Wednesday, February 04, 2004

Who Can He Mean ?

So anyway, Anthony Seldon, headmaster of Brighton College, East Sussex, points out the basic hypocrisy of Leftoids who slam parents who go private while pulling an Alan B'stard with the state system to get their kids into top schools. I'll second that - after all, the Left's argument against private education relies on dippy arguments about 'the rich' using up all the good education so ordinary people have to study French military victories or something yet, as far as state schools go, every Liberal's kid that gets into a functioning school by subterfuge really does mean one more good kid on the scrapheap at Winston Silcott Comprehensive.

What's more, Tony follows this up by suggesting means tested tuition fees for schooling. The University fees boosters always make a big point of the supposed logic of their position, so it raises an interesting question. I didn't agree with them at Uni level, I don't agree with them here either, but for those who did agree with Uni fees: what's the diff ? Really ?

It's just a pity that Tony immediately jumps the shark. His justification for fees is this: 'parents who paid fees are more likely to take an active interest in their children's schooling'. There's the obvious objection that he confuses cause and effect: parents who scrimp and save to give their kids a good education are bound to be those who place a high value on education. But there's a deeper problem this idea exposes. Take this quote from Seldon:

Fee-paying parents demand a good service, and are closely involved in schools.
"Research shows that the more involved parents are, the better the performance of the school."

Teachers keep babbling on about how they're professionals, much like brain surgeons, only more talented. Yet every time the wheels come off it's because of the parents. Of course. Never mind that the head teacher of a comp pulls down £70 000 pa, the real problem is that police officers, nurses and entrepreneurs don't spend enough of their free time doing his job for him. So which teaching profession are we talking about anyway ? Is it the elite group of professionals or the group of hapless idiots who seemingly can't have lunch without parents cutting up their sandwiches for them ?

I could point out that parents already pay through the nose for Big Education via the tax system but, more than that, what is this about demanding good service ? The whole system is designed to insulate our hippy-dippy non-teaching profession from the people who pay their wages. How exactly can a parent 'demand a good service' ? Seemingly, to judge by the statistics on violence, it does no good for a parent to demand a safe environment for their kids let alone anything more ambitious.

This is where we came in. Seldon's customers can demand a good service because they can up stakes if they don't get it. Our Soviet style state system is designed to prevent anyone having that choice. Children are divided up amongst the cartel like slaves being split amongst the victors of some ancient battle. So parents try and fiddle the system to ensure the best for their kids ? How evil! They should be happy to play Russian Roulette with their kids education.

Parents are supposed to feel guilty about administering a sly tilt to a system which yearly condemns thousands of kids to a lifetime of underachievement (and usually five years of violence as well) ? Hello ? This isn't Vietnam or the Somme. Your country doesn't need your kids. Just let the bad schools sink already. There's no upside to our current system of commissars and cartels - unless you're some workshy, soap-dodging, drug-sodden, activist New-Age freak going through the motions until the Revolution comes. Take this quote from OFSTED's latest effusion:

Mr Bell said it was encouraging that fewer comprehensives had unsatisfactory behaviour - but the conduct of some pupils, especially boys, "remains a serious concern for many".

"Unwillingness to listen, to concentrate and to get on with their work continues to cause disturbance and to hinder learning," he reported.

To paraphrase the old line about the GDR, maybe the teachers should fire the pupils and hire some new ones. Boys make up half the population, schools aren't serving their needs and that proves the lads have a problem ? Arrogant, much ? Can anyone imaging Ford responding to a fall in sales to women by announcing that girls are stupid ?

Education is the Jurassic Park of modern Britain, where one can hear the authentic sound of 1970s nationalised industries. Our non-education system needs the same treatment British industry required back in the Eighties: none whatsoever. Enough with the bureaucracy and the blather and the avoidance mechanisms. Give the public real choice. Successful schools should be allowed to expand as big as they want. Failing schools should be killed with a shovel. That's it, that's all you need. Competition and the action of the market will do the rest.

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