change that took place without consultation,rnand that reflected the views of politicallyrnpartisan “experts.”rnIn addition, major expansions in higherrneducation since the 1960’s have dramaticallyrnincreased the number of studentsrnand thus the graduate populationrnas well. The number of college studentsrnfrom lower-income families rose considerably;rnnine new universities were foundedrnbetween 1958-66; and the numberrnand importance of polytechnics increased.rnThe Robbins Report of 1963rnrecommended higher education for allrnqualified candidates, and the governmentrnresponded. Students were also givenrnfree tuition, and subsidies in proportionrnto their parental income. Thernpercentage of 18-year-olds entering arnuniversity in the United Kingdom rosernfrom 4.6 in 1961 to over 30 by thernmid-1990’s, by which time the polytechnicsrnand other colleges had becomernuniversities.rnThese shifts in education reflected thernsocialization of British society and a cultrnof egalitarianism that is hostile to pastrnpractices and antagonistic to anythingrntermed elitist. Educational reform becamernthe left-wing, statist panacea of thern1960’s and 70’s, and so when Tony Blairrn(like Bill Clinton) makes education thernideological centerpiece of his governmentrntoday, he is using widespread popularrnconcern with educational standardsrnto win support for more national planning.rnPart of the skill of both Clintonrnand Blair has been to transform the politicsrnof the left from the redistribution ofrnwealth, which is increasingly unpopularrnin societies made prosperous by capitalism,rnto policies that can tap middle-classrnaspirations. In essence, Blair and Clintonrnseek to unite the middle class and thernstate, and to convert both to the objectivesrnof a transformed left. This is a farrnmore insidious threat to conservatismrnthan the politics of working-class identityrnand the traditional focus of the left.rnBut, again, part of the skill of Blair andrnClinton is that they have retained mostrnof the old constituency.rnThe sentiments expressed by advocatesrnof educational change in Britain,rnlike their American counterparts, werernand are often ugly, divisive, and selfrighteous,rnbut, more to the point, theirrnpolicies do not work, either educationallyrnor socially. Despite decades of expenditure,rnmany British pupils continue tornleave school without a secure grasp ofrnwords or numbers, which is especiallyrntroubling in an economy with few opportunitiesrnfor functional illiterates, whetherrnin industry, farming, forestry, mining, orrnthe armed forces. The level of educationalrnattainment by the remainder ofrnthe school population leaves much to berndesired. It is particularly ironic that languagernskills declined as Britain becamernsteadily more absorbed into the EuropeanrnUnion. In 1991-92, British schoolsrntaught an average of only 0.9 languagesrnper pupil, which ranks at the bottom ofrnthe European Union (only Portugal isrnworse in this regard). French is the mostrncommon foreign language studied inrnBritain’s secondary schools, but it wasrnstudied by only 59 percent of pupils inrn1991-92; German was next at 20 percent.rnThe comparable percentages in Irelandrnwere 69 and 24. Indeed, according tornmany indicators, British schoolchildrenrndo worse than their Continental counterparts.rnState education also failed to fulfillrnthe hopes of its supporters in the socialrnsphere. Rising levels of crime and violencernamong schoolchildren, often atrnschool, caused a public storm in 1996rnwhen a London headmaster was stabbedrnto death after intervening in a brawl atrnthe school gates. Teachers have refusedrnto teach the increasing number of violentrnchildren—more evidence of the failurernof the state system to act as a civilizingrninfluence. In May 1997, a bright Scottishrnpupil committed suicide after beingrntaunted for being smart by her dumbeddownrnclassmates.rnNor has national planning madernBritain a more egalitarian society, despiterndecades of national control of education.rnInstead, social class is now in part definedrnby room size, and in 1996 TonyrnBlair’s choice of a particular state schoolrnfor one of his kids led to controversy.rnProximity to desirable state schools featuresrnprominently in housing sales, increasingrnproperty prices and altering thernsocial and economic topographies ofrncities; attempts by educational authoritiesrnto alter school districts evoke fiercernprotests. Far from abolishing social divisions,rnthen, government intervention inrneducation has actually exacerbatedrnthem. “Leveling” has been seen as “levelingrndown,” something to be avoidedrneven by those who do not seek social mobility.rnFurthermore, hostility to what is perceivedrnas elitism has been used to serverntendentious causes. For example, therncurrent Labour government—Blair andrnhis allies, many of them uneleetedrn”political advisors” who interfere in thernCivil Service and further politicize governmentrn—with an overwhelming parliamentaryrnmajority that claims the mandaternof popular support on the basis ofrnless than half of the votes cast, uses antielitismrnas a means to typecast its opponentsrnand oppose their viewpoints. TakernLabour’s criticism of the hereditary peerage;rnalthough the remnants of the traditionalrnancien regime elite, hereditaryrnpeerage received fresh transfusions ofrnmerit thereafter, in the shape of newrnhereditary peers. In May 1997, shortlyrnafter its election, the Blair governmentrnbegan criticizing the socio-educationalrncharacter of another autonomous andrnpotentially hostile group, the judiciary.rnIt was presented as overwhelminglyrncomposed of men and the products ofrnprivate schools, which to Labour signifiesrna necessarily anachronistic and reactionaryrnforce; indeed, all of the 26 judgesrnappointed in 1993-94 had been tornprivate schools and only three were women.rnThis pattern is also found in thernsenators of the College of Justice in Scotland.rnTony Blair, himself, is the product of arndistinguished private school and of OxfordrnUniversity, both institutions beingrnhighly selective. But hypocrisy has beenrna central aspect of Labour’s triumph,rnand characteristic of Blair. Blair’s selfrighteousness,rncombined with thesernattacks on other socio-educationalrngroups, gives carte blanche to the newrnLabour elite. Their background is differentrnfrom traditional Labour leaders, whornemphasize trade and unionism. Instead,rnthis is a leadership of affluence and socialrnmobility, not socialism. The language ofrnequality serves to foster opportunity forrnthe few, not the many: the traditionalrnleft-wing criticism of conservatives canrnnow be directed against the leadership ofrnthe left.rnThe left of the 1990’s seeks not thernnationalization of the productive economyrnbut a takeover of the institutionalrnfabric and administrative structures ofrnthe country. To achieve these goals it usesrneducation as a weapon, to condemnrnpotential opponents and to create arnworld that matches its ideology and interests.rnInevitably in an over-centralizedrnstate, the rest of the population has tornpay for this agenda.rn]eremy Black is a professor of history atrnthe University of Exeter.rnSEPTEMBER 1997/43rnrnrn