The choice agenda is only good for the people doing the choosing. Even the people who want the choice agenda to be imposed know it can’t be a universal good; it’s just that the choice agenda blankets inequality so nicely. It’s not that you’re herding resources unfairly or excluding anyone. It’s just that they didn’t choose the best option, and you did, and really you’re not responsible for other people’s decisions. And if those choices involve the allocation of public resources? Never mind. Snuggle up under your warm choice-y duvet.
This, for example, is the argument one parent gave when she was interviewed by Today about why she supported the Tory “free schools” policy, and specifically why she didn’t want her children to go to the local secondary school:
No… We’ve passed [the school] on a number of occassions. I think what really put me off was [laughs] one of the girls, ah, pupils arrived there and you could see she was at least eight months pregnant.
Teen pregnancy isn’t a brilliant indicator of teaching success, and it’s easy to sympathise with a parent who’s concerned by it. But this parent’s choice would be absolutely, and transparently, at the expense of the pregnant teenager: for this parent, it’s paramount that her children are kept apart from teen mothers. But why should the state take this parent’s side, rather than the pregnant teen’s? Why is the obvious answer a new school without any of the wrong sort of children in it, rather than something like improving sex education and supporting the continued attendance of young parents?
It probably doesn’t matter very much what can or should be done for the pregnant girl at the bad school, though. What discussion we get about education is going to be mostly focussed on how to give that choosy parent what she wants, while the people who probably need the most support are only seen in passing as the debate drifts past.
Text © Sarah Ditum, 2010