The poor and the illiterate we will always have with us
`Those in the lower percentiles in the IQ range cannot function in a modern society'
Monday 20 December 1999
But it won't be like that. Good Lord, they might squander it. The pounds 200m will filter down from the top, from Treasury to the Social Exclusion Unit to the various charities, wrapped around with dictats and punitive ifs and buts, and will pay a whole lot of salaries on the way.
Tony Blair wants to end the divide between the haves and the have nots and so he should. But it is a stubborn problem. Even Jesus gave up: "For the poor always ye have with you" (St. John, 12-8). We politely gave up calling them "the poor" some decades back, and spoke about the "underprivileged", then the "underclass". Now, they're the "socially excluded" - which neatly puts the blame back on us for doing the excluding - but it is the same thing.
When Tony Blair says "the most important divide will not be between the haves and the have-nots but between the connected and the unconnected, those confident in cyberspace and those for whom it might as well be outer space," he is right. But I doubt that more than 50 per cent of the population will achieve sufficient computer literacy to be trusted by an employer to earn their living, and his, in front of a screen.
The point is that those people in the lower percentiles in the IQ range - with "mental health problems" as the charities tactfully describe it - cannot function in a complex modern society, and as society becomes more complex the percentage of those unable to cope creeps up. Getting a ticket on the Underground was once a simple matter: you told a human being where you wanted to go; you gave them money: they gave you a ticket. Now you have to press buttons in a complicated way. It seems simpler just to stand around enjoying the blasts of hot air that gush out when a train passes, and wait for the soup kitchen to come along.
The Government, in its egalitarian passion, is determined that all are born equal in "social competence" and all should be pulling their weight. ("Intelligence" is now such a no-no word that "social competence" is probably a better and safer term to use, for fear of uproar).
IQ tests were discredited back in the Sixties for their social divisiveness, after they had served their purpose in the Second World War to crudely but effectively divide millions of conscripts into categories, so you ended up either in the Diggers, at one end of the scale, or in the Education Corps at the other. A "normal" IQ - that is to say where most people cluster - was 100: 112 (from any social class) was reckoned to get you to grammar school: 120 to University.
There is a positive correlation between high IQs and upward social mobility, better exam results, and a high earning capacity: low IQs are associated with alcoholism, homelessness, and petty thievery. A team of psychologists, recently, and daringly, conducted IQ tests on those who were spending the night in a police station found the majority had scores of under 70. At this level of intelligence you don't understand concepts like "guilty" or "not-guilty". The lawyer has to dig you in the ribs and say "did you do what they say you did?" and if you have to been able to follow the proceedings at all you simply say yes or no.
What does this show? Simply that good or bad, right or wrong - at some levels - doesn't apply. Some people just have to be looked after, no matter what people like Louise Casey (the Tsarina of the Government's Rough Sleepers Unit), may think. She it was who recently complained that the homeless charities, with their hand-outs and soup kitchens, made matters worse.
It is extremely irritating that some people don't pull their weight, but not all have weight to pull. Those who used to totter round our mental asylums, safe, warm and fed, now fill our prisons and our doorways. The former we forget: the latter embarrass us.
As for the 20 per cent of the population who, according to Mr Blair, now leave our schools functionally illiterate, it may be shocking but it is not surprising. Stories come from TV and film, not books. Paying young adult illiterates to learn to read and write, as Mr Blair suggested, would probably work very well. But the sense of inadequacy and shame that used to accompany illiteracy is not, I imagine, as terrible as once it was. The illiterates may always be with us.
MusicThe band accidentally called Londoners the C-word
Film 'I've never been comfortable on-screen', she says
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Exodus Gods and Kings: Ridley Scott never considered casting 'Mohammad so-and-so from such-and-such' in lead role
- 2 This letter from a reader explains why women can’t play football
- 3 'You should come to my house and eat cheeses with me': 4-year-old sends adorable love letter to girl at school
- 4 Scientists predict green energy revolution after incredible new graphene discoveries
- 5 Michael Buerk wishes he'd killed Jimmy Savile when he had the chance - by pushing him overboard a cruise ship
I'm A Celebrity 2014: Jungle security stepped up after murder and 'suspicious death' close to camp
This house and dental clinic 'piled up like bricks on the brink of collapsing' is why Japan wins at architecture
Exodus Gods and Kings: Ridley Scott never considered casting 'Mohammad so-and-so from such-and-such' in lead role
James Cameron hypes up Avatar sequels: 'You will s**t yourself with your mouth wide open'
Marilyn Manson denies involvement in shocking Lana Del Rey rape video
Ukip says babies born to immigrants in the UK should be classed as migrants – which would include Nigel Farage’s own children
The young are the new poor: Sharp increase in number of under-25s living in poverty, while over-65s are better off than ever
Tamir Rice: 12-year-old boy playing with fake gun dies after being shot by Ohio police
Rochester aftermath: Sacking of Emily Thornberry will make work of Labour MPs '10 times harder'
Ed Miliband's 'north London set' must be demolished to save Labour, say critics
Green Party Caroline Lucas interview: 'We could be on the edge of something very big'