Toby Young’s Meritocracy

Toby Young has just been appointed to the board of the Office for Students  a new regulator with a remit “to champion the interests of students, promote choice and help to ensure that students are receiving a good deal for their investment in higher education”

This is the same Toby Young who championed the flagship Tory ‘free schools’ programme, which literally funnelled money from state schools into increasingly exclusive education.

It’s easy to see why the Tories want to associate themselves with him.

But let’s put that aside, and see whether he’s a worthwhile advocate for “the interests of students”, in his own words:


It’s one of those ghastly, politically correct words that have survived the demise of New Labour. Schools have got to be “inclusive” these days.

That means wheelchair ramps, the complete works of Alice Walker in the school library (though no Mark Twain) and a Special Educational Needs Department that can cope with everything from Dyslexia to Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy.

If Gove is serious about wanting to bring back O-levels the government will have to repeal the Equality Act because any exam that isn’t “accessible” to a functionally illiterate troglodyte with a mental age of six will be judged to be “elitist” and therefore forbidden by Harman’s Law.”

 – Toby Young, The Spectator (July 2012)

It’s clear he has no interest in representing the views of minority students or disabled students. Or indeed in the case of those students who require wheelchairs making it possible for them to access classrooms.

His opinion of working class students who have the temerity to attempt higher education – or at least higher education at respectable universities is similarly repellent:

“It was as if all the meritocratic fantasies of every 1960s educationalist had come true and all Harold Wilson’s children had been let in at the gate.
Small, vaguely deformed undergraduates would scuttle across the quad as if carrying mobile homes on their backs. Replete with acne and anoraks, they would peer up through thick pebble-glasses, pausing only to blow their noses.”

– Toby Young, “Class” The Oxford Myth (1988)

Perhaps more worrying is the matter of his obsession with eugenics, which he just can’t stop writing about

“I’m more interested in the potential of a technology that hasn’t been invented yet: genetically engineered intelligence
At first glance, this sounds like something Jonathan Swift might suggest and, of course, there are lots of ethical issues connected with “designer babies”. But is it so different from screening embryos in vitro so parents with hereditary diseases can avoid having a child with the same condition?
In due course, why not conduct a trial in a city like Detroit and see if it works?”

– Toby Young, The Fall of the Meritocracy (September 2015)

Perhaps, you may be thinking, he’s not on the board to represent students, but to represent teachers. 

That’s a ‘no’, then.

So to summarise: we’ve got an arch elitist – himself positioned not through intellectual superiority nor even merit, but by an accident of birth – who sneers at the concerns of vast swathes of the population, is openly contemptuous of minority groups and those he deems inferior, and who ultimately wishes to fix things not through education, but by eugenics.

Precisely the sort of person you’d want on a government regulatory board championing “the interests of students”

Baron Michael Young (Toby’s father) rightly spent much of his political career warning against this dystopian future Toby seems so desperate to create.

One wonders if he knew precisely who he was warning us about.


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