Monday 12 September 2005

Universally high standards.

Is there really so little going on in the world that The Guardian needs to manufacture fake news? I mean, look at this:

An acceleration of plans to reform state education, including the speeding up of the creation of the independently funded city academy schools, will be announced today by Tony Blair.

But the increasingly controversial nature of the policy was highlighted when the former education secretary Estelle Morris accused the government of "serial meddling" in secondary eduction.

In an article in tomorrow's Education Guardian she writes ...

This isn't news; this is a trailer. Look, there's nothing wrong with hiring someone to write an opinion piece for your paper. Obviously. But then writing a "news" article about the opinion piece is very annoying. And the headline calls it a "backlash". Right. So, if I write a piece about how I think The Guardian is wrong over, say, Iraq, can I then write another piece saying that there's been a backlash against The Guardian, quoting my first piece as evidence? And can I, the day before I publish either of them, write another piece announcing the "news" that there is about to be a public backlash against The Guardian? Well, yes, I can, but I'm just not quite enough of a self-absorbed dishonest tosser to do so. Sure, I know all the media do it (don't get me started on ITV News making their top story the fact that ITV will be broadcasting a controversial documentary right after the news), but it still pisses me off.

And it's not just the media:

Today, the prime minister will say ...

If you're going to make a speech, make a speech. If you're going to release the text as a press release first so that everyone can read it before you make it, don't bother. Can you imagine? "Later today, Mr Churchill will announce that he believes we will fight the Germans 'on the beaches' and 'in the mountains,' as well as in several other locations."

Anyway, Estelle Morris writes:

"Another round of structural change won't by itself achieve universally high standards. Worse than that it could be a distraction. In five years' time, whose children will be going to these new academies? Will choice and market forces once again squeeze out the children of the disadvantaged?"

Two things. Firstly, who started this idea that structural change would by itself achieve universally high standards? Who, for instance, scrapped the Eleven-plus and destroyed the grammar school system? No, not Estelle Morris, but her party.

OK, so maybe she, like Tony Blair, is willing to admit that the Labour Party have made mistakes in the past; maybe she wishes the grammar schools had never been got rid of, so can hardly be blamed by association for their scrapping. So we should really consider, rather than the historical actions of her party, her own actions as Education Minister.

So, secondly, she did her bit to help destroy foreign language teaching in the UK. Of course, she claimed that this was part of a long-term strategy to improve language teaching — the idea, apparently, is to make languages optional for teenagers but to start teaching them to primary-school children so that kids have their aptitude for languages developed earlier (though quite why the former bad idea is necessary in order for the latter good one to work, she never explained). In other words, she made yet another round of structural change in order to achieve, eventually, she naively hoped, universally high standards. And, short term, she lowered standards.

Compare this with what she's attacking:

However, this will not deter Mr Blair who will point out that in the last academic year the proportion of pupils receiving five good GCSEs in city academies rose by 8 per cent, four times the national average.

These city academies are raising standards, at least comparatively. But Estelle Morris doesn't care whether they work in practice, because she doesn't think they work in theory.

Why would anyone listen to this woman?

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