24 April 2013

Margaret Thatcher and the educationalists

[The Department of Education and Science] was a department with an entrenched culture and a settled agenda of its own which it pursued with little reference to ministers or the rest of Whitehall. The convention was that education was above politics: government’s job was to provide the money but otherwise leave the running of the education system to the professionals. Political control, such as it was, was exercised not by the DES but by the local educational authorities up and down the country; the real power lay with the professional community of teachers, administrators and educational academics, all of whom expected to be consulted – and listened to – before any change in the organisation or delivery of education was contemplated ...

Politically as well as temperamentally, Mrs Thatcher was antipathetic to the DES. She instinctively disliked its central project, the spread of comprehensive schools, and the whole self-consciously ‘progressive’ ideology that lay behind it. She disliked the shared egalitarian and collectivist philosophy of the educational establishment ... (John Campbell, Margaret Thatcher: The Grocer’s Daughter, 2000, Jonathan Cape, p.212)
No doubt Margaret Thatcher was inhibited in what she could do as Education Secretary and had to implement the intentions of Ted Heath’s government. And no doubt she was also inhibited with regard to the ideas she could express without fear of condemnation.

Expressing approval of grammar (selected) schools was as far as a public figure could go in supporting the idea that there were differences between individuals and that the object of education should not be to iron these out, but to provide opportunities that corresponded to individual aptitude and inclination.

The body of agents of the collective, referred to as being considered ‘above politics’ – the teachers, educational experts, etc. – were actually almost universally left-wing, and this had a strong correlation with their attitudes in practice to educational issues. Margaret Thatcher was in favour of young people being able to rise in the world by their own efforts and by using their abilities as effectively as possible.

The grammar schools were modified by their increasing dependence on the state and by the increasing dominance of egalitarian ideology.

My experience (as a student) of grammar schools and universities was about a decade later than that of Margaret Thatcher, and by that time it was clear that the idea of people rising in society by virtue of exceptional ability and purposefulness was no longer acceptable, even at grammar schools.

Both the headmistress of the Woodford County High (a grammar school) and Dame Janet Vaughan, the Principal of Somerville College, were clearly against this idea. The former stated explicitly that if someone were able to take exams at an earlier age than usual, or to work simultaneously towards exams in more subjects than usual, these things would be unfair advantages and they should not be allowed.

Dame Janet took the view that if a person encountered any difficulties in achieving their career objectives, they should give up. Since, according to her, innate ability did not exist, their ambitions could not be based on anything objective, and they should be told to settle for something more modest.

My unfunded independent university, which could be publishing analyses of the complex issues involved in the area of education, has been effectively censored and suppressed for decades. Meanwhile, misleading and tendentious material on the topic has continued to flood out from socially recognised sources.

I hereby apply for financial support on a scale at least adequate for one active and fully financed research department. I make this appeal to all universities, corporations and individuals who consider themselves to be in a position to give support to socially recognised academic establishments.

20 April 2013

Margaret Thatcher memorial fund proposal

I propose that a fund be set up in memory of the late Baroness Thatcher, provisionally entitled the Margaret Thatcher Memorial Fund for Academic Exiles.

The fund would be dedicated to giving financial support to those high-IQ individuals whose academic opportunities were damaged by the hostility of members of the education system such as schoolteachers, local education authorities and college principals.

In view of her own experiences, I am sure Margaret Thatcher herself would have been delighted that a fund in her name was helping such individuals by providing them with financial support, to enable them to carry out work which might assist them in regaining the academic positions and status of which they have been unjustly deprived as a result of opposition from the educational and academic establishments.

Margaret Thatcher believed that grammar schools were necessary to help people from backgrounds like hers to “compete with children from privileged homes” [1]. As well as being handicapped by the lack of a private education, she appears to have suffered from social and ideological bias against her at university. Her background, demeanour and political outlook may all have contributed to her being dismissed or despised by people who were well set up in life.

She was, for example, said to have been turned down for a job at Imperial Chemical Industries because she was regarded as “headstrong, obstinate and self-opinionated” [2]. But these may be just the superficial characteristics that go with having the drive and ability necessary to make major intellectual advances.

1. speech to the Conservative Party Conference, 14 October 1977
2. quoted in K. Sathyanarayana, The Power of Humor at the Workplace, 2007

14 April 2013

Thomas Jefferson – liberty, security and freemasonry

There is a quotation ascribed in various forms to Thomas Jefferson, third President of the United States of America (although it may in fact have originated with Benjamin Franklin). This runs something like this: A country, or a person, that is prepared to sacrifice a little liberty for greater security will lose both and deserves to have neither.

One may well question this on various grounds; how do you define either liberty or security, and what could be meant by deserving something? However, its essential meaning is clear, and is plainly illustrated by modern society. Once state intervention has been allowed to arise, there is no longer such a thing as individual liberty.

The income support handed out by the state is known euphemistically as ‘social security’. Security in this sense and individual liberty are incompatible. You may have one or the other, but you cannot have both.

Thomas Jefferson was one of the Founding Fathers of the USA, some of whom appear to have been Freemasons.

It has been suggested that freemasonry may be a descendant, via medieval military orders such as the Knights Templar, of Gnostic ideas.

Gnostic Christianity, particularly in its secret and persecuted forms, such as Catharism, appears to have had anti-social (or at least asocial) and pro-individualistic ideas. It certainly seems to have been considerably different from the exoteric forms of Christianity as a mass religion with which we are familiar at the present day.

It is possible that Gnostic ideas have had more influence, through the action of esoteric societies such as the Masons, on the development of civilisation than is generally realised.

We appeal for £1m as initial funding for a social science department in my unrecognised and unsupported independent university. This would enable it to publish preliminary analyses of areas in the history of ideas that are currently being ignored because they do not fit with the prevailing ideology.

09 April 2013

Margaret Thatcher and Oxford’s radical leftists

Further on the topic of the late Lady Thatcher and the former Principal of Somerville College, Dame Janet Vaughan, this is an extract from Margaret Thatcher: The Grocer’s Daughter by John Campbell:
To Janet Vaughan, proud of Somerville’s left-wing reputation, Miss Roberts was an embarrassment, a cuckoo in her progressive nest.
Campbell quotes Ann Dally, an ex-Somervillian, about Thatcher:
In wartime Oxford, most students were left-wing, especially at Somerville ... We used to laugh at Margaret Roberts when she knocked at our doors and tried to sell us tickets for the Conservative Club ball or a similar event. She seemed so solemn and assured about it and we were intolerant of other people’s certainties ... She fascinated me. I used to talk to her a great deal; she was an oddity. Why? She was a Conservative. She stood out. Somerville had always been a radical establishment and there weren’t many Conservatives about.
There is a strong taboo against any suggestion that those who are running other people’s lives can be adversely motivated towards them on account of their personality. In the case of Margaret Thatcher, vague speculations are entertained that Dame Janet’s discouragements may have influenced her direction in life. But even if so, they are not regarded as damaging, since she was ultimately outstandingly successful as a politician.

In the case of those whose prospects in life might be regarded as damaged by Dame Janet’s discouragement, the possibility is not even entertained that Dame Janet should be regarded as in any way responsible.

There are many more ex-Somervillians who have plainly failed to get into the sort of career they wanted or needed to have than there are who have become Prime Minister.

Dame Janet is described as socialist. Indeed, she was what at the time was called a Fellow Traveller, and was in sympathy with much of what went on in communist countries. This included the rejection of innate ability.

It is not usually supposed that differences of political opinion between educator and student can have an impact on the academic work and success, or otherwise, of the student. However, it is unrealistic to think that the attitudes of those involved in someone’s education may not be significantly favourable or, alternatively, damaging, even if it is not clear why their reactions to a particular person should be negative. (In Margaret Roberts’s case, the reactions were partly due to politics. In my own case, the hostility was not obviously linked to any differences in world view between Dame Janet and myself.)

It can never have been easy for a person to rise to a different social class by exercising exceptional ability. Those already in the higher social class would be threatened by the potentially intrusive outsider. Those who managed to get to Oxford from state schools, such as Margaret Thatcher and myself, aroused antagonism and a wish to prove to the newcomers that they were not so clever as they might think.

Dame Janet’s attitudes were mirrored by those of the Somerville dons, when I was there.

An undergraduate at Somerville who had obtained a scholarship in classics despite her unfavourable state school background, and who was particularly proficient in writing Greek poetry, was told by one of her tutors when she had a Latin epigram published in a prestigious Oxford magazine, ‘It's the first thing you have done since you came up that justifies your scholarship.’ Subsequently, she was told that her tutors did not think she was good enough for an academic career, although they thought she should be able to hold down a non-academic job.

Dame Janet seemed to look down on those from a less exalted background than her own, but tended not to be antagonistic to students from an upper-class background, nor to those of a socialist inclination. However, even being a thorough-going socialist from an upper-class background was not necessarily enough to protect a student from arousing her hostility if the student was also ambitious, especially if they had ambitions to become an academic.

We appeal for £1m as initial funding to enable the relevant departments of my unrecognised and unsupported independent university to publish more adequate analyses of the many unexamined issues in the fields of education and academia. It is high time that an airing was given to many issues which contribute to the ongoing deterioration of modern society.

03 April 2013

Trying to compete us out of existence?

I was disgusted, although of course in a familiar way, to hear recently that someone is receiving a grant (from the Perrott-Warwick Fund, administered by Trinity College, Cambridge) to work on an area of research that was initiated by myself and Dr Charles McCreery, which led to no opportunity for us to develop our research in those or any other areas, nor to any career advancement that could lead to opportunity now or in the future.

I was also disgusted to learn of the existence of the Ian Ramsey Centre for Science and Religion, a department within the University of Oxford, while we continue to be prevented from producing constructive work in several areas which should come under that heading.

From a very early stage in my holding of the Perrott-Warrick Studentship, organisations began to be set up in Oxford, none of which had been heard of before, but which succeeded in the objective of ostensibly mirroring any work which I might propose doing, so that financial support, media attention (which we needed, to get supporters) and potential associates were diverted from my incipient organisation.

A rule that the Perrott-Warrick Studentship could not be held by the same person twice was instituted while I was in contact with the Society for Psychical Research. I supposed that this was in order to prevent me from holding the Studentship for a second time, a supposition based on the consistency with which possible other sources of funding were cut off.

Even if it is the case that such a rule still applies, so that Dr McCreery and myself could not hold it for a second time, there are people here now, and have been other people in the past, who would be able to carry on our research in these areas, and who have, like us, no present sources of income.