Monday, December 05, 2016
Michael Gove and the trahison des clercs
It wasn't fashionable even then, but I had time for Michael Gove while he was education secretary.
His Kulturkampf against the teaching profession was unnecessarily aggressive and that eventually cost him his job, but he was on to something.
Under Blair and Brown the dominant narrative was that teaching was better than ever before, children were working harder than ever before and this was reflected in ever improving exam results.
Anyone who questioned this narrative, perhaps hesitantly introducing the concept of grade inflation, was ridiculed.
And that was as true of Liberal Democrat circles as any other. I knew that Gove was getting somewhere when a speaker mentioned grade inflation a couple of years into the Coalition and was rewarded with a smattering of applause.
So, if only because of my advancing age, I was up for admiring Gove as a champion of rigour in education.
But he changed all that with one remark.
The remark in question was Gove's “the people of this country have had enough of experts and organisations with acronyms saying they know better.”
Overnight the champion of academic rigour became the champion of popular ignorance and I lost all time for him.
Maybe Nick Cohen is right and Gove was just behaving like a columnist.
One week a piece in favour of academic rigour feels right. The next, short of inspiration, you contradict yourself and write one laughing at experts.
It makes good copy, but don't expect us to take you seriously as a politician.