Part of the reason this blog has not yet ventured into the weeds of education policy is that there is a bigger fight to be won. If you consider politics for a moment, what you see is only the tip of the iceberg. The real stuff that matters is the ideological climate, particularly that within the major institutions. (Of course, on election day that goes out the door, as we saw with Donald Trump, but on a day to day basis, politicians seems particularly constrained by the ideological climate.) That ideological climate is like the submerged part of the iceberg – it’s not so apparent, but it’s powerful. It controls what those in power – even conservatives – can do. And right now, a progressive ideology dominates the media, the education establishment and the chattering class. There is little prospect for shifting from the status quo to something more dynamic without influencing this group. The 2014 Federal Budget, while somewhat botched in execution, received excessive derision. It is a case study in the difficulty of delivering needed reforms. It showed that any cut to any sort of entitlement is seen as bad, regardless of whether it should be in place. The recent penalty rates decision by the Fair Work Commission was meekly defended – and only after some time – by the Coalition government. If they cannot fight for a small cut to an obsolete set of penalty rates, there is little hope for significant reform in education. The Coalition should be philosophically on board education reform and penalty rate cuts. They know it would be effective, and therefore don’t exactly need huge support from policy wonks designing possible systems (though it’s useful to have one on the shelf when needed!). Really, the problem is that they cannot pull the trigger. They need an appropriate intellectual climate to allow them to do so without excessive political cost. Therefore, this blog is aiming not at the weeds, but at the 7/8 of the iceberg that influence the 1/8 that we see everyday.
Right now, a reform movement featuring freedom and choice is almost non-existent, it seems. The progressive status quo based on excessive compassion and empathy with those less fortunate is handicapping progress. This is not to say that we shouldn’t improve the situation of those struggling. Let’s not confuse means with ends. I’m arguing for different means to achieve similar outcomes (although, I am probably less optimistic about true egalitarianism and equity, which dominates the education establishment in Australia). Anyway, the current direction is not conducive to reform, and the intellectual climate needs to be improved.
But more importantly, there needs to be genuine innovation. The extent to which it may happen here is limited by regulation, but it may be that a new way of educating comes along that forces the government’s hand. I honestly think that this will be more effective than trying to win the battle of ideas. I think humans are more geared to a socialistic tendency than a capitalistic one (the only reason capitalism continues to fight is that it works), which limits the extent to which the education establishment would relinquish control. So, it is down to the entrepreneurs. Until I’m in a position to do that, I will continue to blog.