ABRAMS, Rebecca. UK writer slams educational apartheid in reviewing Adam Swift's "How Not to Be a Hypocrite: school choice for the morally perplexed parent"

Rebecca Abrams is the author of both fiction and non-fiction. Non-fiction titles include “When Parents Die”, an established classic in its field, and “Three Shoes One Sock” and “No Hairbrush”, the best-seller guide to having a second child. An award-winning journalist, she is a former columnist on the Daily Telegraph and a long-standing reviewer for the Guardian. Born in 1963, Rebecca has lived in America and Switzerland and now lives in Oxford with her husband and two children (see: http://www.panmacmillan.com/authors%20Illustrators/displayPage.asp?PageTitle=Individual%20Contributor&ContributorID=75415&RLE=Author ) .

Rebecca Abrams, reviewing “How Not to Be a Hypocrite: school choice for the morally perplexed parent" by Adam Swift (Routledge, London, 2003):  It is hard to overestimate how socially divisive and intellectually muting the issue of school choice has become in recent years among a certain class of parent. Other than war in Iraq, no subject is more likely to ruin a good party or wreck a close friendship. Twenty years ago, parents who leaned to the political left were confident that the state was, if not great, then good enough. Middle-class parents would be able to make up the educational shortfall, and the benefits of learning about real life at a state school would outweigh (more or less) any advantages of intellectual hothousing at a private one. Those parents' children are now parents themselves and there is little confidence left. In the past decade, private education has established itself as a dark and powerful current in the minds of many who, in their younger days, swore (or even just crossed their fingers and hoped) that they would live and die by state education; slowly but surely, it draws them away from the shores of well-founded conviction and out into the precarious waters of what those on the other side of the political divide like to call "choice", but that those caught in the undertow suspect may be closer to compromise, or even cop-out… Swift could have adopted any number of approaches to this subject, but by sticking to a rigorously philosophical analysis and paring the problem back to first principles, he succeeds in tracking a clear path through the complexities. Put very simply, his argument is as follows: parents are morally entitled to behave partially towards their children, but not if that leads directly to putting other children at a disadvantage. Sending children to private schools rather than the local state schools does, in diverse ways, disadvantage other children and is therefore, in most circumstances, morally unacceptable… One of Swift's more startling statistics is that if all the schools in England had the same acreage of playing field as one private school, more than half the entire countryside - or 33 million acres - would be set aside for playing field. Couldn't there be an obligation on private schools at least to share their playing fields? Similarly, their art studios, music rooms and libraries? If there is clear evidence, as he claims, that private schools accrue advantages by having the brightest and most affluent children, why is there no obligation for those same schools to contribute financially to the education of all those negatively affected by the absence of such children from the state sector? If the government won't abolish private schools, can it not at least make them earn their charitable status?” [1].

[1]. Rebecca Abrams, “The great betrayal. Rebecca Abrams despairs of our educational apartheid” (reviewing “How Not to Be a Hypocrite: school choice for the morally perplexed parent Adam Swift (Routledge, London, 2003), New Statesman, 31 March 2003: http://www.newstatesman.com/200303310039 .