27 December 2008

Positive Discrimination

Many curious things crop up in Christmas stockings: one that appeared this year was the following book, "The Eleven-Plus Book: Genuine Exam Questions from Yesteryear" by Martin Steven; on the face of it an amusing curiosity. However, a closer look at the forward has the following:

"... Feminists missed a trick when they failed to adopt the Eleven-Plus as one of their symbols of male dominance. Marks had to be fiddled in order to give more grammar school places to boys; the girls did too well at the Eleven-Plus, both for the number of places available and the attitude of the times to women."

Astounding. An examination that everyone raves about as liberating people through education was systematically discriminating against generations of people who happened to be of the wrong gender.

I recall when positive discrimination was considered to be a political good by the Labour Party. Constituency 'women only' shortlists were drawn up to ensure that more women MPs were returned to Parliament.

One of the politicians who spoke out against this system was

Roy Hattersley


but as a former grammar school boy he was very likely to be a beneficiary of positive discrimination. Of course, if he was a beneficiary he inevitably took someone else's place and hence someone else's opportunities.

The Foreword also goes on to make another interesting and very topical point,

"... Furthermore, the whole structure whereby the Eleven-Plus was marked was based upon the supposition that academic ability was in turn based on a 'normal curve of distribution', ..."

but this can wait for another post.

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