This article Alex Massie appeared in The Spectator.
The Spectator, 30 January 2009
Meanwhile, away from the budget ballyhoo comes a reminder of one of the problems afflicting Scotland: the teaching unions. Today sees the publication of an eminently sensible report from the think tank Reform Scotland that advocates, essentially, a voucher system that draws on Swedish and Dutch educational reforms and would, if ever implemented, dramatically increase the range of educational choices available to the poor. This is not controversial in other countries, so why is it so frightening here? Well, look at what we\’re dealing with:
The Scottish Secondary Teachers\’ Association dismissed the report\’s findings.
Jim Docherty, acting general secretary, added: “The concept of good and bad schools is false. There is no large variation in the quality of Scottish schools.
“This competition suggests the English education system and an attempt to reduce costs.”
Heaven forbid that we learn anything from any other country, least of all an English system that is, despite considerable room for improvement in this regard, more flexible and, increasingly, better than its Scottish counterpart. How, though, can you get anything done when you even deny the existence of poor or under-performing or just plain bad schools?
I used to think, riffing on Tom Nairn (who in turn was riffing on Diderot), that Scotland could never be free until the last Labour Councillor was strangled with the last copy of the Daily Record. Clearly I should have included teaching union officials too.
UPDATE: Fraser has more over at the mother-blog. Obviously the proposals for education vouchers for poor families (what Reform Scotland is suggesting) is too much for some. Some commenter’s think this a libertarian plot and all the rest of it. If only! Last time I checked, neither Sweden nor the Netherlands was considered a wickedly right-wing country – yet they each have school choice systems that would be far too revolutionary for people in this country. At the very least, is it too much to hope that opponents of school choice might accept that pro-choice advocates are concerned with education, not simply a desire to wreck the current system and that pro-voucher arguments are made in good faith? Clearly that\’s a pipe dream. The fight goes on.