time, as they perceived that great experiment was turning out a failure, many of them took their offspring elsewhere.
Part of the turnaround was to sort the c. 400-a-year new intake into streams and sets, with annual exams and re-setting children as appropriate. This certainly suited the many aspirant working-class parents - but I'm pretty sure that it had attitudinal consequences for those classed as being varying degrees of "failure". High - and sometime physical - discipline and staff coordination maintained order and made even unacademic children sought after by employers in the area, who wanted smartly-dressed regular attenders used to taking instructions.
But there were lots of other schools not run by overworking heads with first-class brains. Lovelock is right - there needs to be somewhere for "swots" to develop their minds, without having their heads forced into the lavatory by chippy thugs.
And we all need those grammar school children. Ironmonger's son General Bill Slim was one (iii), and without him the Japanese might have overrun not only Burma but India.
Today, as Britain continues (as it has done for decades) to be undermined by the Left and sold off piecemeal by the Right, we need to lead in science and technology again if we are to feed our overpopulated nation. Agricultural self-sufficiency is not an option.
Grammar schools; and a belated defence of our industrial base.