February 21, 2008

A Darker Shade of Pale

From The Times of London:

Privileged children excel, even at low-performing comprehensives

Nicola Woolcock

Middle-class parents obsessed with getting their children into the best schools may be wasting their time and money, academics say today. They found that children from privileged backgrounds excelled when they were deliberately sent to inner-city comprehensives by parents opposed to private schooling. Most of the children “performed brilliantly” at GCSE and A level and 15 per cent of those who went on to university took places at Oxford or Cambridge.

To give their children “the best start in life”, many parents choose to live in catchment areas of high-performing schools, “find God” to gain their child a place at a faith establishment or make financial sacrifices to pay for their child’s independent schooling.

However, the researchers decided to analyse the progress of the offspring of “those white, urban, middle-class parents who consciously choose for their children to be educated at their local state secondary, whatever the league table positioning”.

This group attended average or poorly performing schools in working-class or racially mixed areas. Here they thrived academically and were often given special attention by teachers keen to improve the school’s results, according to the study by professors in education from the universities of Cambridge, Sunderland and West of England (UWE).

The only failure was in social integration, which had been the very reason most parents sent their child to the school. Most children from middle-class families mixed only with pupils from identical backgrounds. The research found “segregation within schools, with white middle-class children clustered in top sets, with little interaction with children from other backgrounds”.

… The researchers interviewed 124 families from London and two other cities. Eighty-three per cent of the parents had degrees and a quarter were educated to postgraduate level. They included three Labour Party activists and two who worked in a social exclusion research unit. In 70 per cent of families, one or both parents worked in the public sector. Most described themselves as left-wing or liberal.

The report found: “Some parents were motivated by a commitment to state-funded education and egalitarian ideals and many had an active dislike for privileged educational routes on the grounds that they were socially divisive. Many wanted their children to have an educational experience that would prepare them for a globalised, socially diverse world. “These parents positioned themselves in a way we termed ‘a darker shade of pale’, as part of a more culturally tolerant and even anti-racist white middle class. …

“Many parents said they could and would pull out if things did not go well,” the report said.

But even though those sending their children to comprehensives were open and tolerant of other backgrounds, in some cases researchers noted “elitism and a sense of intellectual and social superiority — a sense that would be confirmed by their own child’s relative success”.

I suspect that the study may have a selection bias problem -- that parents who "pull out" because peer pressure was turning their little Alister Graham into Ali G aren't as well represented as those whose stuck it out because their kids were more elitist in terms of whom they considered their peers when it came to peer pressure.

I can't find the report online, but here's a little more from the press release:

“Schools were seen to make special efforts to accommodate the children. Parents are very involved with the schools with many taking active roles on school governing bodies. The children often get special attention as they are nurtured by teachers who are keen to give extra help to improve the school's results.

“Children from these families are very often placed on the Gifted and Talented programmes giving them an advantaged access to resources compared to many children in schools that have better results overall but where there is more competition for the limited places on such schemes.

“Feedback from parents shows that there is a healthy cynicism surrounding league tables. However, our analysis also shows that many of these parents are making a calculated investment which, whilst it feels risky to them, has very high returns because their children tend to be very well supported and to do very well.”

The study also looked at the sorts of advantages that the choice of school seemed to bring. Professor Reay added, “In general we found that parents were keen that their children experienced social diversity though developing friendships with children from a wide spectrum of social and ethnic backgrounds. As one parent put it –“experience of a wide social mix will make my daughter a better doctor”. In this sense the choice of a particular school could be seen to pay dividends in terms of the child's exposure to a wide range of backgrounds, equipping them to be better citizens or professionals in later life. However the study also found that although the children were engaged in a social mix, in general 'social mixing' did not occur and the children mostly formed friendships with the other white middle class children inside and outside their school.

Here's the abstract from an earlier paper by the same team:
"Drawing on data from interviews with 63 London-based families, this article argues that there are difficult and uncomfortable issues around whiteness in multi-ethnic contexts. Even those parents, such as the ones in our sample, who actively choose ethnically diverse comprehensive schools appear to remain trapped in white privilege despite their political and moral sentiments. This is a complicated question of value; of having value, finding value in, getting value from, and adding value. Even those white middle classes committed to multi-ethnic schooling face the perils of middle-class acquisitiveness, extracting value from, as they find value in, their multi-ethnic `other'. In such processes of generating use and exchange value a majority of both the white working classes and the black working classes, those who are perceived not to share white middle-class values, are residualized and positioned as excessive. Symbolically, they come to represent the abject `other' of no value."

And here's my VDARE article on the contortion the "Prius-driving screenwriter" class in Los Angeles goes through to get their kids into public school magnet programs.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

24 comments:

jrckll said...

This is link that documents some of the foregoing post regarding private tutoring in London by middle class liberal parents:

A private affair

of an original Spectator.co.uk article.

LemmusLemmus said...

Do you have a link for the "abstract"? It doesn't sound like the abstract of a social scientific paper at all.

Anonymous said...

I wonder how much these results translate to "diverse" US public schools.

The main difference I can see is the violence level and overtly anti-white racism would be much worse in the US. I can't see any elite whites, no matter how liberal, sending their kids to inner city DC or Detroit public schools for daily beat downs.

One of my most liberal activist friends today couldn't wait to get their white kids out of public HS as because they were picked on constantly. They are still uber-liberal but now send their kids to a nearly all-white high performing wealthy suburban public school.

jrckll said...

Middle-class parents obsessed with getting their children into the best schools may be wasting their time and money, academics say today. They found that children from privileged backgrounds excelled when they were deliberately sent to inner-city comprehensives by parents opposed to private schooling.

The academic paper seems to be expressing a bald-faced lie for political reasons.

As A private affair documents there are a lot of reasons that the parents of, for example, a Labor politician may want to send his child to the local state school rather than to a private school. It could be quite embarrassing to be exposed on the hustings as an elitist. But all the liberals even those just committed to the fig-leaf of egalitarianism have found a way to have their cake and eat it too: Private tutors.

It's cynicical and corrupt. They support dumbed down, politicized education while they escape the consequences. In fact, by ruining the working class's life chances they improve the lot of their own children: less competition for those coveted professional slots after graduation.

Truth said...

"I can't see any elite whites, no matter how liberal, sending their kids to inner city DC or Detroit public schools for daily beat downs."

Hey, don't underestimate the motivation of the daily beat-down, without it Howard Stern would probably be your accountant today.

Anonymous said...

"anonymous" above wonders how these results translate to "diverse" US public schools.

From reading the article, it appears that there is a considerable amount of "ability grouping" at the comprehensive school the article discusses. (ability grouping is what the British refer to as "streaming".)

In a lot of U.S. public junior highs and high schools, they refuse to use ability grouping, because the high ability groups would be primarily white/Asian, while the low ability groups would be black/hispanic. In schools where the "gifted" have most, if not all of their classes together, it is indeed possible for them to form their own little social world. But if the school insists that each individual classroom be diverse, things may not be so rosy.

Whether the diverse school is in Britain or the USA, the white kids are probably being beaten up in the bathrooms and locker rooms. I wouldn't count on the violence or racism being any less in England. A beatdown is truly a universal form of communication.

Also, Oxford and Cambridge are under tremendous pressure to admit more students from the state school system, and fewer from the private sector, so some parents make a strategic decision to put their children in a lousy state-run school while quietly paying for extra tutoring. When the kids apply for university, they get extra consideration in the process for coming from an underprivileged school.

In states in the USA in which the top 5% or 10% of students from each high school are offered places at the state's flagship university, the same thing goes on. Little Johnny goes to St. Anselm's Episcopal school through the 11th grade, and then transfers to Woodrow Wilson High School in the ghetto for the final semester or two if he isn't in the running to be in the top 10% at St. Anselm's.

The article also fails to address some other critical issues: (1) your child's grammar and accent are primarily a function of his peer group rather than his parent's education and usage; (2) social networks can be a decisive factor in career advancement. For the highly extroverted child with good social skills but who is no real genius, paying big money for a tony school may actually pay off; (3) if your child, from rebelliousness or through inability to fit in with the other middle-class kids in the not-so-good school decides to "go native" you could end up living through the ultimate nightmare. If your child ends up in a series of residential treatment centers through his teens and twenties, you will end up spending far more than the parents who sent five kids through top private schools. Nobody wants to believe that his child is a "follower" rather than a leader, but nearly all kids are followers at least to some extent, and the child's peer group IS important.

Where I live, kids attending private/parochial high schools are offered better summer jobs at higher salaries than kids from public school.

Anonymous said...

I'm a white middle class (though not really upper middle class) inhabitant of inner city London with a young child. I'm a lot more worried about bullying, violence and murder in the local state schools than I am about academic performance.

gcochran said...

All the evidence says that the school you attend has almost no influence on test scores. More depends on the student than the school: almost everything, in fact.

Private and public high schools give the same results, if you allow for student characteristics.

College attended has almost no effect on GRE scores or later income, if you allow for student characteristics

So these parents didn't sacrifice a thing: instead they saved money.

Of course no one believes this, even the stats show that is certainly true.

Anonymous said...

anon:
"I wouldn't count on the violence or racism being any less in England"

Here in London our state comprehensive schools are often violent, especially with the arrival of extremely violent immigrant groups such as Somalis and Roma gypsies, but there does seem to be less anti-white racism here than in the USA. Here in London mixed-race (Afro-Caribbean, white, and Londatto mixed parentage) street gangs are common, whereas in the USA they only seem to exist in the movies.

J. said...

Of course g cochran is right. Due to a historical disaster, I arrived with my parents to a new country without a cent and without speaking the language. We lived in the "worst" barrio and I went to the "worst" elementary school. Except for a lifelong love of criminal underworld expressions and mannerisms, nothing of that environment stuck to me. I went on to the university, etc.

Anonymous said...

In the late 1980s, I attended a high school in the USA that was about 50% black, 10% Latino, and 40% white (with a few Asians here and there). But I only lived this demographic in some classes, not others, because the school sorted English, math, and science by ability. So my classes in those areas were usually about 90% white. For reasons that I don't get, they did not sort history or other social studies fields by ability, so my classes there were much more demographically similar to the school's overall makeup -- which is why I would usually get a score of over 100 (on a 100 point scale, thanks to extra credit and the like) in those courses, with minimal study.

The point is, if the school sorts by ability, you can attend a majority non-white school and at the same time effectively attend a smaller school-within-that-school that is majority white, of higher ability, and much closer to a private school than the overall demographic would suggest. I have to think this is what is going on in the British study.

KevinM said...

Great minds think alike
http://stuffwhitepeoplelike.wordpress.com/2008/01/22/17-gifted-children/

Anonymous said...

There might be some major fringe benefits of sending youngsters to those schools (zoos). They will walk away with real life knowledge of what people are like, instead of rosy PC fantasies. They will also have a sense of real privilege, because they have stood side by side with peers coming into the world with far less. They will also learn to relate to others, not just token this or thats that make it to elite universities. Even the ones who call themselves Ali G. Maybe especially them.

eh said...

Of course no one believes this,...

I do; I'll take your word, or the data's word, for it. But my behavior won't change because of it: I'll still send my kids to a high-achieving, well-respected private school (assuming I can afford it). Because I know there will be an atmosphere of achievement there, when I'm not so sure about that in other schools.

The data just shows what happens in the average case. Regarding an individual, it is anecdotal. No doubt there are those who do not develop or achieve as they might have were they to have matriculated somewhere else. And who wants to take a chance with their kids? Sending them to a 'good' school may not guarantee anything, but it seems like a worthwhile step.

When I was a kid my parents moved, but the (new) house they'd bought was not ready when promised. So we had to stay in a small house owned by a hotel; the house was pretty much inner city, as was the school we had to temporarily attend -- a public school, whereas the school we had just left was suburban and private (parochial). Compared to my classmates, I was so advanced that my teacher used to give me their spelling and math papers to take home and grade myself. After a short while I was not going to class anymore at all for most of the day; instead I went to the library to be individually tutored by the librarian. Nowadays I ask myself: What if they had not made that effort in my case? What if I'd been left with the rest of my class (which was inner city, but mostly white)?

I don't blame parents for not wanting to find out.

AMac said...

These reports are comedy gold, whether the authors foolishly believe their truthy analyses, or are merely cynical peddlers. Amazingly, most predate the whiterpeople blog.

"Most children from middle-class families mixed only with pupils from identical backgrounds."

Yes, those dreary white drones and their tiresome cookie-cutter children, so unlike the unique yet fascinating moi.

Anonymous said...

New Labour has injected a lot of funds into inner-city areas, where coincidentally, a lot of gentrification has occurred. So, a lot of leftie parents know how to play the system - one foot in the hip, urban, multi-culti world and one foot in the bobo, academic, public sector world. Their kids seem to understand 'street' culture - but are not defined or encompassed by it.

Meanwhile predominantly white schools in the sticks are literally falling to pieces. (New Labour are the 'New Class' in power).

Audacious Epigone said...

Re: DC's schools, at least a couple thousand stuffy white liberals do send their children to DC's public schools--and they ">blow the competition away on the NAEP, scoring higher than any other racial group from any other state in the entire country.

gcochran said...

"I do; I'll take your word, or the data's word, for it. But my behavior won't change because of it "

"The data just shows what happens in the average case. "

"And who wants to take a chance with their kids? "


You know, you and your family will have bad luck for the rest of your life unless you send me $100 every week in small, unmarked bills. Of course, you're wondering if I really have the voodoo powers that I claim. Careful statistical surveys have shown that, on average, magic doesn't work - that it has no effect.

But that's just an average. Maybe Cochran magic works. If anyone's does, it would be mine, right?. I mean, I've had my supervisor accuse me of practicing black magic on the job, which is more than most people with a secret clearance can say. Do you want to take a chance with your kids? DO YOU?

Glaivester said...

All the evidence says that the school you attend has almost no influence on test scores. More depends on the student than the school: almost everything, in fact.

Private and public high schools give the same results, if you allow for student characteristics.

College attended has almost no effect on GRE scores or later income, if you allow for student characteristics

So these parents didn't sacrifice a thing: instead they saved money.

Of course no one believes this, even the stats show that is certainly true.


Well, that is assuming that test scores and income are the only thing that matter.

I wonder if going to a school with a higher-performing student body that is less likely to beat you up might make the school experience more pleasant, which one might consider a benefit even in the absence of performance improvements.

On another matter, though, is there anything that one can do that will affect their child's performance one way or the other? I can believe that innate ability has a ceiling that extra attention cannot improve upon, but I cannot believe that there is nothing that one can do that can sabotage a child's ability to reach his full potential. Can you simply lock your child in the closet until he is eighteen and he will still come out fine? What is the minimum level of care that needs to be given before increased care provides no benefits?

Glaivester said...

I mean, I've had my supervisor accuse me of practicing black magic on the job, which is more than most people with a secret clearance can say.

That reminds me that my intern/assistant (who is my immediate superior's daughter) today asked me if I was psychic. I have no idea why.

Robert said...

<< peer pressure was turning their little Alister Graham into Ali G >>

Good one, Steve! But surely those parents would have spelt his name "Alistair", or even "Alisdair", rather than A-lister.

none of the above said...

glaveister:

I hope you had the good grace to answer with "I knew you were going to ask me that!"

I suspect the school choice has a lot in common with the issues raised in Judith Rich Harris' work. In general, smart balanced kids will do well if you raise them in any kind of decent circumstances at all. But they are likely to be happier as kids if you spend a lot of time with them, arrange fun events, etc. Similarly, if your kid is pretty smart, he'll likely be okay in most any school, but he may be a lot happier if he's not an outcast for being so far ahead of the other kids.

David said...

Why go to school at all? All Whites are so resilient, they'll always come out on top, no matter what their environment is. Even if that environment is the street.

White parents can save even more of their precious money by kicking their children out at age 12. If you have reservations about this, you are a hand-wringing voodoo-believer.

If the kid comes out alive, he'll at least have a burning hatred of minorities, which is all-important.

Glaivester said...

I hope you had the good grace to answer with "I knew you were going to ask me that!"

Actually, my answer was "no, but I watch The Dead Zone a lot."