In the United States during the Civil Rights Movement in the mid-1960s, schools were one of the places they were determined to de-segregate. Children were bussed miles to schools in order to achieve an ethnic mix. Before that, especially in the Deep South, schools were segregated. When Elvis Presley was first heard on radio people thought he was black because of his unusual first name and the material he was singing. How did they indicate he was in fact white? By slipping into the introductions to his records the school he went to in Memphis, which of course was an all-white one.
It seems to me that we now have segregated schools in the UK. I am a gay man and do not have children myself, nor do I have any close relatives with children, but I am fully aware that State schools in many Inner London areas are about 95% ethnic, and that private schools are about 95% white – this being a conservative estimate. How do I know this? Because I pass State school playgrounds or see the children on outings, and I have also visited private schools and their students come to our pensioners’ Lunch Club and Drama Group, I also see private schools on outings. There can be no doubt about it, our schools in many Inner London areas are segregated.
In the outer suburbs and rural areas I would imagine most schools, both State and private, are predominately white. This is because most ethnic communities tend to be in the Inner cities and poorer areas, often on council estates.
How has this segregation come about? It is certainly not government policy to segregate our education system, as was the case in South Africa during the apartheid regime. It has come about by parents deciding they would not send their children to State schools which were increasingly becoming predominantly ethnic. If they could afford it they sent their children to private schools, but if they could not afford the fees they moved out to more rural areas where the State schools were still predominantly white.
The reason this is not debated as an issue on the liberal Left is because many otherwise liberal middle-class people do not wish to discuss it. They prefer to turn a blind eye because they are as guilty as the rest for bringing about this situation. Nor is it just the white middle-class population who have brought about this situation; some middle-class blacks, including a well-known Leftwing Labour MP, have sent their children to private schools.
We have always had the British public school system, which is where the upper classes send their children. Not ‘public’ schools in the American sense, they are in fact private schools for the elite. They obviously are predominantly white upper class. Their pupils go on to Oxbridge and many end up in Conservative governments, including many former Tory Prime Ministers.
So the UK now has an educational system which, certainly up to university level, is almost completely segregated. Surely this is a bad thing if what we need more than anything is integration? If children are brought up in an all-white or all-ethnic environment, how will they learn to integrate later in life? How will they learn to accept different cultures and different ways of life?
I am not sure what the answer is, if we should start doing what they did in the Deep South in the 1960s and bussing children, often against their parents’ wishes, to different State schools to insure an ethnic mix. Should the State pay for more ethnic pupils in private schools? Whatever the solution, the problem needs to be addressed or society will become ever more polarized and segregated in future. Far from the problem being addressed, it is never spoken about on the Left but quietly brushed under the carpet. Middle-class parents, otherwise quite liberal or Left in their politics, often send their kids to private schools, or move to predominantly white areas if they do not already live in them, and pretend there is no problem. Those like me living on a council estate in Inner London with no ax to grind as we do not have children of our own, can see the glaringly obvious segregation which exists in our schools, which everyone else on the liberal Left prefers to ignore.