"SEGREGATION now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever!" was the 1962 campaign slogan of gubernatorial candidate George Wallace. Indeed, a year later, Governor Wallace kept his election pledge to stand at the schoolhouse door and block the registration of African American students into the University of Alabama. President Kennedy, in full "Ich bin eine Alabamian" mode, had decided to ride roughshod over the US constitution by forcing integration down the throats of God-fearing rednecks.
Today, the issue of affirmative action - positive discrimination - has moved from Mississippi to Midlothian. In future, the admission policy to Edinburgh University will take into account factors other than exam passes: school attended, personal qualities and social background. Bright kids from deprived estates will be the winners
The privileged few are outraged at this naked attack on educational elitism. OK, they say, privately educated students may be a tad over-represented at Edinburgh university - 40 per cent of the undergraduates in a country where 6 per cent of the school population attends an independent establishment - but it is educational vandalism to allow white trash with inferior SQA results to matriculate in a traditional university.
God forbid, Hooray Henrys denied places might have to contemplate applying to new universities such as Napier, Paisley and Abertay, Dundee, institutions created to cater for working-class youngsters in the nation’s separate-but-equal higher education policy.
It’s all too, too much for education supremacists. A source has informed me that the KKK (Kookie Korstorphine Klan) aim to make life difficult for sink-school students, placing fiery lacrosse sticks in the front gardens of those who dare challenge bourgeois educational hegemony. Ironically, poor kids will be accused by their classmates of selling out to the snobs, latter day Uncle Tams if you will.
But I have a cunning plan to aid those few youngsters who have achieved despite large class sizes, despite being taught next to emotionally disturbed children, despite being guinea pigs in every new scheme concocted by education professionals seeking promotion.
For males, learn to love rugby. Forget it was a game invented for fat blokes who can’t play football. Wear a rugger shirt to parties and impress independently educated gels by saying: "Yeah, the number nine whacked me full in the face and I said: ‘Watch it sonny!’" On campus, show your rebellious side by dressing in camos and wearing a Peruvian goat herder’s hat . If female, visit a body art salon and have some obscure Sanskrit symbols tattooed onto your navel . Regale your new friends with the joys of gymkhana . Hide the crash helmet worn by your boyfriend when he robbed the local building society to repay your student loan.
To be serious, Edinburgh’s policy isn’t exactly ground-breaking, Lothian neo-liberalism. In Texas, to help overcome the university intake imbalance engendered by de facto segregated schooling, the top ten per cent of every high school is offered a place at its prestigious universities. When governor of Texas George Bush, backed this affirmative action programme.
"Life’s like a box of chocolates, ya jest never know whatcha gonna git," said Forrest Gump. But he was deluded - pictures on the lid makes the choice of chocolates, like the choice of life chances, rather predictable. Those with the first pick select the strawberry cream, while the rest of us make do with the coffee cream.
Edinburgh should be congratulated for thinking outside the box.