I, like John Harris, attended a comprehensive school before going on to study at Oxbridge, and my experience was strikingly similar to his. The ramifications of this educational hierarchy are becoming increasingly evident in society.
I find it extremely perplexing that, despite the prohibition of direct and indirect discrimination in many forms, discrimination against those who attended state schools is still legally permitted and remarkably common. This brand of discrimination affects more people than any other type.
I propose that state education be granted a protected characteristic status under discrimination legislation. This would put an end to the disproportionate overrepresentation of former public school students in positions of power and influence.
John Harris’s article about the prevalence of privileged elites who control the nation is a compelling narrative of the way academic privilege is leveraged to access the most influential positions in society. He mentions that he attended Oxford University in 1989.
In 2011, Chris Elliott, the readers’ editor, dealt with the subject of educational privilege in the Guardian and Observer newsrooms. Out of 630 journalists, a round robin of journalists solicited 178 responses, of which 67 had attended Oxford or Cambridge. That amounts to 37% of the replies or a substantial 10% of the total number of journalists – a significant proportion of Oxbridge alumni for any publication, let alone the Guardian.
John’s assertion about privileged cliques infiltrating positions of power and influence is a critical yet complicated matter. To conclude that Oxbridge is the root of the issue is a gross oversimplification that neglects the significance of other distinguished universities that public schools target. I wholeheartedly endorse John’s proposal for reform and positive discrimination, but the implications for the Guardian are intriguing.