Abolish private schools, use more MSG & read literally all of the cookbooks

Nice Pear: a weekly(ish) feminist foodletter | Issue #005 | 16 August 2020

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Let's abolish private schools already

This essay isn’t about food, but it briefly explores something which has been on my mind the past few days: education.

More specifically, the absolute travesty that is a private education system. The culture in the UK is still dominated by social class - something which has been forced into clear focus this weekend, with the release of A-level results.

The more I think about the way working-class (& middle class) teens at state schools have been let down and f*cked over by this government, the angrier I get.

If you missed it: due to the threat of COVID-19 and the UK lockdown, A-level exams have not taken place this year. That meant that A-level students’ grades were based on mock exams, coursework, other test results, teacher-predicted grades - and an Ofqual algorithm. The scandal? Thousands of students have been given far lower grades than expected - losing out on university places, training schemes or whatever their next step was going to be. 

The futures of an entire cohort of Gen Z kids have just been changed forever, through no fault of their own. As constantly reminded, these are already Unprecedented Times. So why have their grades been lowered? And why have the grades of so many private school kids been raised?

I think we all know the answer. Consider what having both a private and a state-run education system, running side-by-side, really means.

The idea that some children deserve to get a 'better' education because their parents are wealthy (which, by extension, implies that children born to non-wealthy parents deserve to have a 'worse' education) is abhorrent.

It’s just another way to segregate young people on class lines and to give those from wealthy families (those, in other words, who already have the biggest advantages) an additional step up.

I’ve heard so many privately-educated adults insist that their parents weren’t rich, that they ‘made sacrifices and worked hard’ to send their child to a private, fee-paying school. But that argument just doesn’t hold up. 

Maybe some children from upper-middle-class backgrounds perceive their economic status to be lower than that of their peers in private schools. But If your salary is at - or near - the national minimum wage and you have a family to support, and you have no other income, there are no sacrifices you could make that would make sending your kids to private school affordable. And I’m not even going to address the implication that parents who don’t send their kids to private school aren’t hard-working.

In a 2016 interview with GQ, PM Boris Johnson said* that “I'd like thousands of schools as good as the one I went to, Eton”. So why has education funding been cut by his party? When you consider that 64% of his cabinet were privately educated (compared to 7% of the general population), the idea that Johnson actually believes in educational equality seems laughable.

So let’s abolish private schools (or rather, end paid-for education, and integrate the resources of private schools into the state education system).

That way, if wealthy parents want a better education for their own children, they can donate to funding their local schools (so all the children enrolled there can benefit), and they can lobby the government to better fund education and improve national policy on education.

Realistically, the wealthy parents sending their kids to private schools are far more likely to have access to the political and/or financial sway needed to effect real, top-down changes in the system than typical working-class parents do.

Abolishing the private education system won't close the gap immediately, or completely - and it won’t fix the current A-level results mess. 

Education will still be based on postcodes, with schools in catchment areas with more expensive housing likely to have more financial support available from parents. Equally, wealthy parents will still be able to hire private tutors and to send them to expensive extracurricular activities. But surely it would be a big leap in the right direction?

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*Incidentally, reading through interviews with Boris Johnson to find the quote I was looking for has me ready to punch a wall, in case you wanted some ~background~ on my writing process today. 

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Things to read this week


Things to eat this week

  • In writing to you this week from the Yorkshire coast which, of course, means I'm obliged to share my recipe for vegan, gluten-free fried doughnuts. These are not a 'healthy', coconut-heavy imitation of the doughnuts we know and love (though I do have a recipe for those too - they're not only a lighter option but also a much easier-to-construct one, and closer to American-style glazed cake doughnuts). This version though reminds me of the doughnuts you can buy at the seaside, or the funfair: hot and fresh-from-the-fryer, in brown paper bags, dredged in crunchy sugar that leaves your face and hands covered in sticky crystals for hours. 

  • This has been another week of easy, no-recipe-required meals for me: juicy, in-season tomatoes chopped roughly with herbs and made the centrepiece of a salad. Fat aubergines grilled and then mixed with green curry paste and coconut milk, over rice. Tofu, pressed, sliced and seared in sesame oil, served with steamed greens.


Where to find me this week

As always, you can find me @ZoePickburn on Twiter, Insta, TikTok and other social media.


Thanks!

Zoe

Freelance writer & journo | Food blogger & newsletterer (she/her)

Say hello@zoepickburn.com with stories, commissions & foodie chit chat