Safe bets and knobocracies

Today at work I had a bit of a cry at my desk. About love and loss and man’s inhumanity to man. And also about my dad’s goldfish (current pond poisoning death toll: 3). But mainly about inhumanity towards fellow human beings. Oh, and also the fact that my partner and I are ace and everyone else is rubbish and no one ever recognises this and gives us the adulation we deserve.

I was looking at the TES website while my tears fell, poignantly, onto the keyboard. I’d been reading a discussion board for trainee teachers who hadn’t yet found a job for this September. My partner is one such person. He’s sent off countless applications and hasn’t had a single interview. And yet there were people contributing to the discussion who had had interviews, and these numpties didn’t even seem to know the difference between “there” and “their”! I mean, I ask you – where’s the justice in that? I tell you, this is what’s wrong with this country. This, and lots of other things. But definitely this as well.

Look, I realize that being good at grammar doesn’t make you Miss Jean Brodie. I’m ace at the past historic yet totally useless in front of a class of 30. But my partner has been rated good to outstanding in all of his assessments. He creates his own resources and his rapport with the young ‘uns is brill. His mentor and training provider can’t understand what’s going wrong. But as if that wasn’t puzzling enough, consider this: he’s training to be a primary school teacher AND he’s male! He’s a man! A real, live man! What better role-model-and-inspirer-of-boisterous-boys could you want?

Men are, apparently, making great advances in formerly female-dominated fields. Not only that, but once they get there, they take the pay gap with them. Sod you, ladies. It’s about time a man showed you how nursing and teaching should be done. And got paid more than you, as is fitting. Obviously I don’t agree with any of this. Except, given that I’ve been a good feminist all these years, I wouldn’t mind if once – just this once – I could be reaping the financial benefits of sexism. I mean, as long as there’s sexism, someone’s gotta be benefiting – why can’t it be my partner and me?

Back in 2000, when I met my partner, had I been one of those women who’s looking for a man to give her wealth, security and “influence” – the kind of “influence” you only get by marrying well and choosing the right shoes – I’d have thought I’d found myself a pretty safe bet. A white ex-public schoolboy with a Cambridge first – what more could you want? Surely this ticks all the “power” boxes? Well, it’s a good job I was more taken with his sense of humour and all-round fitness, and not his potential status as a leader of men, that’s all I can say.

Having studied at Oxford and Cambridge, I know a lot of ex-public schoolboys. And actually, none of them are leaders of men. Most of them are muddling along like the rest of us, and I’ve wondered why that is. Having examined the variables, I’ve decided it’s because all my friends are nice. Wealth, maleness, a “good” education – all of these things are prerequisites for gaining power. But on top of that you also need to be a bit of a bastard.

Writing about Toby Young’s decision to set up an independent-style free school, Anthony Seldon describes the “edge” that ex-Etonians such as Boris Johnson and David Cameron acquire, and which he believes Young to admire:

[Eton] has a practice known as “oiling”, which is learning how to win friends and influence others, and how to clamber over them to get what you want. It’s a mixture of ambition, self-confidence and bloody-mindedness […] This ambition will nauseate many on the left who see in Eton, and in schools like it, only the perpetuation of a self-regarding and uncaring oligarchy. Such schools, it believes, sums up all that is wrong in Britain today. […] But Young is right to emphasise the importance of character. It puts the finger precisely on what is still going wrong in state schools.

For “character” read “being a knob”. It’s worth pointing out that not everyone who attends public school acquires this “being a knob-ness”. Only the most successful ones do. Hey, do I sound bitter?

So, we live in a knobocracy. No wonder I’m crying onto my keyboard. It’s not pure self-interest. Like I said, it’s man’s inhumanity to man.


2 thoughts on “Safe bets and knobocracies

  1. Which college was your husband at? Mine was at Peterhouse and there were some right “oiling” types there. Horrid. LordCurd isn’t one of them though. Despite being a Lord obviously.

    1. King’s. Which I think is quite right-on, for Cambridge! He thought Magdalene was the worst. (I did my PhD at Downing. It was a poor choice because there were no other post-grads in my subject, so I didn’t spend a lot of time round there!)

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