Even in those heady piñata-bashing weeks of November 2007, I don’t think any of us were expecting the Rudd/Gillard government to be some kind of paragon of progressivism. By then, I was already low expectations R Us. Simply not being Howard, Abbott, Nelson and Bishop were the key to gaining my vote. It turns out that even this was asking a bit too much.
At first, I was a fan of Julia Gillard, a funny, combatative ranga who could reduce the baying saurians in the Liberal seats to a humiliated near-silence (assuming they’re capable of understanding and feeling humiliation, that is). She’s fun to listen to in question time, but she broke my heart with the part she played in the 2004 election. OK, so she shouldn’t be allowed anywhere near environmental policy, but surely she’d come good on the social justice issues…?
OK, now my heart is thoroughly broken and trampled on. I’ve become the voter who cannot love. The infamous My School database/website has been released today (and very buggy it is, too), and what do we see as the very first headline on the dead-tree Herald Sun? OUR SCHOOLS SHAME. The banner on the online version? HOW DID YOUR SCHOOL RATE? So predictable. Don’t ask me how the Boy’s school rates (The Girl has just left the public system with an excellent VCE score and as yet no crack habit – the Boy starts year 7 on Monday. Serial only children, I haz them.) The website hasn’t worked successfully for me yet. And yes, I am aware of most internet traditions and able to work most simple interfaces, so I don’t think it’s me.
Back to Gillard, who on assuming the Deputy PMship announced that she would bring on an Education Revolution. Well, since “revolution” can mean doing a complete 360 and ending up facing the same way as when you started, then OK, technically correct, Julia.
Trevor Cobbold in his article, The Free market and the Social divide in Education (PDF), points out that the My School website is a continuation of the commodification of education which features the establishment of “quasi-markets” in schools.
The publication of the results of each school is seen as a central component of quasi-markets because it is supposed to inform parent choice…
The Rudd government has maintained and extended the focus on markets and competition in education… It has not reversed any of the key measures of the Howard government.
…It is paradoxical that a government which calls itself progressive is implementing the policies of its erstwhile conservative predecessor.
Progressive? They’re starting to make the previous government look more progressive:
…(A)s far as education policy is concerned, the Rudd Government has given John Howard and David Kemp another term in office…(The PM) says that schools that fail to improve will be subject to “tough action”, including firing principals and senior staff and closing schools. This is something that Kemp could only dream of.
And a Labor government that can actually introduce policies that aren’t the previous government’s leftovers plus spin from a personable pollie – that’s something that I can only dream of.
Robert Merkel at LP has more on the nuts and bolts behind the My School website.