Every now and then a reader's letter gives me pause for thought. One such came in over the weekend from 16-year-old Janan Neirami, in Sutton, responding to my column lamenting that "ambition" and "aspiration" had become such dirty words.
Janan's email detailed what he believed are some of the drawbacks to, and prejudices against, middle-class schoolboy life. At which point half of you will have switched off or turned against him – which is in part his point.
It's odd that being middle class has turned into a subject for derision. It is deeply unfashionable to stick up for middle-class attributes of "striving" (yes!), "aspiration" and "ambition" (not that, as I wrote on Saturday, these should be a middle-class preserve). In fact, outside of the Daily Mail, who does stick up for the "squeezed middle" in public? Maybe that's one of the many reasons the Daily Mail sells so well.
Janan pointed out how many schemes and opportunities existed for the offspring of the disadvantaged to be able to receive a helping hand to progress through their education from the Sutton Trust Pathways to Cambridge University Summer Schools. He asked why should the children of parents who went to university — often being the first in their families to do so — then be excluded themselves from so much help?
Rather poignantly he detailed how his parents had neither the time nor the money that more than one child necessitated, feeling he was disadvantaged at home and then again at school as a consequence.
I'm not going to entirely agree with him. The ambitious children of the poor generally need an extra leg up, given how many disadvantages they suffer. But he may have a point when he writes of a systematic discrimination against — and resentment of — the middle class that seems straight out of a Dickensian novel.