Not because it is easy….

There’s an election on the way and apparently no one can quite understand why people aren’t engaged.

I think its quite simple really. It comes down to a simple question.

What am I voting for?

I don’t mean “what policies am I voting for?” Everyone can decide that. You’re either for or against the individual policies of the (many) parties. You can also be for or against the expressed ‘meta’ position of each party – “big government”, little government”, “no government” and so on.

But that’s not what I mean.

Why might I want big/little/no government? What are we aiming for? I’m not trying to be as deep as “Why do we exist?” but I am wanting to go a little further than “we will balance the books”. Why? Why balance the books? Where does that get us?

In education we say we want our schools to be better. Yes, it is an undoubtedly “good thing” that we strive to enable more people to know more things, but to what end? Why do we want them to know more things? Why do we need them to know more things?

We need it to be about more than wealth.

Fifty three years ago John Fitzgerald Kennedy said:

But why, some say, the moon? Why choose this as our goal? And they may well ask why climb the highest mountain? Why, 35 years ago, fly the Atlantic? …… We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.

I simply cannot imagine any of this current generation of politicians speaking this way. The dead-handed managerialism that infects all our political discourse would have had that speech ripped up before the ink was dry. “Too risky” would have been the reaction. “What would the focus group say?”

Education is an excellent example of this stagnation, the lack of imagination, the failure of leadership. The purpose of education policy appears to be to move up the PISA rankings. That’s not enough. That’s not nearly enough. There has to be more. There has to be a better reason.

We climbed out of swamp, out of the rift valley, out of the caves and eventually out of the dark. Homo sapiens sapiens have met every challenge that’s ever been set. Crossed every ocean, scaled every mountain, visited every planet. We have seen nearly back to the dawn of creation. We’ve told tales, sung songs and created art in celebration of all these achievements.


And yet the challenge put before us in eight weeks time is to “reduce the deficit”.

It’s not enough.

We’re capable of more.

Set us a challenge.


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