August 28, 2008


Leader faces opposition to change (Kevin Donnelly | August 28, 2008, The Australian)

IT'S hard to disagree with Kevin Rudd's education revolution speech delivered at yesterday's address to the National Press Club.

Like the Prime Minister, The Australian is on record as arguing for a back-to-basics approach to curriculum, increased school accountability and for giving principals freedom to hire and fire staff.

Like the Prime Minister, in columns on these pages and in Dumbing Down, I have signalled teacher quality and a rigorous curriculum as crucial to raising standards and argued that under-performing schools need to be given additional support and made to suffer the consequences if they fail to improve. [...]

Many of the initiatives spoken about yesterday mirror overseas developments that have been shown to help overcome disadvantage.

There are a number of caveats. As discovered by the then Howard government when it sought to introduce A to E reporting, defend choice in education and get rid of post-modern gobbledegook in the curriculum, there are many opposed to reform.

The Australian Education Union, recalcitrant state governments and pressure groups such as the NSW Public Education Alliance are committed to the status quo. Rudd's comment, "I know some will resist these changes", is an understatement, and it will take political will to achieve change.

The Democrats belief that this is a moment when people want to follow them back to 70s is put paid not just by our politics but those of nearly all our democratic allies.

The end of new Labour (Neal Lawson, 28 August 2008, New Statesman)

Whatever Gordon Brown decides to do as he considers relaunches and reshuffles, something is glaringly apparent: the new Labour project, initiated, perhaps unwittingly, a quarter of a century ago by Neil Kinnock and accelerated to dramatic effect by Tony Blair after 1994, is finished. The centre left needs a new paradigm in thinking and action, one as different from new Labour as this was from the creed it superseded. But a new left project that mixes commitment to principle with a lust for power in equal measure has to be built on an understanding of the rise and fall of new Labour.

For the century before new Labour, the centre left put all its hopes in the basket of the bureaucratic state. The combination of economic Fordism and the elitist politics of Fabianism and parliamentary Leninism created a bureaucratic model of top-down state reform. For the 30 years between 1948 and 1978, the bureaucratic state ruled supreme. It died as society became more complex, decentralisation became popular and we witnessed a welcome end to the age of deference.

The failure of the state was the most important cause of the right-wing response, a market state which ruled for an equivalent 30-year period from 1978 until now.

It's the notion that they need to go backwards that has them trailing even a flock of doofuses like the Tories.

The Iron Lady at Twilight: On Thatcher's Legacy (NICHOLAS WAPSHOTT | August 27, 2008, NY Sun)

You would not know it from talking to most Brits, but the reforms Lady Thatcher urged upon Britain's sluggish economy and on its political, social, and business culture, and her resolution of the national quandary so aptly observed by Dean Acheson — "Great Britain has lost an empire and has not yet found a role" — have left them prosperous as never before. London is now the undisputed, if unofficial, capital of Europe, a magnet for every young European who wants to get ahead.

Her legacy is not just in unearthing the entrepreneurial zeal that had been heaped beneath years of benign neglect by well meaning souls who set out to shield the British from the vicissitudes of the free market, but in the sense of national purpose she restored to Britain and the free world by the simple act of standing up to bullies.

It was after her triumph over the strutting Argentine general, Leopoldo Galtieri, in the Falklands — a victory that transformed her fortunes from a likely one-term failure into a worthy successor of Boadicea and Elizabeth I — that she emerged as a powerful presence on the world stage. From her new vantage point she went on to battle a succession of tinpot tyrants, including the communist gerontocracy clinging to power in the Kremlin.

Since her party ousted her in 1990 in a typically passionless British coup, she has remained a prophet largely ignored in her own country. While Americans worship her, the British have found it hard to forgive the hectoring and sometimes brutal fashion in which she harried them into changing their ways.

Posted by Orrin Judd at August 28, 2008 10:28 AM
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