August 18, 2003
Not the triviasphere

I recommend that you read The Ratchet by Natalie Solent. All of it. It's about the many subtle ways in which anti-discrimination laws harm those they are intended to help.

There is a lot about education in the piece, and it once again illustrates that how well people do in their education, and how the world of education in general conducts itself, is profoundly influenced by forces at work in the wider society, in this case legal forces, which in their turn give rise to subtler social forces.

Let's start off with the observation that black school leavers are less qualified than their white counterparts. (It does not affect my argument whether this is through the racism of their teachers or their own bad behaviour.) By insisting that they will not be openly penalised for this in the job market, the anti-discrimination laws ensure there is less of an incentive to study. The problem never gets solved. It just gets papered over. Although the rising generation may never explicitly make the calculation "I don't have to work so hard because I'm black," that is the message that will filter down through the millions of little allusions, jokes, observations and examples that make up each individual life experience.

And of course, many of them do explicitly make that calculation. They don't work and mock their classmates who do. It has its inevitable result: blacks really are, on average, less well educated than whites. Prejudices come true.

As I say, you really should read the whole thing.

I have friends who fear that the blogosphere is inevitably the triviasphere. This kind of piece is proof that it need not be so.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 10:10 PM
Category: Politics