Georgia L. Gilholy: The Government has no business coercing my generation into getting the vaccine

27 Jul

Georgia L. Gilholy is a Young Voices UK contributor.

Despite what David Icke and Kate Shemirani might have shrieked in Trafalgar Square on Saturday, Covid-19 is very much a real disease.

It has been responsible for many thousands of deaths across the world, and thus the UK’s speedy vaccine scheme, now capable of inoculating almost every age group, is a good thing.

Of course, it makes sense that the elderly and those with health conditions that make them especially vulnerable to the disease are sensible to take the vaccine. Likewise, anyone who sees fit should be able to choose to access it, including young people. I myself have taken the first dose, admittedly for the purposes of convenience rather than concern for my health, as I will likely be required to travel internationally either for work or because I would very much like to see a close friend of mine who lives abroad.

However, it makes zero sense to blackmail young, healthy people – who have less chance of dying from the disease than from a surprise accident – into taking the vaccine, or risk being barred from attending university and any other indoor public place worth the effort of leaving one’s front door for. 

If the Government is willing to essentially deprive young people of their freedoms for the sake of “protecting” them from an infinitesimal chance of death, why not deprive them of their liberty if they do not have jabs for various other diseases, many of which are much more dangerous? Why not require breathalyser tests before driving?

It is up to the individual whether they are injected with a certain medicine, and it is not the Government that is absolutely unjustified in forcing inoculation against a largely low-risk disease. If the vaccine is effective, it is unlikely that a segment of healthy, unvaccinated individuals risk the rest of the population through passing on the disease, or indirectly by overwhelming health services.

This kind of Government overreach is likely to increase rather than mitigate so-called vaccine hesitancy, especially in the case of groups highly unlikely to suffer adversely from the virus. Threatening young people to “take the vaccine or else!” sets the groundwork for reducing confidence in the Government’s rationale, and thus emboldens the “this is all just a conspiracy to inject us with 5G” crowd.

People must be persuaded by arguments, and not by un-personing the unvaccinated via a Chinese-style social credit system of vaccination passports, and tracking our behaviour through digital identity cards. If people are offered a vaccine that they see as necessary, especially if it is free, they will take it. It is as simple as that. 

While far too many people are ambivalent about such measures, or even see them as an understandable way of improving public health, they are a danger to society. The reality is that once the precedent has been set for such life-altering invasions into our privacy, there is generally no going back, and such systems are obviously ripe for far more sinister purposes than handing out free vouchers because we bought a salad instead of a pizza.

This is not about improving lives. It is about control. If the Government was really concerned with what is “best” for young people, and thus the future of society as a whole, it would perhaps focus on the fact that we are already in the grip of a mental health crisis that has reaped devastating impacts on the young.

80,226 more children and young people were referred to Children and Young People’s Mental Health Services between April and December last year, up by 28 per cent in 2019, to 372,438. According to the Office for National Statistics, almost one in 14 people aged 16 or over in Great Britain report being lonely, up 40 per cent since spring 2020. 

Our priority should be getting all of us, especially young people out and about, regardless of whether they have been vaccinated or not. Blackmailing us to get jabbed or stay inside as we already have done for the best part of two years, is surely more dangerous than us wandering around unvaccinated.

Georgia L. Gilholy: Eton’s new sixth-form colleges will do little to promote social mobility

2 Jul

Georgia L. Gilholy is a Young Voices UK Associate Contributor. She writes about foreign policy, religion and culture for UnHerd, CapX, City AM, the Salisbury Review and others.

Last weekend Eton College announced its “unprecedented” partnership deal with “Star Academies”, the Blackburn-based educational trust responsible for the running of 30 free schools and academies in some of the most deprived areas of England.

The trust, whose schools have gained accolades for their high rates of “pupil progress”, was the brainchild of recently-knighted Sir Hamid Patel who originally kickstarted it as a small chain of Muslim schools.

The Eton-Star deal pact will involve the centuries-old public school funnelling hundreds of thousands of pounds into three spanking new sixth forms, across several currently unspecified locations in Northern England.

The Times has revealed that the schools will all be “highly selective” in terms of academic requirements, and will focus on recruiting pupils who live in particularly deprived areas or are on free school meals. They have promised to blend “Eton’s educational philosophy and rigorous curriculum”, namely intimate seminar-style classes, with the “ethos and approach” that has already served Star Academies well.

No doubt these schools will transform the lives of many of those lucky enough to gain a place. Unfortunately, many of the critics of private schooling have long been blind to the tremendous good that the altruism of many fusty old institutions such as Eton routinely spread via generous scholarships, bursaries, and partnerships with comprehensive schools.

More importantly, many well-meaning advocates of the comprehensive ethos, such as the late Baroness Shirley Williams, who consistently demonstrated a genuine concern for the disadvantaged and oppressed, have clung to it like dogma precisely because it is just that, and not because it has demonstrably improved social mobility as grammar schools once did.

This one-size-fits-all system has abandoned working-class children to an anti-talent culture and severely diminished curriculum, while as per usual, the elites responsible for these decisions (including Williams herself) ensure that their own offspring are well-catered for.

Yet given that the selection for these schools, and indeed other such colleges across the country, takes place at 16, the wider impact is negligible. Those selected for these schools will be those who have already managed to achieve decent grades in less than desirable circumstances. Many are not able to do so, and therefore never fully realise their potential.

At age 16 children have already sat their GCSE exams, the only grades (aside from predicted ones) now taken into account in university applications since AS levels were scrapped in 2015. In other words, the overwhelming chunk of the children seeking to gain admission to these and other such prestigious sixth forms will have already largely sealed their educational fate.

Moreover, this framework unveils the outright hypocrisy of our laws. Why is it illegal or even immoral to select by academic ability from 16 and above, but not from 11 or 13, ages when it is still early enough to turn things around for most kids?

Of course, this is not to say that GCSEs or in fact any exams are the be-all and end-all of life. Many people’s skillsets lie outside of academics. Plenty, though an increasingly small number, of us, prefer to move straight into employment, and may return to education later in life or not at all. Neither of these options signifies failure.

But this is far from just a personal issue, it is one with national and even global implications. If we expect children from deprived backgrounds to achieve the same level of academic success, within the same timeframe, as their middle and upper-middle-class peers, namely through admission to the best universities, it is simply not good enough to expect the private sector to “top up” the education of a handful once they have already sat their most critical set of exams.

At a time in the international power balance when democratic societies such as Britain urgently need to harness their talent and expertise, our education system has been degraded into a shell of what it ought to represent, leaving one in 20 of us functionally illiterate, and in which most opportunities are decided by our postcodes or the “bank of Mum & Dad” rather than our talent.

This is not to blame our woeful education system for all cultural and socioeconomic ills. The instability wrought by widespread family breakdown, in particular, is at the heart of the damaging cycle of deprivation in many traditionally working-class communities across the country. However, if we are not even willing to offer the next generation a stable, rigorous education system that affords as many as possible the chance to break the cycle, they will not.