Ignorance can be exploited and superior groups have the power to determine who gets any or what kind of education. Beveridge seized on this as one of the five giants that threatened to prevent Britain from becoming a safe and decent place to live.
Education across the UK has been transformed since the immediate postwar period. The majority of school-leavers are literate and numerate to varying degrees. Girls are given the same education opportunities as boys and efforts and attention is paid to those with special needs and learning difficulties. However, legacies of different schooling systems and different payment systems have led to the persistence of social inequalities, entrenching them in society and perpetuated by the power dynamics that it creates between class, race and gender. The mania for testing, targets, choice and competition, the tinkering with school structures and the part-privatisation of the system has made schools into a marketplace rather than a place of learning. Young people have become consumers rather than citizens sharing learning and the democratic values needed to prevent the ignorance that Beveridge described as "the evil weed, which dictators may activate among their dupes, but which no democracy can afford".
Sally Tomlinson traces our trajectory from the ignorance of the early twentieth century to the dangers that current educational approaches pose for our future citizens.
Sally Tomlinson is Emeritus Professor at Goldsmiths University and an Honorary Fellow in the Education Department at Oxford University. She has held professorial chairs at the universities of Lancaster and Swansea. Her most recent books are Rule Britannia: Brexit and the End of Empire (with Danny Dorling) (2019) and Education and Race from Empire to Brexit (2019).