Anton Savage: Want to send your kids to your posh school? Sure thing, But only if you pay
The Minister for Education Jan O'Sullivan, we are told, has ruffled a lot of posh feathers with her proposal that schools be allowed to allocate only 10pc of their places to children of former pupils.
The theory goes that fee-paying schools are up in arms, as their old boys apparently fear their networks will be torn asunder as their children are forced to go to local national schools and learn hand-to-hand combat rather than cricket.
Meanwhile, everyone else is rejoicing as the elite are taken down a peg or two.
These assumptions miss a number of things. Old boy networks, like education itself, have changed with time. Once upon a time you left school with both education and network. Now they come at third (and more commonly fourth) level.
Modern old boys have the letters 'MBA' on their business cards, not crests on their ties.
Anyway, the barriers to membership of the elite don't crumble easy - if wealthy kids can't send their children to their former schools, they will just make sure that they live in an area with an excellent national school nearby, as the power of their wallets will let them buy into good neighbourhoods.
The power of their wallets will also allow them to use truckloads of voluntary donations to get their local school up to elite standard (particularly if they are able to take the money which would otherwise be fees and convert it into donations).
The end result will be the exact same as we have in some schools now: education for the rich, closed off to the poor. However, without the obvious elitism of children of former pupils going to their parents' schools, the new regime will have the thin veneer of egalitarianism glued over it.
But there is an opportunity before us now - a once in a lifetime chance to change the system for good and make the rich do what they are good at: paying for stuff.
Instead of limiting the number of kids who get in as children of past pupils, we should increase it. To 33pc. Now, before you blow a gasket, bear with me.
Those 33pc would be allowed in on two conditions; first, they must be the children of former pupils. Second, their parents must pay all the fees. If there aren't enough kids of past-pupils to make up the numbers, that's fine, the gap can be filled by any kid who has parents willing to cough up the cash. But either way, one third foots the bills.
The other two thirds of the student body are then made up of half underprivileged kids, selected from as broad a hinterland as possible, and half students who pass a test of academic merit. Neither of those groups pay a penny.
The end result is egalitarian perfection; the rich pay for everything (unless their kids work really hard, excel and move into the academic scholarship cohort).
The gifted and hard working get support. The poor get investment and opportunities otherwise denied to them - and everyone learns cricket.
You've got 116 years to come up with the secret ... at least make it interesting
American Gertrude Weaver has died at the age of 116. At the time of her death she was the oldest person on the planet. So a good innings all in all.
Because of her advanced years, she had been interviewed a number of times about her longevity and put it down to "treating everybody good". This joins a long list of platitudinous clichés that every tremendously old person inevitably gives about their great age.
You know the drill, a camera crew shows up at a nursing home or retirement community and thrusts a microphone in front of a remarkably aged person (sometimes wearing a party hat or sitting in front of a birthday cake, looking a bit fed up).
They are then asked what the secret to a long life is. None of them give the real answer, which is either "I don't know", or "Genetics and dumb luck you pillock".
Instead, like Gertrude Weaver, they try to be helpful and say things like, "I didn't drink or smoke", or "I took a nip of whiskey every day", or "Exercise and fresh air", and so forth.
We need to help these old folks and provide them a selection of answers which might actually grab a headline or two. My proposal is as follows.
Our President writes to centenarians and sends them a cheque. From now on, he also needs to send a list of instructions for how to handle the moment the reporters arrive. It should read:
"If by chance you become the oldest person in the world and journalists ask you your secret, please respond with one of the following sentences.
-I've kept a raisin in my ear since 1932.
-I visit a tremendous amount of prostitutes.
-I soak the top of my head in anti-freeze every second Wednesday.
- I eat cats."
Average women? Smart, more like
A COSMETICS company set up an experiment in which signs reading 'average' and 'beautiful' were erected over the doorway of a public building and 11,000 women entering the building were filmed.
Some 9,000 chose to walk through the 'average' door. This is supposed to tell us something about women's self-image and perception of themselves.
It actually tells us something about marketing experiments. As soon as people see a sign saying 'average' or 'beautiful' over a door, they know someone's paying attention to them. Only the wilfully arrogant would stride through the 'beautiful' doorway. This test doesn't show women to have an issue with self-image. It shows them to be canny.
The Fast And The Furiously Bad
The Fast and Furious 7 is breaking box office records. Given that I haven't seen it, and it is the last film of the late Paul Walker, I'll reserve judgement.
But the other six are fair game - and they are terrible, terrible films. Even worse, they are terrible, terrible car films. Such films have two chances to be good: they can be a good movie with a good car chase (like Ronin), or they can be an awful movie rescued by a car chase (like Bullit).
These movies miss both - plotless guff, they feature such awful car-chase cliche's as the 'press the pedal more to go faster' shot and the 'change gear for super speed' cutaway. Now, no-one wants totally lifelike movies (ever seen Le Mans?) but there's a limit about how awful they should get.