This is on my Conservative History site where I am beginning to publish other people’s articles. First up was one by David Linden who is a Ph.D. student of history at King’s College, London with special interest in the modern Conservative Party. He had done an M.A. thesis on the Black Papers on education and extracted an article from that.
As if to prove that we have problems with our education system, his article had an incredible number of grammatical and punctuation errors. In fact, it was not till I started editing the Conservative History Journal that I realized how many doctoral students and young academics could not write clear, coherent, correct English.
The Black Papers on Education were a series of publications in the late sixties and early seventies that tried to battle with the prevalent political idea that large comprehensive schools were better for children from a social and educational point of view. Mr Linden over-rates their influence. The sad truth is that, though everything those papers predicted came true (and then some), the warnings and arguments were ignored and, subsequently, forgotten. While it is good to revive interest in them, especially now that some attempts are being made to sort out the mess, this only highlights the tragic developments in our state education system. (Declaration of interest: the Tibor Szamuely, mentioned in the article, who was one of the star contributors to the most widely read Black Paper, the second one, was my father. I am, as I proudly announce, a hereditary trouble-maker.)
The other article that might interest people is a review I wrote of a delightful and elegantly written little tome by Alistair Cooke (now Lord Lexden), the official historian of the Conservative Party and author of several publications related to that subject, on the Primrose League. The League was the largest popular political organization in British history; it was the first organization that had members from all sections of society, getting enormous support from working class participants; it was the first organization in which many women, again from all sections of society, played an important part; it had special sections for children and young people; it had a highly developed welfare support system. All the things the left claim to have started were, in actual fact, begun by the Primrose League.
It gives me no pleasure to say that the Conservative Party seems to have forgotten about the Primrose League and about the Black Papers on education in its rush to “modernize”.