Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Counsels Of Despair

Don't despair

Just listened to Humphrys interviewing Hague. Humphrys was much exercised by the Tories' schools plan - in particular, the idea that parents will be allowed to set up their own schools.

"That's a counsel of despair," says Humphrys. "Most parents don't want to have to run their own schools. Surely with all its power, government should be able to provide good state schools for all."

Quite reasonably, Hague replied that if government power was the answer to everything, the Soviet Union would have been a huge success. Humphrys derided that argument as "preposterous".

Which neatly encapsulates the difficulty for those of us who believe choice and competition is the key to improving our public services. Despite all the manifest failures of top down state direction - especially over the last 13 years - the consensus view remains that somehow, in some unspecified way, government must be able to deliver. After a century of big government, Humphrys and millions of others, can't quite wrap their heads around the idea that government really really can't do this stuff.

Is it because they're all thick?

No, Humphrys isn't thick.

Well, is it because they haven't got the facts?

There's more truth in that. While there are plenty of instances of failing public services - picked over by Humphrys and his R4 Today colleagues every single morning - there's very little coverage of successful alternatives overseas (eg see this blog). In general, people don't know about continental-style social health insurance as an alternative to the doomed NHS, or US-style charter schools as an alternative to failing state schools.

But even if people did have the facts - and Today could do us all a favour by reporting them more extensively - would they necessarily vote for change?

Ex-teacher Mrs T reckons most parents will feel very nervous about the revolution Gove's free schools reforms imply. Parents may not like the existing schools provision, but revolution is scary, especially when it's your child's education on the line.

Which is why Gove needs to get on with it as quickly as possible - the new system needs to be given as much time as possible to demonstrate its success before the next election.

What we don't want is wimping around in the face of flak from the unions and derision from an outraged Humphrys. That really would be a counsel of despair.

1 comment:

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