Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Attitudes to Education

Among those who take any interest in education and the role the state plays in it, there are a few positions which probably cover most of the ground:

- Education should be completely controlled by the state so that children are only taught what the government of the day wants them to learn (transmitting any of your own values to them is treason against Progress).
- Education should only be done by the state because otherwise wealthy children will have an advantage. The desire to see other people forced to fail rather than aspire to something better yourself is an extraordinarily common mental affliction.
- Education is the responsibility of parents but should be provided by the state etc, and exclusively controlled by it.
- Education is the duty of the state/government/society to all children who want it and can’t get it by other means, and only state education is the business of the government. Probably the middle class default position.
- F*** off and leave my children alone.

Your position on this depends as much on your circumstances and background as it does on your politics. More so, probably, since those who actually have a choice, such as Labour MP's, almost invariably prefer to lay themselves open to charges of hypocrisy than to deprive their children of an opportunity. It would be better still if they did neither, but at least they recognise openly the importance of education, while trying to deny it to others.

Most people who understand the importance of education, which means most of the well-educated and not a few of those who were not so lucky, do everything possible to find the best school for their children, moving house, lying, pretending to be Catholic, and so on. Those who have the money use good private schools, or private tuition as a supplement, and those who have the time and the capability educate their children themselves, rather than trust anyone else to do it. All of this makes perfect sense to anyone who is not blinded by ideology.

State schools exist for those who are not able to provide for their children themselves. It is unlikely in any case that the standard will be as high as a privately bought service, and the politicization of it guarantees this absolutely.

The standard is almost certain to be lower because state schools do not usually attempt to achieve high standards. Their aim is generalised middlingness, and far more effort is spent on finding ways of pretending to attend to those who cannot or do not want to learn than on stopping them from preventing others from learning.

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