It’s easy to be self-righteous and smug when you don’t live on a council estate. The truth is, our approach to education won't change until people who have faced true disadvantages have a place in the discussionby Kiran Samrai / January 23, 2019 / Leave a comment
A broken and unequal schooling system is the product of many sins. Private schools are one of those sins. Successive government funding cuts to state schools are another. And it is possible to believe in both of these things at the same time—especially if you grew up with your gas and electric on the meter.
In this week’s news cycle, online trolls and old establishment media alike have lost their figurative rag over Hasan Patel: 16-year-old socialist, loud critic of private school elitism, and now, Eton scholarship holder. From a Leyton council estate and son of two immigrant parents, he has been the target of a heavily racialised Twitter witch-hunt, in which adults are flinging around terms like “class traitor” and “champagne socialist” at a child. The Times waded in with a smug headline euphemistically identifying Hasan as a hypocrite. Times readers retweeted it, likely having not even read it, with equal smugness.
It’s easy to be self-righteous and smug when you don’t live on a council estate. Not all politicos are held to the same puritanical standard. The charge of hypocrisy is not regularly flung with this level of vitriol at the numerous high-profile commentators on the left who went to famous private schools. In the case of white excellence, the process of how someone becomes excellent is obscured. That process is one of the right dinner table conversations, being surrounded by the right ideas, and—most commonly—being sent to the best schools and universities.
Equipped with the metaphorical tools of political battle, of debate and rhetoric, we can wage war. So, what does it mean when we refuse to equip young brown kids in this same way? When not only right-wing commentators but white people on the left brand a 16-year-old a hypocrite for seeking access to the type of opportunities they benefitted from, they are gatekeeping access to a political discourse. It is almost as if they do not want the wrong people to rise up and change how politics works.
East London is not Shoreditch or Columbia Road. East London is Newham, Ilford, Hackney, Tower Hamlets. The people who built that East London are being systematically impoverished, by gentrification—sorry, “regeneration”—and by successive cuts to local authority funding. Brampton Manor Academy School has been in the news recently for being the exemplary East London…