Monday, 4 June 2007

The business of schools

Snuffleupagus has stirred up a hornet's nest on her blog with her post about treating schools as businesses. Everything she wrote made perfect sense to me. She concluded, "Schools are not businesses. It is because the government insists on treating them as such that we have the disastrous comprehensive system that we have. That's what makes education so fascinating. It is a hell of a lot more complicated than a business. And it is seemingly too complicated for those in power to deal with realistically."

I responded, "I HATE this idea of making pupils into clients (like patients at NHS hospitals). Schools and hospitals and governments are not businesses and should not be run as such. I went to private schools, but have refrained from sending my children to them. Why? Because I don't have particularly good memories of how I the customer was treated."

Colin, who frequently comments on Sunffy's blog, disagrees entirely and has many publications to back his opinion up. He's obviously a learned man, and I'm way out of my league probably even trying to comment. But I will.

Colin, my gut tells me that it is wrong to run schools as businesses. Why? Because businesspeople don't run governments, which run schools. Politicians do. Politicians are dependent on votes to keep them in office. They answer to all the people, not just the shareholders. If schools truly were run as businesses, what would they be like? McDonald's, offering up fast food education, high on easy subjects, low on intellectual nutrition? Microsoft, drumming out any competition until they were the monopoly and there was no choice but for parents to accept whatever they produced? Tesco, located in supersize schools away from the heart of communities, allegedly offering value for money, but more interested in taking over the world?

What sort of business model should schools follow? And who runs the schools then? Because then there's no need for politicians to run government. There's no need for government. Capitalism takes over everything, and the shareholders are the true leaders. But what if you can't afford to buy any shares? Where and when does your voice get heard? What rights do you have?

We in this country are extremely fortunate. We live in a democracy. We are not tortured for having different views. We have the right to send our children to publicly funded schools. Our children do not have to go out to work at a ridiculously young age to bring money into the household. In fact, it's against the law. There is a down side to this, which Colin mentions in one of his many responses. It's taxes. Colin doesn't like taxes. Nobody likes taxes. It's one of the two certain things in life. Taxes, however, are what pay for schools and other public services.

I think it is dangerous to allow business in to run what should be government-run (the train system is probably the best example of bad privitization). The best societies should have a balance between capitalism and socialism. To allow an uber-capitalist state is as dangerous as allowing an uber-socialist state, in my opinion.

So, Colin, I don't have the intellectual vigour you have. Probably the result of my private-school education. There were many gaps in it, you see, which I'm now trying to correct because of my children. My argument probably has huge holes in it, but it's my opinion and I'm sticking to it.


debio said...

I would like to agree with you wholeheartdly but; i) politicians have evolved into being also-rans - nobody who is good at what they do need be a politician - who needs the angst? I blame the media largely; ii) UK might be a democracy but the voting system is archaic, MP's rarely do what they say they are going to do, and the electorate is no longer free to say what they feel and do what they would like.
Apart from that a state guided education system is an admirable theory.
Good blog WUASTC!

wakeupandsmellthecoffee said...

Thank you, Debio. I realise that there are many, many problems with the political system as it is today. I don't have any answers for that, but I don't think looking to the business world to solve them is the answer either. Thanks for tagging me too. That blog will be coming soon.

Snuffleupagus said...

Well said my dear! Let's get Colin! ha ha

wakeupandsmellthecoffee said...

Colin needs to get a life!

Omega Mum said...

I want to know who Colin is.....Unveil yourself, man...

lady macleod said...

very well said. I am not in a position to comment on this but I do know that one of my dear friends who holds a doctorate and teaches in a Junior High School in the U.S. is emphatically opposed to the "No child left behind" policy.

I shall get over to Snuffy's blog and give this a read.

I think the important thing is for parents, for all of us, to be involved. Education is of paramount importance to society.

DJ Kirkby said...

Hi Thanks for commenting on the first posting of 'Adventures of a wild hippie child'. Please do me a favour and go to , have a read and let me know whether this series has any 'legs'. The stories are too personal and I can't assess the idea (or my writing about it), objectivly