November 06, 2003
Taking refuge from the possible in the impossible

Here's Ted Wragg in today's Guardian, with his plans to make all schools everywhere equally marvellous:

There is a better way. Nothing less than a massive coordinated blitz on conditions across all relevant policy areas - housing, employment, health, education - will do.

"Blitz". That's another of those continental words (to put alongside "Czar") that people resort to when their answer to failing state control is to treble it.

This article is nothing short of hysterical, in a bad way. Wragg flails about in all directions, snarling at the rich, accusing everyone who disagrees with him of "blaming the poor". He is a Professor of Education at Exeter University and a quite big cheese in the nationalised education biz. He reads more like some gibbering lunatic orating to nobody at Speakers Corner.

Here is his conclusion, by which I merely mean concluding squawk:

Giving all, not just a few, the finest and best-equipped buildings would not come amiss either. Who knows? With these assets they might even attract a few more people from the superior caste, and be able to offer children the social mix they need to stand a chance in life.

Or to translate that into another idiom: if the oiks don't mix with people of quality and thus catch a bit of their educational sparkle, they're doomed. And he calls everyone else snobbish. Why doesn't he stick to his job and try to crank out better teachers, instead of blaming everyone else? Presumably because everything he "knows" about how to do that is wrong, and he secretly knows it, this time for real.

How on earth did those Victorian poor people ever manage to learn anything?

Melanie Phillips is not impressed either:

Pinning the blame for educational underachievement on poverty is tantamount to blaming the poor for their own failure. Yet instead, he accuses those who say 'poverty is no excuse' for blaming the poor. This shows he doesn't even understand the argument. 'Poverty is no excuse' is not blaming the poor at all. It blames instead people like Wragg who have promulgated ridiculous theories which have progressively undermined the very concepts of education and of teaching, and abandoned hundreds of thousands of children to ignorance and educational failure. After all, it's not the poor who make this excuse – it's people like Wragg.

I don't really agree that Wragg is blaming the poor, any more than anyone else is. He's blaming the rich. What he is doing is underestimating the poor, which is somewhat different.

But the rest of that quote is spot on. It's partly because, I surmise, Wragg is at least still vaguely sentient enough to know that this is what people think of him, and that they have a point, that he is now such a deranged individual – a Mad Processor of Education, you might say.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 08:21 PM
Category: Politics