Time to ditch “middle class” in serious journalism
The Guardian deserves much praise for Polly Curtis’s story today finding that 50% of private school pupils get A grades in their A levels. Polly writes that this is:
“prompting claims that attempts to break the middle-class stranglehold on entry to higher education have failed this year.” (our emphasis).
But going to private school does not put you in the middle of anything. Only the top few per cent of society can afford private school fees. Yes, I know that some parents make real sacrifices, but they still need to be able to start pretty near the top of the income distribution to have enough money to sacrifice.
Using ‘middle-class’ in this way is very helpful to those who want to maintain inequality. Lots of people think of themselves as being – or aspire to being – middle-class, but using it to define a small group at the top – a staple of Mail and Express journalism – is all about trying to obscure the unfair distribution of income and opportunity.
As our ToUChstone pamphlet Life in the Middle shows, the real middle Britain has not done well and don’t have the means to use private education. Their political and economic interests do not lie in aligning themselves with those at the top – those who want to construct that alliance are keen to use middle-class in this way. The Guardian should not, especially in such a fine exposure of privilege.