Traditionally, New Pragmatists embrace resistors

12th September 1997 at 01:00
Are the British becoming both less Christian and more spiritual? This trend, noted by some observers in the reaction to the death of the Princess of Wales, seems to be borne out by a survey of social attitudes carried out by the University of Leeds. This found that British people were turning away from science and towards the spiritual, but that Christianity was losing out to alternative religions and non-religious belief systems.

The report on the survey of 8,000 adults described the emergence of four social groups, which cut across income and social class: the powerless Resistors, the fashion-following Embracers, the liberal Pragmatists and the contented Traditionalists. Good news for William Hague, among whose supporters most of the happy Traditionalists are numbered. Not so good for Tony Blair, since the insular, homophobic, uncharitable, heavy-smoking and astrologically-inclined Resistors tend to vote Labour. But they're Old Labour, presumably; all those Embracers and Pragmatists must be New Labour.

Grown-ups may not believe in God but nearly all 9 to10-year-olds do, according to a survey of pupils in five state schools in The Daily Telegraph. However, belief starts to weaken by the age of 13 (along with the desire to have tea with the Queen). These mostly middle-class 9 to13-year-olds get a lot of pocket money: an average of Pounds 3.50 a week. But they don't get much sleep; three-quarters of the 9 to10-year-olds go to bed after 9pm in term-time.

If a survey of even younger pupils by the Halifax is anything to go by, those pre-teens are building up nest-eggs rather than splashing their weekly income on alcopops.The survey of 6 to 9-year-olds found that two-thirds of them saved some or all of their pocket money, which averaged Pounds 1.67.

The flipside of the Nineties boom was starkly shown when the Coventry Children's Boot Fund revealed that demand for help with buying back-to-school shoes had reached Thirties levels. Department of Social Security figures show that, by European definitions of poverty - families with less than half the average income - one in three British children now live on the breadline.

As the poor have become poorer, the gap between their life expectancy and that of the rich has grown. Life expectancy for people in the lower social classes has stopped rising for the first time in peacetime Britain since Victorian times, Government statisticians said this week. And the poor are likely not only to have shorter lives but also to suffer ill-health and disability.

Children in the lowest social class are more likely to suffer from chronic sickness and, as they grow up, are twice as likely to die from accidents or suicide as those in the top social group.

Even the poorest children, however, have access to computers. A survey by Olivetti found that Britain was the only country to have at least one computer in every primary school. In fact, British primary schools had on average 10 computers each and a ratio of one for every 18 pupils, compared with one per 500 in Germany.

Among the bewildering number of distinguished people who have died in the past 10 days is Hans Eysenck, the most prolific - and most widely read - British psychologist of recent decades. Professor Eysenck was vilified in the 1970s for championing Arthur Jensen's belief that IQ differences between blacks and whites might be partly genetic.

But the man some students labelled a Nazi racist had himself fled Nazi Germany in disgust. A lifelong opponent of Freudian psychoanalysis, which he considered unscientific, Eysenck's greatest contribution to psychology was in the measurement and definition of personality. "Extroversion" and "introversion", for instance, were terms he coined.

Schools may soon resound not to the shrieks and jeers of out-of-control children but to the elegant trills of Mozart. Research reported to the British Educational Research Association in York this week (see pages 10-11) found that calming background music improved children's performance. Where furniture shops lead, can schools be far behind?

Log-in as an existing print or digital subscriber

Forgotten your subscriber ID?


To access this content and the full TES archive, subscribe now.

View subscriber offers


Get TES online and delivered to your door – for less than the price of a coffee

Save 33% off the cover price with this great subscription offer. Every copy delivered to your door by first-class post, plus full access to TES online and the TES app for just £1.90 per week.
Subscribers also enjoy a range of fantastic offers and benefits worth over £270:

  • Discounts off TES Institute courses
  • Access over 200,000 articles in the TES online archive
  • Free Tastecard membership worth £79.99
  • Discounts with Zipcar,, Virgin Wines and other partners
Order your low-cost subscription today