Those who had been watching the wibbling from the @toryeducation Twitter feed yesterday, as it tried to make smoke and confuse the enemy following Michael “Oiky” Gove’s humiliating U-Turn on GCSEs, were looking the wrong way: the witless spin has continued, but this time in a more conventional way. This time, it’s telling clueless hacks what they want to hear.
So while Gove and his retinue of bully boys attempt to pick up the pieces and regroup, the part of the Fourth Estate that might have been expected to keep an eye on them has been distracted by a cod story alleging that the wonderfully brave and combative Education Secretary has wreaked his vengeance on Brussels by having the rotten EU excised from the school curriculum.
This is, as might be expected from “Oiky” and his pals, total bullshit, but hacks and pundits who want to hear this kind of message have lapped it up, and, being incapable of even the most modest level of investigative journalism, have taken this single unverified source as gospel truth and run with it. Why can I be so sure that this is a stinking pile of poo? Let’s look at the detail.
Study of the EU is to be removed from the Geography curriculum, on the grounds that it is “a political and economic entity rather than a geographical phenomenon”. Thus the headlines. But, and as ever there is a big but, as the Europhobic Express has let slip, “Europe will still feature in history and citizenship lessons”. So the EU moves from one part of the curriculum to another.
And, quite apart from that mere factette, exactly how regional geography is taught without mentioning the presence of the EU is not an easy one to explain. But the more obedient part of the press has swallowed this one whole: the Maily Telegraph tells “European Union slashed from the National Curriculum”, while the Express has “Michael Gove ditches lessons on the EU”.
The piece de resistance, however, is reserved for the Mail, with “Gove's revenge on EU: Brussels axed from lessons as it is blamed for sinking exam reform”. But there is only one person who should be taking the blame for yesterday’s U-Turn, and that is Gove himself.
Instead, “Oiky” and his spin merchants have got a non-story into a gullible, compliant and unquestioning media to take the heat off them and get all those editors, hacks and pundits – along with their readers – to “look over there”.
Meanwhile, somewhere in the Westminster village, the Education Secretary and his pals are being allowed to screw around with the futures of the next generation in the name of ideological purity, while those who might be expected to hold them to account eagerly print whatever crap they are fed. And that’s not good enough.
Any chance of doing a Gove - Kiki (from Hector's house) lookalike?
The claim being made by The Mail (and others) is that Brussels sunk exam reform. In fact the bit of "Brussels" which may have prevented some of Gove's reform is EU completition law, which is one of those bits of the EU that the Conservative Party is normally very much in favour of. EU competition law is coming to an NHS hospital near you very soon. The Conservative Party normally like lots of competition so Gove has been hoisted by his own petard.
(We don't really know whether it was competition law that scuppered Gove's plans; a lot of this is rumour, of course.)
Competition between exam boards may well lead to a race to the bottom and there may well be some sense in Gove's idea of having only one exam board. But competition between service providers in the NHS may also lead to a race to the bottom. Competition does not always have the magical effects that the Conservative Party (and New Labour) claim for it. I think that there's a bit of misdirection going on in the Mail: blame "Brussels" rather than the ideological knot that Gove has tied himself in.
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