Other formats

    Adobe Portable Document Format file (facsimile images)   TEI XML file   ePub eBook file  


    mail icontwitter iconBlogspot iconrss icon

Salient: Victoria University Students' Paper. Vol. 25. No. 11. 1962

Education A Key To Social Status

Education A Key To Social Status

In his talk to the Socialist Club, Dr. Hey, a lecturer in the Education Dept., described the part education has played in transforming a class society, which had stabilized itself through its education system. This situation existed up to the English Education Act of 1944. The schools did not give social mobility. They corresponded with classes and preserved them by teaching the values of social classes and reinforcing class-consciousness. Examinations don't mean much.

In the Universities for instance, members of the wealthier classes could spend 3 or 4 easy years learning the proper habits of "conspicuous consumption" suitable for their position. They did not have to pass any exams.

Dr Hey early made an assumption from which to argue. He assumed that as society has become more complicated requirement of leadership have become more demanding. Techniques of selection have been developed to extract capable people. This is apparent in the highly developed nature of education systems in America, Britain, Russia and elsewhere.

Class War

The details of this include the 11-plus exam in Britain. A different "class war" is being fought out in schools based on success or failure in exams. Intelligence has become the criteria of selection.

The implications of this are important. Dr Hey cited Michael Young, who saw the intelligent children from the working class being "siphoned off" and transferred into a new social plane. They become alienated from their class of origin through their education at school and University.

T. S. Eliot saw this in his "Notes on the Definition of Culture" . . . the removal from the working class of their more intelligent members. As is recognised by sociologists, marriage partners tend to be similar in their education. The working class would perpetrate its own kind, denuded of intellectuals, continued Dr Hey.

Would society in Europe become more and more stratified? Despite the fact that in 1957, 46 per cent. of French children received no education, the systems are increasingly turning to I.Q. selection methods., Although there is still a marked social bias at universities this was disappearing.

The size of families is another important differentiation developing between classes. Families with a higher average intelligence keep family size down. An expensive education is not easily available to the large families of skilled, semiskilled and unskilled workers.


The rise of the meritocracy is demonstrated vividly in Russia. Success in education and exams gives an opportunity to join the class with money, power and prestige. The same tendency for the perpetuation of what Krushchev sneeringly called "the white hands which like others labour," matches the similar tendency in Europe described above.

Together with this rise of the meritocracy has been another development. To illustrate Dr Hey gave an example: In the Ukraine in 1958, 350,000 people were educated approximately to age 18, or to secondary school level. This was three times the number educated similarly in Britain. The Russian economy had no place for these children to utilise their education. There were not enough white collar jobs. To lessen the unbalance the "institutionalised hurdles" selecting varsity students had to be tough. .

The inability of the economies of Western over-developed societies to take all their trained people meant that only the fortunate enter jobs fitted to their qualifications, said Dr Hey. The meritocracy is shrinking.


Dr Hey answered questions in some of which doubt was expressed whether people who originate in the lower-classes are permanently alienated from their background by education. Examples were brought forward to show that the values of the middle-classes, as expressed in the "bourgeois" education system, were taken up in preference to earlier values and predominated over these earlier values. Educated members of the lower-classes did not return to their earlier allegiances. They married outside their early background, and assumed the values of the class they had now entered.

Without their own intelligentsia, the capacity of the working classes to organise themselves politically would be cut drastically, said one questioner. Perhaps this is the reason for the degeneration of the Labour Party, he wondered. Dr Hey agreed to the extent that the political allegiance of the working classes would probably be divided amongst political parties not emanating from themselves as a group.