As Timmy (to whom I am playing host again at present) points out at the ASI blog, we haven't necessarily reached the apeothis of schooling at all, so why remove the mechanism that allows us to test out new methods?
And there is now a surprising amount of agreement across the political spectrum about what constitutes a good school [...] There is widespread recognition of the need for human scale institutions, be it smaller classes and now smaller schools. It's also widely agreed that we need good order in the classroom; more engaging teaching; strong, autonomous heads, and more spending on those with the greatest needs; the so-called "pupil premium".
That these things are now agreed right across the politicl specturm means, according to Ms. Benn, that all schools should thus be like this in one rigid system. Which is to miss one of the basic reasons why we have markets at all: they're the way that we can have innovation, the way that people can try new things and see what works.
Exactly the same is true of schools and education: it's the height of hubris to assume that we, now, have had the revelation denied to all previous generations as to how a perfect school system should be run, that those who follow us will not devise better methods. And for them to test what may or may not work we need a market in alternative methods of education organisation rather than one huge system devised from the centre.
Additionally, however, Melissa Benn does not even understand the system that she is talking about—I know that she's a journo, but one would hope that she could do some basic research.
The failure of our schools is not down to the alleged eccentricities of the National Spelling Society (whatever that is) or the marking system of the QCA or the fact that not enough students wear stripey ties and blazers or study Cicero.
Balls to the schools: they actually aren't important. We aren't talking about the failure of schools themselves, we are discussing the failure of those schools to educate children. It is the education that is important: schools are merely the (most common) delivery method.
(As it happens, whilst Cicero was a bit of a bore, I happen to think that the learning of Latin is a worthwhile thing: it is an incredibly useful language in many different ways. But, I shouldn't, of course, have the power to force children to learn it: that should be up to the parents.)
So, having established that education is failing in the public sector, Melissa's argument is that the public sector should emulate private schools and then shut all of the private schools down. Brilliant! Let's carry on with the failed part of the education system, and destroy the successful part!
Because, you see, darling Melissa doesn't have the first fucking clue about private education. Let me take you through the salient points.
In every town and city, but most sharply in the big cities, children are separated, largely along lines of social class, at the age of 11, often earlier. We have a pyramid of educational provision with the well funded private schools at the top, and many struggling local schools at the bottom. Parents are left to scramble for their own places in the hierarchy, using whatever resources they have in their possession, be it money, religious faith, private tutoring or sheer desperation.
Right. So, we have established the idea that parents do, in fact, care about their children's education, right? They are willing to spend vast amounts of time and money to ensure a decent education. Good. Now we can proceed.
David Cameron should talk to the incensed parent I met earlier this week who wants to start a local campaign called end "educational apartheid" in her neighbourhood; there are thousands like her, profoundly angry not just at the deep divisions in the system, but the political silence that surrounds these divisions.
There is no political silence here, Melissa: it is only champagne socialist morons like you who try to close down debate, you know.
Look, the parents want better education for their children; the entity that does everything that it possibly can to stop them achieving that aim is the state—the near monopoly education provider.
It isn't the parent who decides whether or not their child should learn Latin, for instance, but the state. And if the state decides that they shall not, then they shall not. Further, the state then prevents the parents moving their children to a school that does tech Latin—and the council uses RIPA to enforce this lack of choice.
Tinkering with the structures that serve the poorest communities, in effect replacing community comprehensive schools with privately run academies, is not going to effect real change. Nor is suggesting that hard pressed or highly motivated parents or both group together to create yet more institutions that will only confuse the picture.
Quite right: none of it is going to change whilst the state uses the law to forbid parents any kind of real choice. The state prevents parents from choosing the school that they want to send their children to and, through the National Curriculum, it effectively forbids schools from educating the children as it sees most fit to do so.
Do you get it, Melissa, you fucking moron? The enemy here is the fucking state because it reduces choice. Do you get it, you fuckwit? All of the changes that we have seen in the public system have merely given the illusion of choice, introducing massive costs whilst stifling the real choice that might provide tangible benefits (and the same applies to the NHS, for that matter).
Anyone serious about social justice, should stand back and argue that now is a time for a fresh start. That in a proud, self-confident, modern democracy, all children, rich or poor, raised in heart of rural England or in the most rundown parts of the inner city, should have access to exactly the same educational chances. Education should be free...
Why? Because you say so? If people want to pay for their children's education—sorry, if they want to pay directly as well as through their taxes for their children's education—why the fuck should they not be able to do so?
... and uniformly excellent.
Well, chance'd be a fine thing. But that is not going to happen whilst the state controls the educational agenda, you twat: why will you not see this? The falling standards in our schools are not because schools are getting inherently worse—with all of the money that Labour have shovelled in, they should be a lot better—but because the government sets the educational agenda.
The reason that universities and employers are complaining about the shoddy fucking standards of those with a billion As at A Level are not because the schools are getting any worse at teaching—it is because the government has changed the emphasis of educational attainment from knowledge to empathy.
I shall spell it out for you again, you stupid bitch: the state is the problem, not the schools.
Yes, you silly cow: it is. Nothing is free, for starters.
Politically unthinkable? Well, no. It would not be the first time that the Tories took on vested interests when it suited them. After all, it was middle-class fury at the inequities of the grammar schools that paved the way for Tory support for comprehensive reform in the 60s and 70s.
Good. So, we'll go for the Swedish system, shall we? Oh no, not Melissa...
And there is now a surprising amount of agreement across the political spectrum about what constitutes a good school. Selection may run rife in our current system, but no mainstream politician on left or right will publicly advocate it. Tory proposals on school admissions may still be a little hazy, but the party have come round to all-ability schools. Social class is no longer seen as an excuse for educational failure.
Really? Perhaps you should tell Snuffy that. Hey, Snuffy, you can stop your fighting for the kids now: Melissa has decreed that "social class is no longer seen as an excuse for educational failure". Everybody say "yay!" "Yaahay!"
As for her assertion that "there is now a surprising amount of agreement across the political spectrum about what constitutes a good school"—well, this is bollocks.
There isn't even a consensus across the private sector as to what constitutes a good school. Master Worstall, having been brought up a Catholic, went to a Catholic-oriented school; I did not. My school placed a massive emphasis on activities undertaken outwith the classroom (to the extent that you were likely to be dealt with far less harshly for any transgression than someone who did not). As it happens, I spent a lot of time in the art schools; a private school that I did work for in Edinburgh had almost no art facilities but placed a massive emphasis on sporting prowess.
So, what consensus does Melissa think has been achieved?
There is widespread recognition of the need for human scale institutions, be it smaller classes and now smaller schools.
Um... OK, Melissa. So, what sort of size are we looking at? I went to Eton which had 1300 pupils: for the first three years, the main class that I was in had no fewer than 22 pupils (and in one year, more than that).
So, perhaps you would like to set a level?
It's also widely agreed that we need good order in the classroom; more engaging teaching; strong, autonomous heads, and more spending on those with the greatest needs; the so-called "pupil premium".
Look, love: if you have good order in the classroom, then the size of the class matters increasingly little. The point is that how you achieve good order is rather more tricky.
(The first step towards this is streaming: when people are in a class of similar ability, then they are more likely to learn along with the others. This is, of course, going to require some sort of selection.)
And "strong, autonomous heads" would also be a good step forward, but you are not going to get those whilst the state and the LEAs retain a stranglehold on both the curriculum and the fucking funding. Do you understand that, Melissa? Do you?
As existing economic structures break down, new possibilities open up. Suddenly, the fairness that seemed so impossible in a supposedly more stable era, seems reachable. That's how the welfare state was created, after all.
Indeed. And the welfare state has been a massive fucking failure, so can we move towards a proper system of choice now? Look, massive and sudden decisions are, in cases of society, usually failures because they have unforeseen circumstances: allowing choice tends not to because people gravitate, over time and in an evolutionary process, towards the best possible solution for them.
You never know; when ex-city employees can no longer pay for their children's private education or cuts in public spending further deplete local schools, public anger and anxiety might just facilitate a cross party consensus and create a national education system of such quality and fairness, some might ask, what took us long?
Ah, yes: let's employ a bit of envy, shall we? Instead of sticking up your hand and saying, "yes, the state has made an utter fuck-up of the education system and we, the commentariat, encouraged them in this and we are sorry", Melissa and her ilk prefer to point at those who would opt out of said system and, faces contorted with hate, scream, "look! Look! Look at those bastards! They have shiny beads and you don't! Quick, string them up, the evil people, and you too shall have shiny beads!"
Fuck you, Melissa, you evil fucking moron: since you have established that parents do give a crap about their children's education, how about you let those parents make the choices, rather than dictating to them from your ivory tower, you hideous little shit?
Here is the educational reform that we should be seeing (and no, this is not what the Tories are offering):
- Abolish the LEAs.
- Abolish the National Curriculum.
- Give the parents a voucher to the value of the education spending. Having abolished the LEAs, this will have about a third more value than current spending.
- Privatise all schools and let anyone who wishes to set up a school.
- Allow al schools to compete. This means that you must also...
- Abolish the concept of catchment areas.
- Allow schools to set their own entry criteria.
And, finally (or firstly), abolish Melissa Benn and her piss-poor evaluations of an education system that she knows fuck all about. The fucking tosspot.