Is it okay to be privileged?
Privvy and proud or common and cool?
Is name-calling distracting us from the very real problem of inequality?
A catty spat over social background, schools and range rovers consumed Grudgebridge over the Easter break. ‘Private school wanker’ and ‘you wish you could send your kid to HABS’ were tossed left, right, and maybe (Tim Farron style) to the centre. Many argued that it needs to stop, that it’s creating a divide or being too offensive, but the truth is there’s already a divide and it’s nothing to do with social media.
Class inequality is prevalent in Britain, it affects everyone – not just students. Those in a privileged position have more opportunity to be academically successful because if you’re paying for something, it is natural for it to be of better quality than something free. This is why, if you can, you’re more likely to buy jeans from the high street than a car-boot sale. However, to some of those ex-private school attendees, car boot sale seems to be more popular than high street. On the surface, this seems harmless – a merging of culture. However, romanticising certain elements of a culture you’re not a part of, perpetuating them as ‘cool’ and ‘desirable’ (edgy tracksuits at alternative events ringing a bell? Or dressing as ‘chavs’ for rag week?) without fully understanding the struggle that falls alongside of those, is ignorant. Appropriating certain elements of a class to enhance your social status amongst peers (a persona you can drop at anytime) is dismissive of a culture you cannot understand. As Jarvis Cocker said:
Rent a flat above a shop,
Cut your hair and get a job.
Smoke some fags and play some pool,
Pretend you never went to school.
But still you’ll never get it right
‘Cause when you’re laid in bed at night
Watching ‘roaches climb the wall
If you called your dad he could stop it all.
However, petty insults are not the way to solve an issue that is deeply embedded in our culture. Nobody (rich or poor) chooses where they come from, and judging people for their background because they’re wealthy is just as short-sighted as judging someone because they go to state school. Instead of judging people, attention should be turned to the system that forces parents to make these decisions and results in a narrow set of opportunities for those not so fortunate.
Advantage and disadvantage originate from complex factors (such as family income/stability/support, education, location, traumatic events). However, the education system doesn’t increase social mobility, as wealth and social background have determining roles from the start. Around 40% of Oxbridge students are from private school while 7% of the population attend them; there is clearly a correlation between paid education and academic success. To many people their possibilities are limited from the moment they set off to learn their ABCs. This is something people who attended private school have to come to terms with. If you went to private school, then the chances are you got a bit of a head start.
Obviously, it is hard to accept that you are privileged, as it feels like you haven’t achieved as much or worked so hard, and name-calling over social media only divides people further. However, whatever your background, you have worked hard to get here, and no one can dispute that. It’s okay to be privileged, but you need to recognise your privilege to help solve these issues inherent in our government and society.
It’s people with top degrees who need to use their platform to highlight these problems, as they’re the ones who’ll have their voices heard.