Telegraph – Notebook By Cristina Odone

Middle-class children will learn to lie

The anti-bourgeois, down-with-privilege bias that was a hallmark of the Soviet regime is well on the march in British academia. We are not yet at the stage where a middle-class background condemns youngsters to a life in the uranium mines. But the principle of stigmatising children for their parents’ sins is now formally established.

It won’t work. Like hapless Soviet factory directors, university admissions tutors are faced with monstrous bureaucratic targets that produce nonsensical results. And just as the crazy rules of Soviet planned economy produced perverse consequences, so too will the micro-management perpetrated by the latter-day education commissars.

Stand by for youngsters, in the best traditions of a Stalinist show-trial or Maoist self-criticism session, using their university interviews not to display their knowledge but to repudiate their parents’. “My bourgeois-deviationist parents tried to instill a love of books,” the youngster will crow, “but out of loyalty to proletarian internationalism I resisted and did nothing but play computer games.” Asbos, not A-levels, are the ticket to the groves of academe.


All of this is because the Government quite rightly recognises that the share of working-class children going to top universities is, shamefully, lower than it was in the 1960s. Even the most plodding central planner would have easily spotted the reason: the decades-long destruction of secondary education. This is what kicked away the ladder from the brainy but poor, as Lord Adonis, the Government’s education arch-wonk, admits.

The Government’s Soviet-style notion of higher education as a factory for social engineering contrasts bleakly with Cardinal Newman’s idea of a university. His vision was of a community of scholars clustered around a library, eagerly debating ideas on their merits, regardless of the protagonists’ background.

He sought, in short, to free intellectual inquiry from all constraint of circumstance; the Government seeks to do exactly the opposite.

I’m still suspicious of her (how does one transition so easily from Guardian to Telegraph; and then there was that column) but this was pretty good.

Shilpa Shetty, Bollywood star, winner of Big Brother and survivor of vicious and public racist bullying, has the world at her feet. Back home in India, her flagging career has been transformed, and here a whole new future beckons. Films, television chat shows, the opening of supermarkets – all the perks of being an international celebrity – are hers for the taking.

Before she savours her triumph, though, Shilpa should follow in the footsteps of Angelina Jolie and David Beckham and put in a quick stint as a Unicef Goodwill Ambassador. There is one particular poverty-stricken hell-hole where the wretched inhabitants’ short lives are disease-ridden, ignorant, malnourished, lawless and joyless. Yes, Shilpa, Bermondsey needs you.


We watched the other night’s Top Gear last night (don’t pirate illegal video, kids!), and, if you saw it, you’ll know what I’m talking about when I say that cracked me up.