To quote Mark Twain, There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics. Perhaps it’s time to replace the last of these with political manifestos.
In April the government opened consultation on the way they capture educational outcomes of pupils according to income group. The report includes the somewhat redundant observation, The percentage of children at selective schools from below median income families, who are not considered disadvantaged, (36%) is almost the same as the percentage for non-selective schools (35%).
True enough the yellow bars are about the same length although it’s their position which is actually relevant to any question of social mobility. Commenting on the similarity in size of the yellow bars doesn’t quality as one of Twain’s lies because it was just one of a number of neutrally stated facts given in context and the graph makes it abundantly clear that the grammar school system is prejudiced against disadvantaged children.
What is a lie?
Ask any 10-year-old the difference between lying and telling untruths and after some discussion they generally end up concluding that fundamental to any definition of lying is the intent to deliberately deceive. For example, the Tory manifesto. Page 52 says, Contrary to what some people allege, official research shows that slightly more children from ordinary, working class families attend selective schools as a percentage of the school intake compared to nonselective schools.
To transform factual DfE report into ‘statistical lie‘ the Tories first removed data which the DfE highligh as key; disadvantaged children and those from above median income families. Having taken away all meaningful context they then coin an even more meaningless label, ‘ordinary working class’. This term isn’t actually defined anywhere. Its sole purpose is to disguise the fact that the statistic excludes disadvantaged children who always present a bit of a challenge to anyone trying to argue that grammar schools promote social mobility. Just when you think they could stoop no lower the words, ‘some people allege’, insinuate that anyone who does state the facts – disadvantaged children are grossly underrepresented at grammar schools – are the ones misleading the public.
It’s hard to see how Teresa May could be more manipulatively deceptive in her dogmatic pursuit of reintroducing grammar schools but then, lying to the public in the lead up to elections now seems to be the accepted norm.
A while back I signed a petition proposing the creation of an Office of Electoral Integrity but I can’t really see politicians ever countenancing something which curtails their ability to wantonly deceive the public for political gain. I’m going to have to rely on the tried and tested way of telling when they stop lying; observing when their lips stop moving.