February 14, 2008

George Osborne's choice of schools

Apparantly George Osborne, the shadow Chancellor, has got his kids into private schools. Mike Ion is not impressed, he thinks that this represents the abandonment of progressive politics by the Cameron conservatives, and that Osborne should have chosen a state school rather than becoming part of the problem by sending his kids to a private school.

I have always found such arguments unconvincing. Ultimately as far as I see it, every person in the UK has the right to send their kids to private school if they have the money. Yes they may be perpetuating inequality: but a variety of other choices also perpetuate inequality as well- buying houses in 'nice' neighbourhoods or having books available to your kids at home or even the type of food you buy for your children and yourself. Furthermore we are criticising Osbourne without knowing the reasons he wants to send his kids to private school: he may have really good reasons for choosing that private school over this state school for his children. It is not for us to second guess the choice of other people.

It is not my opinion that Osbourne needs to justify his choice of school for his children, anymore than he needs to justify his choice of supermarket. What he does need to do is provide an analysis of the state system and how to make it better for everyone else: that is his job as a politician but once his job is over and he goes back home and spends the money he has earnt, I don't think it is any of my business that he spends it one way or another (providing its legal). Focusing on where he sends his kids to school misses the issue- its what he wants to do to the system in which so many others send their kids to school that's the real issue. At the moment it seems to me our political system does not let politicians get away with poor personal decisions, but lets them get away with poor policy decisions.

That's the wrong way round: lets ask the Tories complicated policy questions and not about their personal lives.


Matthew Sinclair said...

This criticism can make sense with some people who condemn the middle class for trying to secure the best school or the rich for going private and then do the same. That does betray a shallowness of principle. Osborne, however, has done neither of those things so should be left to send his children wherever he likes.

Gracchi said...

Yes though I'd say that those people need their heads examining- in the sense that people live within a system and shouldn't punish their kids for their situation in life. You should do the best for your children. There might be legitimate questions about the system of private education- but they aren't questions about particular people's morality. You can object to private education and still send your kids to private schools because that is the way the system is: what you can't do is object to people given the system using it and then use it yourself. Its a subtle but important distinction.

And on Osborne I agree.

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

Difficult one but on the whole I think those with influence should choose state schools because if everyone did they would become better. But I agree there is a lot of hypocrisy around the issue with those who are able to moving into "good" catchment areas, etc.

Bretwalda Edwin-Higham said...

Well, one would expect this of Mike Ion - leftists like to deny choice, don't they?

Ellee Seymour said...

Even our former Education Secretary sends her young son to a private school because the special needs schools fail those who need it.

Are you going to any Cambridge Wordfest events Gracchi? And I believe Cambridge is gearing up for a stunning series of events to mark Darwin's anniversary next year.

Gracchi said...

As opposed to the right who have always been interested in liberty James!?

Ellee I agree and other people's circumstances are difficult to know in full, therefore second guessing their choices is not really appropriate.

Welshcakes, there is a lot of hypocrisy. I can see what you say though I like he boundary between public and private to remian integral to the discussion.