MINISTER'S AMAZING ATTACK ON CHARLES; Old Fashioned, Patronising View of Schools Says Clarke

The Evening Standard (London, England), November 18, 2004 | Go to article overview

MINISTER'S AMAZING ATTACK ON CHARLES; Old Fashioned, Patronising View of Schools Says Clarke


Byline: JASON BEATTIE

EDUCATION Secretary Charles Clarke today angrily labelled the views of Prince Charles as "old-fashioned and out of time".

Mr Clarke's comments come after Charles criticised Britain's " childcentred" education system for fuelling unrealistic ambitions.

The Prince complained that young people today believed they could succeed in life without having the necessary talent or doing the hard work required.

An incandescent Mr Clarke said the Prince should "think carefully" before commenting on public matters.

His comments are an astonishing breach of the convention that ministers do not criticise the royal family. Mr Clarke said Charles represented a "patronising and oldfashioned view," adding: "I don't want to get in a tangle with the Prince of Wales- but to be quite frank I think he is very oldfashioned and out of time and doesn't actually understand what's going on in the British education system."

Downing Street was dragged into the row this afternoon when a spokeswoman admitted that No10 had been in touch with the Prince's office immediately after Mr Clarke's outburst.

"People can have differences of view, that doesn't mean they are showing disrespect," she said.

Mr Clarke's tirade came after Charles responded to a letter from a member of his staff in which she said graduates should be able to rise through the ranks to the top jobs in the royal household.

Secretary Elaine Day was criticising the "Edwardian" hierarchy among Charles's staff at an employment tribunal yesterday.

In a private memo to an aide in response to her views, the Prince said: "What is wrong with everyone nowadays? What is it that makes everyone seem to think that they are qualified to do things far beyond their technical capabilities?

"This is all to do with the learning culture in schools. It is a consequence of a child-centred system which admits no failure and tells people they can all be pop stars, high court judges, brilliant TV personalities or even infinitely more competent heads of state without ever putting in the necessary effort or having natural abilities. It's social utopianism which believes humanity can be genetically and socially reengineered to contradict the lessons of history."

The Education Secretary admitted he had tried to hold his tongue when he read the Prince's remarks but he disagreed too strongly to stay silent.

Speaking on Radio 4's Today programme, he said: "I do believe that it is very, very important that every child has the ambition for themselves to achieve whatever they can do for themselves. I think that's the right way to go about it."

Mr Clarke also took a swipe a Prince Charles's privileged upbringing, saying: "We can't all be born to be king, but we can all have a position where we really can aspire for ourselves and for our families to do the very best that we possibly can, and I want to encourage that culture, rather than the other way round." Mr Clarke said: "I completely agree that not everybody can aspire to be a great professor, a great researcher, a great mathematician, or whatever it might be.

"What is important however, is that people understand what they can do, and what they can't do, and to go through that properly.

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