Thursday, 11 October 2007

Why Government should not be involved in Education

I mean any government, not just Stalinists masquerading as 'social democrats'.

This is terrifying. I think it's probably true as well. 2 examples:

1) A friend of mine lectures in Classics at the University of Exeter, which is, according to the government, one of the top classics institutions in the country. He says he has final year students, who will get 2:1s or even Firsts, to whom he would not even give an O-Level pass if it was up to him.

2) I compare my two degree courses. I read History at Oxford, and was awarded an academic scholarship. I also read Theology at Oak Hill Theological College (an associate college of Middlesex University).
If I told you that for one of these degrees I did approximately 18 hours work a week, which I could have done in my sleep, and for the other, I did about 40 hours a week, much of which was mind-bendingly tough, you would probably guess the wrong way round.
Guess which institution has the least government involvement?

Of course it all stands to reason. If 50 years of state education has produced such hopelessly-equipped school leavers, it's not fair to punish them for governments' failings. Obviously, universities must be dumbed down too.


ros said...

Surely 50 years of state education have produced, Neil?

Neil Jeffers said...

Just goes to show private education isn't much to write home about either.

matthew said...

Maybe. But couldn't we consider "50 years" to be a single period of time, making the singular verb acceptable?

dave williams said...

What if you had a Christian Government in 2000 years time?

Is it the "State" that's at issue or the Godless philosophy behind it. The private sector doesn't always need much government help to get things wrong?

Should Oak Hill take a lead (or more a follow -as per LTS) and stop issuing degrees accredited by another University?

ros said...

Matthew, no. If you wanted to do that you would need to say 'A fifty-year period has produced.'

Neil Jeffers said...


Thank you. Good question. The issue is the state rather than what type of state.

A Christian government would understand which roles are allotted to the different types of government (family, church and civil), and would know that transgressing into someone else's area is tyranny.

As education is part of family government, a Christian civil magistrate would never dream of taking it into his own hands.

For the private sector, as you point out, the issue is not state involvement, but godless philosophy. It is however interesting that the private sector increasingly follows the government's lead, but just a decade or so behind. Perhaps that explains why its degeneration is a decade or so less advanced than in the state sector!

As for Oak Hill, you may think that, but I could not possibly comment.

Dave Williams said...


It's a fair point that Private Sector and the government's relationship is perhaps more complex than I first suggested.

Sometimes there is such a circle of relationship it is hard to remember who started it. The obsession with targets for example.

I'm not yet convinced though that the argument against state education in itself is compelling (more a case of you need to work a bit harder on me -than this is a load of nonsence).

I would suggest that the more subtle, none socialist response might be:

A number of responsibilities may lie with the family however:

1. This doesn't mean our modern nuclear families (presumably this has practical implications for home schooling -don't put all the expectation on mum -what about Grandparents etc)

2. Where a responsibility sits primarily with one body -does it sit exclusively with them. Does family responsibility mean no government responsibility? If Governemnts are responsible for a minimal set of activities, are there no educational implications in that?

3. Should government be so distinct from family? Or is our problem with our idea of how the state functions?

Neil Jeffers said...


More good points (iron sharpening iron etc).

It is interesting as we discuss this that government is saying private schools must do more to prove their 'public benefit' in order to keep charitable status, i.e., fit in with our secular humanist, pluralist ideology!

I agree family doesn't just mean modern nuclear family, though in the case of education, the OT does not give responsibility simply to the family but specifically to parents.

No, responsibility does not mean exclusivity. Parents could decide to delegate education to others (eg Christian schools, or other Christian parents who seem better suited), but the responsibility, and answerability before God, is the parents'. I'm sure one could even make a case for delegating responsibility to the state. The problem is the compulsive power of the state. If I don't want the state to educate my children, I still pay for it. That restricts access to other forms of education for the less wealthy. Further, if I put my child into the state system and then withdraw them in horror, they can come and 'inspect' my home schooling, because of course, the state knows best.

Even if I want to set up my own Christian school, if I do more than a certain umber of hours each week, then I have to get permission from Big Brother, and possibly inspections as well. Do you see how the authority relationship has been turned upside down? Effectively, the state is deciding whether or not to delegate graciously to me the education of my children, rather than vice versa!

From your third question, I suspect you may have already read John Frame's "Towards a Theology of the State." So I won't go into that now.

By the way, in all of this, when I say private education, I don't mean the English public school system, most of which is just as godless as its state counterpart. I just mean, not-state-run.