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Fissures and cracks

I think they have been having a day of broody reflection over at the Daily Social Worker.

Peter Mandelson says:

Political projects that fail to renew themselves are soon swept away and deserve to be. That won’t be allowed to happen with New Labour. It is one reason why the progressive governance conference, which starts on Friday, comes at a crucial time for the international centre-left.

Meanwhile, Jeanette Winterson says:

How could we double spending on schools? We could start by abandoning the fetish of higher education, where armies of illiterate, innumerate kids are signed on to courses that are as useless as they are. Why are the kids useless? They haven’t been taught properly in school. Why haven’t they been taught properly in school? No money. So why do we insist on university targets when we aren’t able to educate all children at a basic level?

A far cry from all the smug triumphalism of the late 90’s, isn’t it. And is it just me or do I detect that these people are gripped by a mounting sense of panic? Perhaps even they have have realised that they have run out of ideas and that they need to clutch at something, anything before their entire project unravels.

Or maybe I am reading too much into it.

15 comments to Fissures and cracks

  • “That won’t be allowed to happen with new Labour” does sound a little like Mandie is gritting his teeth, jutting his jaw and thinking that getting swept away is exactly what might happen to New Labour.

    Believe it when the official denials start coming out, as the old saying goes.

  • Interesting, but not suprising, that leftists across the pond are complaining of ‘no money’ for schools. We’re subjected to the same thing in the States, even as the public schools are awash in cash. Just try to pin them down on a figure. How much money, exactly, would be enough?

  • Tony H

    “Why haven’t they been taught properly in school? No money.”
    Bullshit. Or something stronger. These people should be pelted with dung ’til they drop. As a former teacher in a FE college (bit like US community college) I’m here to say the money thing is a total lie – but an awful lot of it is wasted by the sort of lunatic wastrels who end up managing such establishments, the staring-eyed ideologues i/c local education authorities – but most of all by the idiots in government. Education policy tends to be made according to the collective prejudices of ill-informed Cabinet members, of whatever political persuasion. Every few years the whole game changes – to the enormous inconvenience of teachers, to the delight of the shallow managerialist parasites who actually run education (new systems to impose, new jargon to employ), and worst of all, to the detriment of the kids on the receiving end.
    There are a lot of bad teachers (the system encourages this) but also a surprisingly high number of very good ones, who struggle on in spite of the bureaucracy. If it was just a matter of money, they wouldn’t be in the job – but certainly, education could be improved enormously without spending more money.
    I know someone who’s gone back to teaching in rural Africa, horrified by what she found in British schools: the bureaucracy, the waste of money, the atrocious way in which kids were allowed to treat teachers and the apparent inability of her managers to remedy this… I could go on, but it’s making me feel bitter all over again.

  • Jacob

    It is of course not the lack of money for education.
    It is the “progressive” methods of teaching and disciplining (or lack of disciplining) that caused the deterioration of education.
    Above all it’s the conformity and standardization imposed by the central state on the education monopol it controls. It’s the lack of free choice, experimentation, diversity and free competition that destroys the education.
    But central government control is more important to the lefties than the quality of education, and the righties have fully adopted this statist model and don’t offer any alternative.

  • According to this article, the average spending per pupil, in the private and state sectors, is virtually identical. However, in the state sector, only 56% of this money makes it to the school head teachers; the rest goes on the department of education, the local education authorities, and all the other parasites in-between. (There’s another excellent article, here, detailing how some of these parasites bleed the taxpayer.)

    This 44% loss of input money, in the state system, would seem to be reflected in average class sizes, with 30 the norm in the state sector, and 16 the norm in the private sector. The best value the British taxpayer would therefore get, for his money, would be for the entire state system to be abolished, privatised, or handed over to charities, and then for each pupil to be awarded a £5,000 pounds voucher, to be spent on their education where it will.

    Class sizes would be reduced, dramatically, and the hundreds of thousands of Guardian readers, currently loafing in the offices of the state education establishment, would be forced to do something productive with their lives. Rather than phoning their mates all day, filling in forms, coming in late, taking long lunches, going home early, and waiting for their stress-related pension at 55, perhaps they could apply for the hundreds of thousands of new teaching vacancies in the private sector! 🙂

    They’d have to work for a living, for a change, rather than filling in the Guardian’s quick crossword till lunchtime. But you never know, maybe after a while they’d even feel more fulfilled, actually helping to educate a child to their full potential, rather than robbing them of the funds currently spent on their education, by the taxpayer.

    Though I would, of course, continue to select my children’s schools on the basis of how many non-Guardian readers they employed. I don’t mind Guardian readers doing something productive; but not anywhere near the developing minds of my children! 🙂

  • dave fordwych

    All they care about is power ,so they will be gripped by a mounting sense of panic only if there is a credible opposition ready to form a government.

    Kind of answers the question I’m afraid.

  • G Cooper

    David Carr writes:

    “Or am I reading too much into it”

    Definitely not. There is the clear sound of the Left realising it is in deep trouble as ‘the project’ careers off the rails.

    But still the imbecile tacticians of the Left bleat their hymn: ‘It isn’t working – we must do more of it’. In la Winterson’s case, the suggestion that all the money we have thrown at education having failed, we must, therefore, throw yet more at it is quite remarkable, even from someone as legendarily dim as she (for all her pretensions to intellectual greatness).

    Her analysis that the problem stems from early failures isn’t wrong, but the answer isn’t waste more money on it – it is to dispense with the broken notions of the 60’s and 70’s that drive education and get back to the concepts enshrined in the Butler education reforms.

    I heard yesterday a complaint that ‘social mobility’ in the UK is now less common than it was thirty years or more ago. Naturally, the Left refuses to admit the reason for this – despite it staring them in the face.

    Thirty years ago a child could still get a grammar school education which, even if it didn’t confer the accent and connections afforded by a public school, did provide them with at least as good an education and the chance to rise to… well, look at Maggie.

    Making that possible was a primary system that delivered vaguely literate, vaguely numerate kids.

    Today we have neither system in place and are paying the price. Kids cannot move ‘up’ in society (whatever that means when a plumber earns more than a doctor) if they aren’t given the tools to do it.

    So yes, Mr. Carr, the Left is in deep trouble and increasingly they realise it. But they will never find the answer, because to do so means admitting the entire fallacy of their philosophy.

    If it didn’t eat into the fabric of British society like a cancer whenever it waxed, watching the periodic rise and fall of the Left’s influence in this country would be one of the greatest shows on earth.

  • A_t

    G. Cooper… hand little theory, that all the educational problems in the UK are caused by the Left. I take it, if examined, the figures would reflect a raise in standards through the 80s then, what with the eminently-capable right in charge.

    … & if schools have to close gyms, stop music lessons etc. because there’s not enough money for them, how else would you describe this but underfunding? Sure, maybe the money can be freed up by sacking some bureaucrats somewhere further up the line, restructuring unneccessary heirarchies, but that’s not the school’s issue; they’re plain underfunded, full-stop.

    Walter in Denver fails to understand this; in the UK at least, our public schools (in the sensible sense of ‘not private’) are not ‘awash with cash’, wasted or otherwise.

    I utterly agree though, on the futility of many of the stupid tests & targets that have been introduced, which seem to exist principally to make the government look good, & have ‘definite’ figures to present.

  • T. Hartin

    A_t – you might consider that an entrenched left-wing bureaucracy ran the schools even through the Thatcher years, and that Mr. Duncan’s post above documents grotesque waste in the British state schooling system, which appears to be awash in cash for functionaries if not students.

  • S. Weasel

    A whole industry has sprung up in the US selling home kits and private tutoring to teach kids the basics, remedially, using teaching methods that everyone knows are effective: phonics, rote memorization, flash cards. Our schools no longer use these techniques, presumably because they aren’t sexy and interesting. If you’ve had “noble profession” printed on your business cards, it’s a bit of a let-down to find yourself presiding over a roomful of eight-year-olds chanting “…six times five is thirty…six times six is thirty-six…” Even if it works.

  • dave fordwych

    The tragedy of UK education was that for 18 years the right was in power in Whitehall but most local education authorities were controlled by the left.
    Consequently neither could admit what a disaster it was all becoming or effectively criticize the other side.

  • Sage

    I think it can’t be said often enough that an ill-educated populace is exactly what makes the “democratic socialism” of the UK and US systems work. This is no accident.

  • Liberty Belle

    Sage – You are correct. An electorate who never learned thinking and deduction in school, never learned to read to a level higher than basic comprehension and takes its own ignorance as a badge of pride – perfect fodder. I agree with what I think is your point: it didn’t happen by accident.

  • “And is it just me or do I detect that these people are gripped by a mounting sense of panic?”

    It’s not just you. They have. The recent Tory opinion poll figures aren’t going to calm them down either.

  • G Cooper

    A_t writes: “G. Cooper… hand little theory, that all the educational problems in the UK are caused by the Left. I take it, if examined, the figures would reflect a raise in standards through the 80s then, what with the eminently-capable right in charge.”

    I missed this yesterday but can’t let that stand in the way of the obvious refutation.

    One of the great failings of the Thatcher era was that it did not root-out the baleful influence of the Left in education. A fair number of the societal problems we face now are entirely due to the damage done during that decade – and which is still being perpetuated by Leftist and eco-loonie teachers.