Friday, 22 August 2014

The real legacy of Gove

One national headline last weekend claimed the A-level results as a triumph for departed Education Secretary Michael Gove.
Well, we can guess which end of the political spectrum that particular paper occupies, can’t we?
The exams were a triumph for all those hard-working students who passed them.
For all those who got into the universities of their choice despite falling slightly short of the target grades set.
And for all the teachers whose professional expertise and dedication got them there.
That all the years of grade inflation have at last been halted is perhaps good news. Especially, maybe, for all of us whose long-ago grades don’t look quite as good now as they were back then.
But the idea (that paper again) that Gove has a “legacy” to be protected will have caused the entire teaching profession to splutter into its cornflakes.
Apart from his obsessive, staggeringly ignorant and nostalgia-imbued tinkering with the curriculum, his most radical “reform” amounted to a rampant privatisation of education.
Or, in the euphemistic terms he employed, “freeing” almost 4,000 secondary schools from local authority control.
And allowing 174 so-called “free schools” to be set up, with no regard for where new schools were actually needed.
The truly devastating thing – and what does indeed make this a legacy of sorts – is that the next government is unlikely to be either able or willing to take back what Gove has given away.
So that – just like what once really was a National Health Service – much of the education system may be lost to the profit motive for a generation or more.
It remains to be seen whether all those teachers who celebrated Gove’s sacking will come to love his successor more. Frankly, I doubt it.
Nicky Morgan’s only apparent qualification for the job is her gender at a time when David Cameron was being pressed to bring more women into the Government.
A qualified solicitor and expert on corporate law, her previous Government roles (only since last October) were in the Treasury and as Minister for Women.
She still has that latter job (who is the Minister for Men?) as well as the education brief, which doesn’t suggest her full attention will be on either.
That may be a blessing in disguise. But don’t expect her to stray far from the lines laid down by Gove.
Like all five of the ministers under her, she went to a private, fee-paying school.
That team line-up hardly bodes well for the care of the state school system.


It’s a distressing fact that each time Israel embarks on the kind of murderous campaign seen lately in Gaza, anti-Semitic attacks in Britain and Europe increase.
Too many people, it seems – particularly the thick and nasty kind – can’t tell the difference between Israel and Jews.
It really shouldn’t need pointing out, but here it is.
Israel is a small country in the Middle East with a right-wing racist government.
Jews are people, most of whom are not Israelis.  Some are right-wing and some are racist, but most aren’t. Pretty much like other people.
A great many of them find the policies of Israel’s government as repugnant as most of the rest of us.
And that – despite some of what you may have seen or heard – applies to many Israelis too.
A minority, possibly, but a substantial minority. And that despite decades of apartheid-style immigration policy.
I can illustrate that policy by my own case.
My Jewish grandmother means I would have been a candidate for Hitler’s death camps.
But I wouldn’t be eligible for Israeli citizenship even if I wanted it. Wrong grandmother.
For Benjamin Netanyahu’s government – and for all those who mistake Israel for the Jewish people – the current grisly conflict contains a huge irony.
So many Jews around the world – particularly in America – are so horrified by what they see in Gaza that their support for Israel is wearing thin.
One slogan from a massive recent Jewish demonstration in New York states it clearly: “Israel is a Zionist state, not a Jewish state”.
If Israel loses the support of America’s Jews enough to lose the support of America, it really is in trouble.
I wouldn’t bet anyone’s life against it.

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