We know that sporting talent will be randomly distributed among the 700,000 babies born every year.
Is this some ignorance of genetics from Will Hutton? We would rather expect that sporting talent will be more common in those born to parents with sporting talent, wouldn’t we?
This matters. There is growing concern that too much of Britain’s elite sport is occupied by athletes educated at private schools: for example, 41 % of the medals won at the 2012 Olympics went to the privately educated. We know that sporting talent will be randomly distributed among the 700,000 babies born every year. Yet the British system ensures that it will be those lucky enough to be born into households rich enough to educate them privately that will have the best chance to lift their natural sporting ability to Olympic standards. By any moral code, this is not fair, but beyond morality this is a huge squandering of talent.
And the entire idea there is flawed because it’s not looking at the entirety of sport. Agreed, those born into wealthier families are more likely to, if they have the requisite talents, shine on horseback or in rowing. But how many middle class or upper middle class footballers are there? Class (or income, not the same thing in the UK, obviously) might well influence which sport the talented pick up but that isn’t the same as saying that the underprivileged do not have an opportunity in all sports.
The same is true of intellectual and academic ability. The Sutton Trust reports that four private schools and one sixth form college in Cambridge send as many students to Oxbridge as nearly 2,000 state schools. Are we to believe that native academic ability is uniquely concentrated in the children of parents rich enough to afford to pay the fees (or live in the catchment area of Hills Road sixth form college, Cambridge)?
Genetics again Will. For yes, we do rather think that the children of all of those Cambridge academics have something of a leg up in intelligence. For intelligence is indeed inheritable (with regression to the mean etc). And even if you want to insist that intelligence is randomly distributed (something which it cannot be for if it were it would never have emerged in the first place) then yes, we’d still expect that children growing up in the groves of academe are going to do quite well in academe.
Actually, there could be a fascinating paper in this. Why don’t the Oxford schools display the same results? Are the catchment areas different, there being no one school that gets all the professors’ kids? Are more privately educated in Oxford?