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Sleepless in Fulham: Rambling and gambling by David Young
Sunday, 2 July 2006
We have to change the way we think about property and education.
Topic: Politics

Here's an irony - I've been buying the Daily Express this week! No, I haven't changed my mind about Diana conspiracy theories. I still think it's a rubbish paper, but when I found out it was giving away copies of the Michel Thomas teach yourself Spanish course over eight days, I couldn't resist. I love collecting that stuff.

Most days I've barely glanced at the paper itself. Today's copy is still unread. But on Friday I read the cover story about property prices and was stunned to read this piece of logic from Peter Bolton King of the National Association of Estate Agents, following the release of figures from the Bank of England showing that the UK's total mortgage debt has topped £1 trillion and that prices were still rising:

"Many owners are relying on property as a source of income for the future, whether it be as a general investment or a nest egg for retirement, so with property forming the foundation of many people's future financial security this latest news is very heartening. Also it's worth pointing out that a positive housing market relates directly to the high street economy so it's essential the current improved picture continues, and that means continued low interest rates."

If this is typical of how middle England actually thinks then this country is in deep trouble. High house prices are good for only one thing - encouraging the development of new housing. And thanks to the anti-development bias in the planning permission system, they don't even achieve that. To see why Bolton King's argument is so ridiculous, try reading it out loud, but substituting 'Microsoft shares' instead of 'property' and 'monopoly of the market for operating systems' instead of 'low interest rates'.

We have to change the way we think about property in this country if we are to be as economically dynamic as the US. From the same newspaper, here's Fionnuala Earley, group economist of Nationwide:

"Someone on average earnings would now need to spend 42 per cent of their take-home pay on mortgage repayments, compared with just 32 per cent three years ago".

It's hard to see how a society can flourish when people are spending two pounds out of every five they earn on the roof above their heads. Something has to give and that something is Britain's future. The UK's low fertility and birth rate isn't solely a function of high property prices, but it's one of the first places I'd look if I wanted to solve the problem. This article from the Telegraph states the facts:

Price boom, baby bust.

"In the late 1980s, the average age of a first-time buyer was 23: it is now 33. People are now living with parents for longer, or are sharing rented accommodation. Often they must pay off student debt before they can even start to save for a deposit on a house."

How to destroy a society in two easy moves - saddle the brightest and most talented with debt during their period of greatest fertility and then move them to cities where house prices are so high that they can't afford a home large enough to have a family. With any luck they'll die childless and never pass on their genes or life experience to anyone else.

What else could be done to cripple your society? Come on, you can't expect the housing market and student loans to do everything! What about sending your cleverest children to single-sex schools, so that they delay encountering the opposite sex until much later in life? That's bound to cut the number of children with high IQs in the next generation. No doubt you've been told the line that it's all worth it, because single-sex schools achieve better results for girls. Well it turns about that this is bogus.

Single-sex schools 'no benefit for girls'

'The reason people think single-sex schools are better is because they do well in league tables,' said Smithers, director of the Centre for Education and Employment Research. 'But they are generally independent, grammar or former grammar schools and they do well because of the ability and social background of the pupils.' Their success should not be used to argue it is better to separate girls and boys in other settings, he added.

So for decades now, the bright ambitious middle class people have delayed the emotional development and sexual experience of their offspring ... and it's all been for nothing.

All of these things anger me. The Middle Classes matter and it should concern us when they are unwilling or unable to raise the next generation. I'm not just saying this because I'm generally considered 'middle class' myself. I sincerely believe that societies with extremes of rich and poor with little in between are dysfunctional. Of course the key challenge is to facilitate the upward mobility of the people at the bottom, but bolstering the numbers in the middle helps too.

The Telegraph spells out the problem:

The middle classes are letting us down: they must breed more.

Fat chance of that happening when we put every possible obstacle in their path.

_ DY at 3:02 AM BST
Updated: Sunday, 2 July 2006 3:03 AM BST
Post Comment | View Comments (3) | Permalink

Tuesday, 4 July 2006 - 1:18 AM BST

Name: "anonymous"

Go forth and multiply!

Thursday, 6 July 2006 - 7:46 AM BST

Name: "TRS"

I accept that this is your blog and your ramblings - but your illogical assumptions and strange arguing style force me to interject: 

  'But they are generally independent, grammar or former grammar schools and they do well because of the ability and social background of the pupils.'

This reasoning is not exactly bullet-proof - yet you argue using this argument as a basis for removing choice from parents as to how to educate their children?

How about if I said: 

Oxbridge universities have no appreciable educational advantages over any other third-level education institution. The only reason Oxbridge does better in league tables is because of the background and ability of their applicants.

Ergo nobody shall have choice over which university they shall attend, the government will assign students to universities.


 And what about your assertion that single-sex schooling significantly lowers chances of producing offspring. Are you basing this on a sample size of 1? Or some of your mates too? This assertion makes some pretty huge assumptions that I don't think would hold if you could look at some data. What about university? Did you not meet some girls there? Most people meet their partner in university or later. To me, single-sex schooling doesn't appear to have a huge affect on this.


Thursday, 6 July 2006 - 6:35 PM BST

Name: "anonymous"

My view is that parents should have the choice of single-sex education, though they ought to take their own kids' feelings into account. In High Wycombe there wasn't really a choice though, if you were bright. There was an eleven plus exam that was used to stream kids into three classes of school. In the case of boys they were:

 1) Highest IQs - The Royal Grammar School, single sex.

2) Next Highest - The John Hampden School, single sex.

3) The rest - Various mixed schools.

So you see that the brighter you were, the less contact you had with the opposite sex. I always hated the fact that we were punished for being intelligent. I wanted to mix normally with girls but seldom had the chance. I would go home and watch Grange Hill. It looked like a different world. I recall doing a cross country run and going past one of the mixed schools (a right dump) and seeing girls in hockey skirts talking to boys. I felt sick. It was so unfair. Why couldn't I have been thick?

Of course I did go to parties and do some mixed activities, but the atmosphere was always strained for all concerned. In my opinion it's always best if you can form attachments with people who see you in your normal environment, rather than meeting people at artificial situations like parties, balls, functions etc.


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