Gracchi writes that education should be about more than economics. He is absolutely right.
I went to a comprehensive school. I'm not going to tell you a sob story. It was in a nice town in Hertfordshire and I was never stabbed, no one tried to sell me drugs and I emerged with no serious personality defects I'm aware of. My school wasn't remarkably good or remarkably bad. It was pretty average. I'm middle class enough that I was never in any real danger of dropping out anyway.
However, in my time at LSE and since I've met people, Gracchi one of them, who went to the very best public schools. Some of the best in the country. They are much better educated than I am. I can see the truth in what Gracchi is saying in what I miss, the benefits that I might have taken from a better education and really wish I could enjoy.
I don't miss the exam results. I did pretty well, well enough to get into the LSE. While I could certainly have done better it seems an increasingly minor issue now I've entered work and am proving my ability more directly.
I don't miss the skills. When I arrived at LSE I had, despite having done no end of supposedly high-quality coursework, no real idea how to write and structure an essay. In other ways I definitely had a lot to learn of the basic skills required to be a successful student. That meant a lot of catching up in my first year. However, it doesn't seem likely to prove important in the long-term.
What I really miss is the broader education that those from a really good private school have enjoyed. I am absolutely certain I spent too much time being taught to the test. Not because my teachers were lazy or inept. I think they were generally very good and a few I have very fond memories of. Some of them had little else to offer but I think most taught to the test because the system created an imperative for them to prioritise the narrow understanding required to reach an adequate standard for exams instead of taking the longer, but ultimately far more rewarding, route that treats exams as important but not the central "point" of a really good education.
As a result I just haven't had the same broad exposure and introduction to subjects beyond the exam, to the broader current of human knowledge, that many public school students have. I labour at remedying this but I'm starting from quite a distance behind.
Now, it might seem that my support for a broad education which puts non-economic priorities at its heart contradicts my support for school choice, extending a market in education. After all, aren't markets supposed to kill or corrupt our higher instincts, isn't the vulgarity of the market supposed to diminish everything outside of the "cash nexus"?
Clearly not. Private schools, that need to attract fee-paying students to survive, are the ones that offer that broad education. When parents are given the choice right now over how their children are educated they choose the broad education with non-economic benefits that they do value. While some might say that this is only due to the character of the particular group of parents who are choosing right now I think it speaks to something deeper in most parents' aspirations for their children.