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School head under fire for analogy comparing criticism of fee-paying schools to anti-Semitism

School head under fire for analogy comparing criticism of fee-paying schools to anti-Semitism
The head of a prestigious £12,000-a-term school prompted fierce reactions after suggesting that the bashing of fee-paying schools was similar to the tropes found in anti-Semitic conspiracies.

Anthony Wallersteiner, head of the Stowe school in Buckinghamshire, UK, claimed that students from independent, fee-paying schools were unfairly losing out on places at Oxford and Cambridge universities at the expense of their state-educated counterparts, in an interview with the Times newspaper. He added that many fee-paying parents were now accusing Oxbridge admissions offices of “social engineering” and positive discrimination by limiting the number of successful privately-educated applicants.

Wallersteiner's most controversial comment came, however, in his analogy likening criticism of the private education sector to anti-Semitism. “The rise of populists and polemicists has created a micro-industry in bashing private schools,” he said before noting that their criticisms echoed the “conspiratorial language” found in the notorious fabricated anti-Semitic text, 'The Protocols of the Elders of Zion'. He added that it was easy for Hitler and the Nazis to suggest that Germany's Jewish minority was overrepresented in key jobs such as doctors, lawyers, teachers, and creatives.

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He then suggested that privately-educated pupils in Britain also faced the accusation of “dominating the top jobs and stifling social mobility” before calling it “too facile to stereotype groups and ignore the fact that lawyers, doctors, writers and politicians are individuals.”

However, Wallersteiner's comments were met with criticism that ranged from calling them “idiotic” to pointing out that the situation in reality is the opposite.

“It's surprisingly rare to find a comment so ludicrous, so offensive and so idiotic,” tweeted Stephen Pollard, editor of the UK's Jewish Chronicle newspaper. “You genuinely wonder how the person who made it can possibly survive in their job.”

Others who found the comparison ludicrous also took issue with Wallersteiner's claims of “social engineering,” noting how the UK's top universities have for years been overrepresented by privately-educated applicants. Labour MP David Lammy pointed out that social engineering is in fact not benefiting state school kids.

The furor over upward mobility and the UK's education system is nothing new. Last May, ex-Tory Education Secretary Justine Greening ruffled her party colleague's feathers by suggesting at an event by the education charity Sutton Trust that state school-educated pupils should be hired by companies over Eton-educated pupils with the same grades. In December, a report by the charity slammed Oxbridge for “over recruiting” from eight private schools. The schools provided Oxbridge colleges with 1,310 students over three years. The same period saw just 1,220 students recruited from 2,900 other schools.

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