In an after dinner speech in the US to the annual conference of the right leaning Foundation for Excellence in Education, England’s Education Secretary Michael Gove made an analogy between schools and airlines. “Imagine” he said “that you had a choice not of schools, but of airlines. There is Test Airlines, very rigorous, and there is Warm and Fuzzy Airlines. What’s the difference between the two? In Test Airlines they actually insist that the pilots have passed a test so that they can fly a plane. How old-fashioned can you get?
“At Warm and Fuzzy Airlines, they don’t bother with these tests to see if pilots can fly. They just concentrate on all of the pilots giving the customers a warm and fuzzy feeling as soon as they get on board. Which would you fly with?”
For a moment, let’s replace the words airline with “school” and pilot with “teacher”. Instantaneously Gove’s hypocrisy is exposed, for this is the man who has created an education system where there is no requirement to have qualified teachers working in free schools and academies. Gove’s pet projects have more in common with his “fuzzy” low cost airline than the one he claims to prefer. He professes to aspire to create a world class education in England but is guilty of the level of centralisation and undemocratic control that he mocks when likening his predecessors to Soviet apparatchiks.
In his speech Gove also highlighted the inhibiting effect of social inequality yet the government of which he is a leading member has presided over an increasing gap between the rich and poor. Since coming into power, the coalition has increased the level of child poverty to above the level seen in the late 1990’s. While the previous government was successful in tackling poverty their principal crime was failing to address the increasing wealth of the richest 5% something that Gove and his Cabinet colleagues have also failed to address.
Gove isn’t just a hypocrite, he is dishonest and driven by an ideology that eschews evidence. Under his stewardship the English education system is being systematically destroyed and rather than heading for the heights is being driven by him in a race to the bottom.