A veteran sociologist explains the history of a much contested truth...
The sad part is that this has been known for generations, but ideology has blocked the inconvenient truth. See for example the article «Intelligence and social mobility» by Cyril Burt.
British Journal of Statistical Psychology 14 (1), 3-24, 1961
This is not a matter of "not knowing better", it is a result of deliberate indoctrination of generations of students. It is what they planned for, "the long march through the institutions" (is a slogan coined by Communist student activist Rudi Dutschke around 1967 to describe his strategy for establishing the conditions for revolution: subverting society by infiltrating institutions such as the professions)
The conditions are about right these days.
Well-argued. But a dunce born of poor parents will not only stay poor but in all probability will over time become poorer, whereas a dunce born of wealthy parents will at least inherit their wealth even if over time he or she blows most of it.
The sad part about all of this is that the high-ability poor kids are the ones who get the short stick.
When all you have are your innate abilities, a system that denies recognizing individual talent is a system that denies recognizing the only thing you have going for you.
Regression to the mean happens when successful men marry blondes. The solution: exterminate blondes. Successful older women have toy boys, but very often the women have had the op to turn them into sports models.
Thank you Peter for your enumeration of the ways that the establishment has tried to remove barriers. That defuses me somewhat. I get very cheesed off by the PCs who affirm that IQ is only a social construct. Acknowledge the differences and create opportunities tailored for those differences. That way you serve the middle-IQs the best, instead of forcing them to jump in out of their depth, guaranteeing mediocrity and often failure. Refusal to admit differences does no favours to the supposed beneficiaries.
> Compare that message of hope and aspiration to what politicians today repeatedly tell our youngsters, and weep.
That is one of the tragedies of the ideology of helplessness. It harms those that stumble by telling them they can't get up on their own.
It’s one thing to say social mobility is indeed occurring. It’s another to claim here with some flawed assumptions that ‘ability’ and ‘motivation’ is causally separate from class status. This is nonsense of the nuggets order. This would assume a definition of class only an economist would use, not decades of sophisticated sociology of privilege which Saunders rejects as he accuses others of doing with his own overstated work. The idea that we reduce measurement of ‘ability’ to a written exam (IQ) is so patently and methodological naive, I can see why he has his own website. Many bright kids from poor backgrounds have no motivation to even take assessments, let alone pursue higher education. It’s not clear in the U.S. that studies can even randomly sample poor neighborhoods to do this kind of research.
Social mobility is occurring in the sense of moving more people through the education system. It is not occurring in the sense of meritocracy and the specific outcomes of high skilled work. Education is overburdened with the false assumption of simple cause and effect. Indeed the system is more complex than even this article describes. Social mobility through education is placing many issues on the quality and purpose of higher education, and this is an issue for recruitment and industry too.
Education is for educating, thinking, interest. Social systems need improving to support the social burden that is placed at the educators door. Services staff in universities need greater funding, respect and access to make referrals to services already existing in society to really solve the challenge of social mobility. Young people are indeed in a state of despair due to believing they are unable to influence their own lives and the systems they operate in.
Having had the rare experience of moving through comprehensive, grammar and public school systems, my experience was that richer parents paid for significantly more support for their children to achieve entrance examinations and good grades at grammar school. Although people move through the education system to higher education, they are often lacking the emotional, relational, financial and cultural intelligences needed to navigate such systems effectively. When a disadvantaged person finally reaches the stasis point of having their basic needs met in Maslow terms, (often they go through higher education without the basics in place as they are not addressed at home), they begin a process of changing their beliefs in order to move from survival to thriving. Only once this is started can someone actualise enough for social mobility to become a reality.
To provide a specific example, if you put a poor person who is a high achiever in a privileged position in society they may be consumed with doubt about their ability due to personal beliefs about where they belong, collective beliefs of what's possible in society, and because they will likely have more people around them telling them what they can and can't achieve. They may also achieve much in terms of finance and status but inside be deeply stuck because they didn't have chance to figure out who they are along the way, and unable to change to work where they can make a significant contribution to society due to it costing them their basic needs being met to do so.
In my experience poor families do indeed, unintentionally, hold their children back. It's done out of wanting to keep them safe, and with the intention to see them succeed. However disadvantaged parents are not always informed enough to guide their children effectively, and that is no fault of their own. Its down to their world view, based on their experiences. Their children then also lack resource states (both practical and mental-emotional) to make the most of the opportunities they do gain access to through merit.
The sad fact is a rich person will be likely to do more with the opportunities given to them as many factors in the system are stacked in their favour. It is not all their own merit, but a form of collective merit that is inherited. It should not be assumed that this means all reach people have it easier, they do not. Hence even the children of rich become poorer in later generations. It is often the first few generations of migrants who actually are the most effectively socially mobile. Perhaps then we can learn from them about how to inspire the will for social mobility in the individual, and it also perhaps suggests that cycles of mobility would be more effective as a model than simply an upward trending linear model.
So I would agree that the belief one is destined to fail, be unsuccessful, and that others are against them or that they don't fit or belong is the most important shift to make for those from disadvantaged backgrounds. This belief in the ability to influence ones life course is something I found to be instilled in the culture of public school. It is the practical understanding of societal systems and ones interactions with it, coupled with the beliefs one personally holds about how they fit in society, and how well they know themselves too that I hypothesise determine how socially mobile a person is able to be. However, with the looming cost crisis, more young people will not have their basic needs met, distracting them from engaging effectively with their education. Getting into work earlier is sometimes a sensible option as it enables basic needs to be met sooner, and actualisation to aspire for higher goals to be made reality.