Can that brave new dawn have really been almost thirty years ago? So much hope, followed by so much despair. Simon Heffer is a grumpy old so-and-so and annoys as often as he pleases, but today he reminds me very well of how it felt to be alive - and politically-active - in 1979. I drove old ladies to the polls and they told me that while they were going to keep voting for their local Labour councillors - because they knew them - they were going to give Mrs Thatcher a chance, because "she couldn't do worse"
This was revolutionary stuff deep in the Labour heartlands of the North. And most heartening. Yet here we are. She came, went and changed little. We are at the end of another epic Labour fail and she is an old lady unable to help this time. For which, as I blogged yesterday, she must take some of the blame. Though she was an Education Minister, she never took it seriously enough. State education followed the introduction of mass voting rights and a member of the House of Lords famously supported it with the words "We must educate our masters." Yet Margaret allowed the enemies of freedom and free enterprise to retain control of the educational establishment and to indoctrinate generation after generation with hostility to business and "bourgeois" freedoms. That is why - as Heffer grumpily complains - younger people don't know what she was all about. They see her as a demon, because that is what they were taught.
The 1970's were an exciting time in politics, because they were a turning point. The academics at my university were just as left-wing as today, of course, but they were despondent. "Progressive" thought was in retreat. Labour had trashed the economy and beggared the country. My lefty tutor praised me, miserably, when I had a letter published in the Times expressing Thatcherite views. He had the grace to say they were well expressed, but lamented that "all the new thinking" was from the Conservatives.
It's time to recapture that spirit. It's not enough to crow at Labour's intellectual bankruptcy. Conservatives (on a spectrum from libertarian to authoritarian) are going to take power next year in very difficult circumstances and new ideas are needed.
Paradoxically, the best place to start is with the public services, such as education. Libertarians may feel that the state should have nothing to do with it, but that's not going to happen in our lifetime, so let's set to work persuading the new government to move in the right direction. Let's see if we can't come up with ideas to help the poor, ripped-off taxpayers get better value for their money. This is not even a question of "cuts." A good education costs no more than a poor one, perhaps even less.
Education was the great failure of the Thatcher administration. Margaret focussed on the trade union gangsters and their restrictive practices and on privatisation of inefficient state enterprises. She believed that liberalising the economy was the most important thing and that all else would follow. It didn't. Indeed, by leaving the enemies of freedom in charge of education, she ensured a whole new generation of subservient statists. We are now back in 1978, but worse, and have no leader of her calibre in sight. We need to arm the nondescript leaders we have with some good ideas.
Ideas begin with analysis, and James Higham has published an excellent summary in the linked post of how education in Britain came to be in this mess. "Child-centred education" and such other nonsenses have a long and disreputable history. To quote Gordon Brown, the problem began in America; in the early 20th Century, in the faculties of education of its universities. There is now a cast-iron orthodoxy in education that is so rigid it just has to be wrong.
As the latest initiatives in sex education neatly demonstrate, just as nationalisation of "health" is really nationalisation of your body, so nationalisation of "education" is really nationalisation of your children. You may be a devout Catholic who believes contraception and homosexuality are sinful. I may (and do) think you're a fool in those respects and tell you so. But should the state education system be teaching your kids that your family's moral beliefs are wrong? Should it be compelling even Catholic schools to say so? Or just pointing out that there are other views and explaining what they are? The first two ways are wrong. The third is fine. The current argument is really as to whether the state is crossing that line. In many respects, and not just this one, I fear it is - and has been for a long time. The Left professes to love diversity, but it detests diversity of thought and wants a national curriculum of standard ideas.
The Tories to be fair are already making noises about taking control of education away from the centre and handing it back to local communities. The trouble is that the "education community" at every level has been indoctrinated with "progressive" ideas for over a century. If you want radical thinking on education, you need to listen to parents, not educators. The "professionals" have been divorced from their true "clients" (the parents) for so long, that they really don't think of their views as important. But ultimately it is the parents who have a responsibility to educate their children. State education began as a laudable attempt to ensure even the poorest could fulfil that responsibility. It has ended in the usurpation of their role. If parents were allowed to apply common sense to education, I guarantee it would be "learning-centred" not "child-centred" and that it would ask more of students than the educational establishment currently does.
Do go and read James's piece in full. If you have any interest in education, you will find it fascinating. Leave him comments. He loves comments (what blogger doesn't?) and will respond to them with his usual erudition and charm.
Gordon Brown is a bad man. He is a machine politician, hardened in the cockpit of the Scottish Labour Party; characterised by an amoral lust for power and the adoption of any means necessary to gain it, regardless of the cost to others. His moral compass is not broken, because it never existed. We know it. He knows that we know it. He has been rumbled. So whom does he think he is fooling by his fake "Blair on the peoples' princess" emotion over the victims of the holocaust? They were killed at the instigation of an authoritarian Socialist leader who gulled millions into giving him power so that he could disregard their needs and use the apparatus of a much-strengthened state for his own goals.
Brown is no Hitler (for three things, Hitler had a democratic mandate, was an inspiring speaker and wore a moustache). But he is closer to him spiritually than he is to his victims. It sullies a sacred site for this man (alliteration resisted) to stand there. So just take your fakery and hurry off (alliteration resisted) back to Fife.
Ian Grey has the answer to my question about Earth Day power consumption in the UK. It's quite a technical answer, as is his wont, but the upshot is - the Brits ignored it too.
How do the media justify giving so much attention to non-events? They talk so much (particularly when being scornful about bloggers) about fact-checking, but they are much more likely lazily to copy the The world prepares for Earth Day 2010 nonsense from the Earth Day site, than they are to verify the claim.
If the people of Britain and California believed in anthropogenic global warming, they would have no choice but to register their support for Earth Day. If the greens wanted to claim a one-hour downspike in demand as evidence of support, then they must logically accept that they have none. Will the media acknowledge that, or continue in their role as propagandists?
Apparently the Downing Street website crashed because so many people were logging on at once to sign the petition calling for the feartie Fifer's resignation. If only a few tens of thousands are enough to crash it, what would hundreds of thousands do.
Why don't you tell all your friends and see if we can conduct this interesting experiment? Tell them to click here, please - and not to use a silly name. Shortly the Number 10 dirty operations team will be running stories about how many times "Tony Blair" has signed.