The Crisis of the Meritocracy

Oxford University Press, September 2020
This book tells the story of how Britain became in the span of just a few generations a mass education society.  Before the war, only about 20% of the population had any experience of secondary school and barely 2% of higher education;  after the war, secondary education became universal and today 50% enter higher education.  This is a story not about heroic politicians making important legislative breakthroughs - though the likes of 'Rab' Butler, Tony Crosland, Keith Joseph and Tony Blair do appear in their due place - but rather it focuses attention on the many social, cultural and economic factors that led the mass of the population to seek and get more and more education for themselves and their children.  So key themes are the aspirations for a better life after the Slump and the War, the considerable social, psychic and physical mobility that postwar generations experienced, the special place of education alongside health as high-quality universal services in the welfare state, and the further leap forward in the growth of exam qualifications in schools and entry to higher education since the 1980s.

You can hear Peter Mandler talking about this book in a ten-minute talk hosted by the British Academy,

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Higher Education Policy Institute
'This book a well-prepared restaurant meal with each tasty ingredient carefully balanced by the others...In many respects, this is the book we have been waiting for and we should read Mandler’s conclusions not as some dusty historical reflections but as a lesson on the stresses and strains that we are likely to face on the hopefully continuing – but not inevitable – journey of educational progress. We could not have a better guide.'

Los Angeles Review of Books
‘Truly impressive…a tour de force of revisionist insight – slaying assumptions and myths of both the political left and right by keeping its focus fixed on the wishes and actions of young people and their parents…Mandler’s significant, original, and thought-provoking findings will help us think more clearly about education today, not only in Britain, but also in the United States and elsewhere.’



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