Stories + Views
Is Michael Gove in the Murdoch sewer?
Secretary of State for Education Michael Gove is a former Times columnist and reputedly a frequent visitor to Rebekah Brooks’ Chipping Norton set. This much we know.
But it is Gove’s ideological connection to Murdoch that could really have an impact on the future of our schools as Allan Beavis has pointed out on this site . A key link is Joel Klein, former chancellor of New York City schools and now CEO of News Corp’s education division. He flew into London to help fire fight the phone hacking scandal so he is obviously not a very good firefighter!
But this was not his first visit to London this year. In January Gove invited Klein to give the keynote lecture at the inaugural Free School Conference. Klein was reported as saying “I’m excited by the opportunities that Free Schools will give children of all backgrounds in England and I’m looking forward to sharing my experiences on how to achieve this at the conference”
Klein’s record in NYC is controversial to say the least. He was notoriously anti-union, but also obsessed with standardised test scores which he believes are crucial to ensuring accountability. To get a full picture of his politics it is worth reading his farewell letter entitled The Failure of American Schools.
Murdoch believes that technology is central to the future development in education. His purchase of Wireless Generation an education technology company that seeks to develop hand held wireless technology to support classroom teachers illustrates his intent. Commenting on his new acquistion, Murdoch said
“Wireless Generation is at the forefront of individualized, technology-based learning that is poised to revolutionize public education for a new generation of students.”
Klein is even more explicit here.
“Last, to shake up the [education] system, we must change how we use technology to deliver instruction. … [O]ne of the best things we could do is hire fewer teachers and pay more to the ones we hire. And, as in any other field, technology can help get us there. If you have 5,000 math teachers, many of whom are underperforming, significantly improving overall quality is nearly impossible. But if you get the best math professors in the world—who are great teachers and who deeply understand math—and match them with great software developers, they can create sophisticated interactive programs that engage kids and empower teachers.”
Do parents really want to see schools sitting their children in front of computers rather than teachers?
Is News Corp really suggesting that technology will replace teachers or are they more interested in cutting costs and breaking the alleged influence of demon trade unions?
Are Gove’s plans for free schools part of this agenda? Free schools are explicitly modelled on the Charter school movement beloved by Joel Klein. Gove boasted recently that his “reforms are about creating a generation of world-class schools, free from meddling and prescription”. But in Sweden, free schools have significantly fewer qualified teachers and students spend more time on computers.
Deregulation and privatisation are the watchwords of the Murdoch empire. Gove wants to bring this, and all the baggage that comes with it, to our schools.
Some may afford him the benefit of doubt over his flirtation with the Chipping Norton set. But anyone who cares about our schools needs to look below the headlines and question the direction of travel of his education policy. It is time to #getgove