Professor Danny Dorling is a geographer who has written much about inequality and the distribution of wealth. He starts his lecture on some interesting points about genetics - he shares few characteristics with his dad, who presumably didn’t have the stellar academic career of his little Dorling. He also points out how families with huge accumulated wealth often haven’t kept it, and vice-versa and how our current preoccupation with finding the ‘golden child’ or ‘golden children’ has its roots in atavistic Darwinism (my phraseology) - something very British, but clearly unscientific, old chap.
He touches on genome wide studies (not a fan) and shows us OECD reports (again, unfavourable to Prof. Dorling) and the film ‘The Matrix’ (more favourably) to show us just how badly we are doing in Britain compared to our European neighbours.
This former fellow of St. Peters is clearly anti-Oxbridge; again he compares these hollowed grounds with our EU neighbours’ choice of sending school leavers to the nearest university.
He is worried about worried middle class parents; bankrupting themselves to send little Tommy to Eton so he gets to Balliol, in order to get a job in the city and earn millions.
The 1970s were great, according to Dorling. The most a banker could earn was £100,000 in today’s money, and a teacher could afford to buy a house. But Britain was rich then, he explains. Today we are less rich and all the dosh is in the hands of the top 2%.
Going back to schooling, he believes that going private results in the ‘Pygmalion effect’. As for the so-called ‘gifted and talented’ well, behind every A* student, one finds a pushy parent, who will concur with their selective/private school in making sure that little Jimmy or Jane believes in their own potential. Do these (essentially) crammer schools actually teach children to learn, or simply pass exams? It’s a question that has been asked before, and Dorling raises it again to slam the political malaise that has blighted comprehensives and created selective academies, exacerbating an already derisive system. He believes as inequality rises, we "trust each other less, understand less, learn less and compete more."
As we were leaving, I heard a member of the auditorium utter a sentence which, I imagine, sums up everything Prof. Dorling is up against: “In the end, we had to send Jane to H******* girl’s school as the schools where we live just aren’t any good!”