A nation riven by aspiration

The concept of ambition has become distorted by its relationship with social mobility, argues Michael Merrick, with the university obsession risking disenfranchising students from a working-class background

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Aspiration has become quite the fashion in education. It appears to be the solution to everything from a lack of social mobility to poor discipline, from dreary school culture to boys’ underachievement. And we might say that, in so far as it draws distinctions between good and bad choices, it has value.

However, it soon gets a little more complicated. Because, as aspiration is often presented, one discerns at its heart the presumption of a certain set of outcomes, which broadly align with the goals of social mobility in general. Why else would a school announce that it aspires for all its ...

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