Friday, 9 September 2016

The M Word

The worst fate that can befall a satirist is to be taken entirely seriously.

Michael Young wrote The Rise of The Meritocracy, after having been warned that no good would come of a Latin-Greek hybrid word.

His targets took him entirely seriously, and they have been doing so ever since.

His dystopia was, and is, their utopia, in which those with material wealth and paper qualifications determine “merit” on the basis of material wealth and paper qualifications.

Clearly, they include, not only his son, but now even the Prime Minister.

Oh, well, Peter Hitchens is utterly unimpressed.

If you really believed in academic selection, then you would see concentration on poor areas, and quotas for the children of the poor even within those areas, as a complete missing of the point.

But you would see absolutely nothing wrong in favouring the beneficiaries of extracurricular tuition.

From that point of view, if they knew more about what was on the exam, and if they therefore did better at it, then that is exactly as these things ought to be.

There is talk of using, not even an academic examination, but an IQ test.

I have never taken an IQ test in my life.

I question whether anyone who sets any store by them is sufficiently intelligent to be allowed out alone, if at all. For example, Boris Johnson.

The whole thing depends on “mental age”, whatever that may be.

The IQ of children in numerous countries has “improved” dramatically over the years when IQ tests have been set, and therefore taught to, in schools.

Indeed, that never fails to happen.

The publications of Mensa are a particularly rich seam of amusement.

“More people than you might think are above average”? I’m guessing about half of them.

“One person in 20 is in the top five per cent”? You don’t say! And so on.

But never try and tell the “I have a high IQ” lot any of this.

You wouldn’t have to, and indeed you never could, do anything to get a high IQ, even if such a thing really existed.

Having it would be no cause for congratulation, still less for self-congratulation or for the creation of an international society for mutual congratulation.

Never mind for the creation and maintenance, at public expense, of an entire network of highly prestigious schools for those who were deemed to have been born with this imaginary attribute.


  1. If May proceeds with this, there'll have been three Prime Ministers before the end of this Parliament.

    1. Quite.

      She can't put this to an early General Election, partly because she could never repeal the Fixed-Term Parliaments Act in time, but also, on this specific issue, because her own MPs would never fight a General Election on a manifesto with this in it.