There are two main strands in English education — indeed, in the educational thinking of Western Europe — which have had a profound influence on our educational system and its relation to social class. One of these strands is academic and seen at its most esoteric in la culture générale in France. Originally concerned mainly with classical learning, it has gradually broadened to cover the whole field of arts and sciences. It has come to be identified with the idea of learning for its own sake, and therefore to be thought different in kind from the other main strand: the need to learn in order to qualify for a job, or vocational learning. The notional distinction is still alive in England. Thus a former Deputy Secretary at the Department of Education and Science, Toby Weaver, speaking at the 1976 North of England Conference, was reported as follows: ‘He described the basis of the polytechnics as improving the capacity of their students to take action. By contrast the orientation of the universities was towards the pursuit of learning for its own sake.’16
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