In Brief

White privilege theory leaves working-class boys with ‘status deficit’, MPs told

Academic’s claim that concept is ‘completely nonsensical’ triggers online row

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Pressure to apologise for “white privilege” is pushing white working-class boys even further “behind everyone else”, MPs have been warned.

Professor Matthew Goodwin, a politics professor at the University of Kent, told the Commons Education Select Committee yesterday that “over the last ten years our national conversation has become more consumed about other groups in society”.

White working-class boys, who are among the worst educational performers, are landed with “a status deficit” and made “to feel as though they are not being given as much recognition and esteem as others”, Goodwin said.

“If you go into these communities and try to tell them that they’re suffering from white privilege - it seems to me a completely nonsensical response to this problem,” he added.

“They are way behind everybody else, they’re falling through the cracks.”

Appearing alongside Goodwin, Professor Dianne Reay, emeritus professor of education at the University of Cambridge, said it was important to look at whether the intention of the education system was “to educate and empower the working-class children”.

“A narrow, elitist, exclusive curriculum does not work well, as I say, in enabling working-class children to succeed through the system,” she argued.

The two academics’ remarks have been met with anger on social media. Dr Charlotte Lydia Riley, a history lecturer at the University of Southampton, tweeted that “‘white working class’ is not a useful category of analysis: it’s the ‘working class’ bit that leads to inequality, not the whiteness”.

Author Priyamvada Gopal also weighed in, tweeting that academics “who use the term ‘white working classes’ typically only care about the first word. They are not usually known for campaigning on matters of class and economic justice.”

But Goodwin mounted an online defence of his views following his committee appearance. In a post on Twitter, he wrote: “I just don’t think these kids - who are the least likely of all to progress - need another reason to feel bad about themselves.”

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