Lord Young of Dartington

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Biographical Information

THE LORD YOUNG OF DARTINGTON (1915-2002), "in 1929, he found himself at the recently-established Dartington Hall in Devon... Young got his degree at the London School of Economics and was called to the Bar, though he did not practise. Instead he joined Political and Economic Planning, the non-party think-tank and research body first conceived at Dartington in 1931 by "people who were determined," as he wrote later, "that something should be done to relieve the miseries of the world." He became its director in 1941... In 1945 he began a six-year stint as secretary of the Labour party's research department, and rapidly became identified as a bright star of the intellectual Left. In 1945, he drafted the manifesto Let us Face the Future, which helped bring Labour to power.

"A political career beckoned, but he decided on sociology instead, taking a course at Chicago to learn how to do it. He first made his mark as a social scientist with the publication in 1957 of Family and Kinship in East London... But it was The Rise of the Meritocracy, published a year later, that really put Young on the map. This was a satirical history of British society from 1870 to 2033, and it did a lot to persuade educationists that the 11-plus exam ought to be abolished, arguing that the grammar school system established a pecking order even more divisive than the old class-based system had been - dividing society by IQ instead of by wealth...

"In 1958, Young also founded the Consumers' Association... All this time he was directing the Institute of Community Studies in Bethnal Green, launched in 1953, from which emanated many projects over the years, and where he was still to be found, still working, 47 years later... The Consumers' Association was followed in 1960 by the Advisory Centre for Education; with its magazine Where?... Though ACE had no educational policy, its founder's own views on education were much influenced by Dartington. They were set out in his 1965 book Innovation and Research in Education, which proposed that schools, rather than educating the young, should be "living laboratories for research", the research being carried out by pupils and teachers alike, with parents allowed in to help...

"But his most memorable contribution to the education system was undoubtedly the University of the Air, as Harold Wilson called it when he mooted the idea in September 1963. Wilson gave himself the kudos, but Young had already proposed an Open University - the phrase was his - a year earlier, in an autumn issue of Where?, and set up a prototype, the National Extension College in Cambridge, a full five years before the OU opened... Tony Crosland, then Secretary of State for Education, favoured Young for the vice-chancellorship of the Open University itself when it eventually got its charter in 1969, but the suggestion was blocked by the Arts Minister, Jennie Lee, who asked him to be pro-Vice-Chancellor. Young declined, but gave her full credit for getting the machine off the ground. He was among the first to be given an honorary degree by it in 1973.

"Other initiatives which owed their existence wholly or largely to Michael Young include the University of the Third Age, or U3A, founded in 1982, the Open College of the Arts (1988), a National Association for the Education of Sick Children (1993), a National Funerals College (1994) to protect mourners from exploitation and to give more dignity to the rituals of death, a Family Covenant Association (1994) for promoting a secular form of baptism, and the School for Social Entrepreneurs (1997), a business school for the voluntary sector, partnered by charities such as Oxfam and Amnesty International...

"Young was made a life peer during James Callaghan's administration, in 1978. He later became a founder-member of the SDP and was its education spokesman in the Lords, having become suspicious of Labour's centrist tendencies. His disenchantment had really begun 20 years earlier, when he had published a pamphlet, The Chipped White Cups of Dover, accusing the party of having lost its progressive thrust. But he returned to Labour in 1989.

"His first marriage, later dissolved, was to Joan Lawrence, who bore him two sons and a daughter. In 1960 he married Sasha Moorsom, the novelist, poet, artist and BBC producer once described as "Cambridge's Zuleika Dobson", by whom he had a son and a daughter. A joint collection of their poetry, Your Head is Mine, was published soon after her death in 1993. In 1995, aged 80, he married the 37-year-old Dorit Uhlemann; their daughter was born in 1996. " [1]

Industrial Psychology

In 1948 Michael wrote a party pamphlet called Industiral Democracy. In this: “Michael fell back on his experiences both at Dartington and at Swindon, while anticipating what he would argue later after he had spent time at the Tavistock Institute of Human Relations where the psychology of industrial relations was a major preoccupation. So also was 'the dynamics of family relationships'. The Institute, supported by many foundations, beginning with Rockefeller, had been created after the war as a 'sister organisation' of the Tavistock Clinic, founded in 1920.

"One of the writers who influenced Michael most at this time was the American psychologist, Elton Mayo, whom he got to know on a visit to England, Mayo's daughter was commissioned by PEP to do fieldwork for a British study, leading up to a PEP pamphlet The Human Factor in Industry. The conclusion of the Hawthorne experiment which Mayo carried out in a Westinghouse plant..." [2]

Resources and articles

Related Sourcewatch


  1. telegraph.co.uk Lord Young of Dartington, organizational web page, accessed March 29, 2012.
  2. Asa Briggs, Michael Young: Social Entrepreneur (Palgrave Macmillan, 2001), p.82.