Is Social Mobility Getting Worse in This Country or Better?
Byline: KATE FOX
SO, I was invited to be part of a panel discussion in London titled "Do Writers Need Silver Spoons?".
It was to fundraise for First Story, a brilliant charity which puts writers into secondary schools in deprived areas and gets the kids to work towards publishing an anthology of their writing.
It was the sort of talk I usually get asked to do, until it turns out the invitation was actually for Kate Fox, the Social Anthropologist who wrote the book Watching the English.
I hope she's getting fed up of fielding erroneous invitations to write amusing rhyming poems about news events.
Anyway - there were several things about the discussion that shocked me. From how tiny the Chair Jonathan Dimbleby was, to how former Labour Home and Education Secretary Alan Johnson disagreed with me that social mobility Assumptions based on education and accent will dog many is getting worse in this country, to how hard it was to voice the attitude that posh people's dominance of the UK's cultural landscape is not based on merit, when you're sat in a Bloomsbury hotel room packed to the gills with posh literary types.
Northern young people "Where did you go to school?" asked the Charterhouse-educated Jonathan Dimbleby.
I started to attempt to describe the location of my comprehensive school just outside Bradford and then stopped and pointed out to him that the phrasing of the question was a good example of the casual linguistic tics which show private school educated people that they are "like them".
"Where did you go to school?" doesn't mean that he's interested in the geographical location. It means that he wonders if he's heard of it.
It transpired that he hadn't heard of Queensbury Upper School. Who'd have thought? Me, Stephen Kelman (Who wrote the bestseller Pigeon English), Alan Johnson and poet Salena Godden were held up as examples of people who had become writers despite our "modest backgrounds".
But I began to realise that many people in the three hundred strong audience genuinely believed we were anomalies who had escaped the educational disadvantages that came from not having had a private school education and three years at Oxbridge.
We had been nurtured by libraries, inspiring English teachers and our innate linguistic talent in order to escape the gaping maw of ignorance and Big Brother watching which otherwise would have claimed us. …