In recent years, debates on social mobility have been dominated by discussion about access to elite higher education institutions. The danger of this is that other routes to adult life can be dismissed, wrongly, as lesser achievements. In this recently published article in Discover Society, Professor Tony Chapman, Director of Policy&Practice, and Honorary Professor of Social Policy in the Department of Sociology summarises the pitfalls of focusing too much on individuals’ responsibility to commit to long-range social mobility at the expense of more proximate and realistic ambitions.
In the European philosophical tradition, equality is associated with social justice, liberty and citizenship, while in the United States the focus has been on meritocracy and self-determination to ‘get ahead of the pack’. Policy makers and practitioners in the UK, it is argued, are now moving in this direction – one consequence of which is that ‘winners’ see themselves as worthier than ‘losers’. Thus Theresa May’s announcement on the steps of Downing Street that ‘we will do everything we can to help anybody, whatever your background, to go as far as your talents will take you’ (BBC News, 13th July 2016 ) has pejorative undertones. What happens to those who are judged to have less ‘talent’, ‘ambition’ or ‘character’?
The article, together with contributions from several leading commentators can be accessed here: https://discoversociety.org/2018/10/02/real-goals-for-real-people/