Sunday, March 16, 2008

Pmanny: Drop Out

"Will Hutton, author of The State We're in and chief executive of The Work Foundation describes the private school/Oxbridge system as 'a secure passport to the upper echelons of British life for which the entry ticket is cash'. And, even if you gatecrash it, or hitch a free ride on the tails of a state-school education, it's still wrong. Britain has the worst levels of social mobility of any country it's possible to measure. And key to that stasis, to the maintenance of the status quo, to a diminution of opportunity for 93 per cent of the population, is Oxbridge."
I watch a ton of British documentary television and read a ton of British press. There's a little piece of me that wishes I were a part of all of it--I remember perusing the "training schemes" at the BBC while I was toiling away at a rather undesirable publishing job (one of my main responsibilities was choosing photos of celebrities for hack-penned bios--I've seen more of Mariah Carey than anyone ever needs to). They seemed like such great opportunities--but, much like my dream of an internship at Harper's, the obstacle was cash. Reading Carole Cadwalladr's piece about the remaining power of the Oxbridge elite demonstrates that entering journalism or broadcasting (among other professions) demands cash not only to support one's self through a six-month unpaid internship, but cash to support a private education throughout one's life.
I have come to learn this over the past little while. Every time I read a particularly interesting article or watch a particularly interesting documentary, I have done a wee search on Wikipedia only to come to the same conclusion as Cadwalladr. Everyone whose anyone seems to have gone to the same bloody two schools. I suppose this is an open secret (and an annoying one) to Britons, but for me, as much as my Wikipedia searches kept confirming the real and true reality of the Oxbridge influence, I kept hoping it wasn't the case. Of course, this reality doesn't make me like Louis Theroux any less, but it does make me cheer somewhat for Charlie Brooker and Dawn Porter (even though Ms. Porter was private-school educated, though she did attend theatre school in Liverpool).
What's weird is that I have absolutely no idea where my favourite Canadian journalists and broadcasters were educated. A quick look shows that Stombo went to Humber College, Avi Lewis to University of Toronto (but attended prestigious boy's school Upper Canada College), Carole MacNeil to the University of New Brunswick, Evan Solomon to McGill, Christie Blatchford to Ryerson, and the great Peter Mansbridge dropped out of high school. If 45% of all British journalists of note attended Oxbridge, my small Canuck sample demonstrates that within Canada this is not the case--yes, McGill and U of T are good schools, but they hardly hold the weight that a degree from a place like Cambridge apparently does.
I suppose I would have to check the educational backgrounds of lawyers, corporate titans and legislators to really see--I am sure that posh private education and prestigious post-secondary study does open doors for Canadians, but the incredible sway two universities have over the media in Britain is just overwhelming. So overwhelming that I missed CBC Sunday, presided over by two public-schooled folk. I'll make a point of watching CBC's flagship newscast this evening, taking great pride in our high-school drop out anchor.


VĂ©ro said...

"taking great pride in our high-school drop out anchor."


Vila H. said...

I suspect that the Upper Canada College/U of T combo shows up more frequently than we know, particularly in political circles. Of course, I find this interesting.

Aurora said...

I meant to comment a few days ago but stupid blogger wouldn't let me...grr.
Loved this though! Loved the content and loved Mansbridge's hip-hop name.