25 March 2007

You awful, awful person (no. 2)

(The previous recipient of this award is here. Once again, I stress that I'm not suggesting the individual in question is any worse than their peers. They should, rather, be assumed to be representative of their particular profession.)

This is what Alexandra Frean, Education Editor of The Times, had to say this week about the proposals to force "education" on unwilling 16-18 year olds.

Plans to enforce compulsory education or training up to the age of 18 have as much to do with economics as education. As the Lord Leitch’s review on skills stated last year, Britain’s businesses will need ever more skilled employees if they are to remain globally competitive. ...

So the real question facing ministers as they contemplate what could prove to be the most radical educational reform in a generation is not whether Britain can afford to raise the school leaving age from 16 to 18, but whether it can afford not to. ...

Alan Johnson, the Education Secretary, has made it clear that there is no point introducing a new compulsion for education or training unless the government also demonstrates that it is willing to get serious about enforcement and sanctions. This is why he is proposing to impose criminal action and £50 penalty fines on what he expects to be a small “hardcore” of teenagers who drop out of education at 16 and refuse to go back.
Not even a hint that there might be a moral issue here. The interests of British industry are sufficient to justify coercion.

Let us say we accepted the arguments — which I don't — that (a) "we need more skills", and (b) additional incarceration in comprehensive schools of the individuals concerned will increase their skills rather than reduce them. How are we supposed to get from this to making it acceptable for people to have their wishes overridden? No explanation is given, implying Ms Frean thinks none is needed.

What this shows, among other things, is how little support remains for Mill's original principle of liberty among the il-liberal elite.