Tuesday 13 January 2004

Another education row

Several previous postings concerning education have mentioned Judith Gillespie of the Scottish Parent Teacher Council. Normally Ms Gillespie's remarks are of the sort that would be highly acceptable to most members of the Scottish political-educational complex. Now she has caused a bit of a rumpus:
Judith Gillespie, the development manager of the Scottish Parent Teacher Council, said teachers should not be working in the state system if they send their children to private schools.

Her comments, which echo those made recently by an Edinburgh headteacher, will strike a chord with many in the profession but have prompted an angry reaction from union leaders and politicians.

Here is one of those reactions:
David Eaglesham, the general secretary of the Scottish Secondary Teachers’ Association, said: "I’ve seldom heard such garbage. Life is about making choices, which car you want, where you live and what you do for a living. I think it’s despicable to say that teachers should not have a decision in their children’s future.

"You are getting into the area of social engineering. It’s serfdom.

In today's Scotsman Gillian Bowditch writes about this row and starts off by defending the teachers who chose private education for their own children:
At the heart of the argument is a dangerous assumption that those employed by the state owe total allegiance to the state.

The presumption is that if you work for the system, you have to support it whole-heartedly. If this totalitarian philosophy is taken one step further, no state employee - doctors, nurses or civil servants - would be allowed to choose an independent school for their child.

It may be galling for parents who have little option but to send their children to a failing school, to watch teachers opt to educate their own children elsewhere. But private education is not a morally reprehensible choice - for teachers or for anyone else.

Those were my own first thoughts on this matter. I then began to have doubts, as did Ms Bowditch:
It is too easy, however, simply to dismiss Wood and Gillespie’s arguments as unreconstructed Marxism, as outmoded as the class war. If you work for the state you must swear fealty to the state may be a dangerous philosophy, but it is one which is frequently advanced by New Labour, despite its hubris about choice and decentralisation.
Just so. New Labour wants the masses, including government employees, to be completely beholden to the state. Exceptions can be made for the Neuearbeitspartei’s own henchmen, or rather henchpersons, as Gillian Bowditch notes:
It is different for politicians. Diane Abbott has a duty to send her child to a state school because she has been elected on the basis of an ideology which opposes private education.

By choosing the independent sector she is perpetrating a fraud on the electorate. Politicians are responsible for education policy; teachers are responsible only for doing the best job they can within the parameters set by government.

Many other NuLab politicians are perpetrating such a fraud, including the Great Leader himself.

Back to those state school teachers again. I don't blame then for wanting the best for their own children. But if they use private education I don't see how they can belong to trade unions or vote for political parties that oppose private education. By speaking out in favour of private education teachers can protect themselves from the criticisms of the likes of Ms Gillespie, and indeed myself.