Warning: article contains a photograph. Do not scroll down if you are of nervous disposition or violent temper.
Ed Balls is not the most popular man in British politics. He revolts me. He is a known Brown sycophant, but I think the real reason he is detested is that he plays politics. He is like those people who get involved in the student union, or the committee of their club. The politics is more important than what actually gets done in the job, because the job is trivial, the prestige, the petty power and socialism are everything.
The title of Mr Balls’s article in today's Grauniad, Old Tories In Disguise, is the first sign of despair to all who care about education. It is clearly simply an attack piece against the Conservatives, as if Balls cannot quite believe Labour are in power, and like the press still think of them as opposition. Instead of a positive attitude to dealing with the education system, Balls just wants to use it to beat the hated foe.
The article continues in that vein, meaningless hot air designed only to attack the Conservatives, wrapped in self-satisfied dogma. It is treated as self-evident that government compulsion and guarantees are a good thing, without considering the corollary that freedom and self-reliance are therefore bad.
How can the man in charge of schools use the phrase “…less than 30% of pupils…”? Either he is ignorant of very basic grammar (as is whichever SpAd helped him write the piece) or he can only think of children as statistics, a continuous quantity with no individuals, just an amorphous mass.
I take no responsibility for vomit damage to keyboards, or screens broken by thrown objects.
The piece is also dishonest. Talking about Conservative policy, the so-called ‘Swedish model’, although I can think of far better Swedish models and this policy is used in many other places, he claims that it is going to be more expensive by only considering Sweden.
All I can say is ‘Balls’. Education is already expensive in this country, and the vouchers could save a lot of money, whatever the Swedish experience.
A similar system is more expensive in Washington DC. That is a sop to the unions, because the government guarantees each existing school’s income, so all voucher costs add to the budget. The pupils who get places on the voucher scheme actually cost the state about half what the other pupils do.
Voucher schemes are in place in a growing number of areas of the USA, and not only do the voucher pupils get generally better education, but the ordinary state schools have improved. Costs have not gone up. In fact the only place where the state schools have not improved is in DC, because there is no incentive to keep pupils. So the system that is more expensive is worse for precisely the same reason. That is very strong evidence that Balls is wrong, that voucher programs don’t make state schools worse. Competition makes them better, but Balls cannot admit that because socialism is more important than good education to him, the schools minister.
In fact Sweden has more evidence, in that many planned voucher schools never open because state schools have improved in response to the perceived threat.
So Balls is opposing the voucher scheme, but his stated reasons are nonsense. I have already suggested dogmatic socialism as one of his reasons. This article’s title suggests that pure politics, opposing Conservatives, is another. Of course the unions would hate it, for pure socialism and their members would have to compete, so the Labour paymasters are another reason. It seems the final reason is just power for Mr Balls. This government has concentrated power at every turn, and the article openly opposes any move of decisions from Whitehall even to councils, let alone parents.
The final condemnation of Balls is that objectively education is not improving as he claims. I know from close friend who is an academic, so instinctively left-wing. He interviews and selects students for one of the best universities in the world, has the choice of the very cream of what comes out of our education system. Every year he despairs more than the last, because not only do the students know less (which is a deliberate aim of socialist education, and means his university has already added a year to science degrees) but they are less, rather than more, capable of independent thought and deduction. The supposed aim of new educational structure is to improve those areas.