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Posted by on Apr 11, 2011 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

Woodhead and Hastings: working class kids are innately less able

Peter Saunders is a social scientist who, if I have understood him correctly, maintains that lower class children are less intelligent, on average, than middle/upper middle class kids, that there’s likely to be a genetic basis for this, and that this may well be what accounts for the fact that the children of the middle classes tend to go on to occupy the more prestigious and better paid professions and positions generation after generation. Pace Clegg, we may already have something like a meritocracy operating in this country.

I kind of admire Saunders’ bravery. He says what he thinks, rather than pussyfooting about like many rightwingers do on this topic. His post is here.

Saunders was expounded approvingly by Max Hastings in his recent opinion piece in the FT, in which Hastings says much of what Saunders claims is “common sense”, in contrast to Nick Clegg’s recent comments on the need to improve social mobility.

Chris Woodhead has also expressed the view that middle class children are innately brighter than their working class peers. They have “better genes“.

I’d like to see much more research into this topic. I am highly skeptical about Saunders’, Woodhead’s and Hastings’ views, but of course they might be right. It’s an empirical question – not one on which I am well-placed to comment. It’s certainly a good thing that people like Hastings and Woodhead are saying what I’d guess most of those politically right of centre really think, though rarely have the courage to say. This “common sense” view that Hastings supposes many middle class people share, if don’t often vocalize for fear of the opprobrium that will rain down on them, needs dragging into the light. Let’s find out if it’s true…

Read Saunders’ paper and it turns out his argument is merely the perfectly obvious one, which I myself pointed out a while back, that social mobility stats do not establish that we don’t have a meritocracy, particularly when, on IQ and other tests, the working classes score lower. The upper middle classes can, and will, just suppose that this shows they have, as Woodhead puts it, “better genes”.

My earlier 2008 post complaining that the Woodhead/Hastings type view is widespread, but rarely actually expressed is here.

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