Public schools are nothing to do with your business, probably?
However, the biggest risk the abolition of public schools presents is similar to one that does affect many businesses. Before I explain that, let’s look briefly at the issues.
Public schools may be scrapped
The Labour Party Conference voted to abolish public schools. This would involve:
- removing their charitable status
- (ultimately) redistributing their assets
- obliging universities to end their prejudice in favour of candidates from such schools.
It is likely that a government would be able to implement first of these items fairly simply, although the opposition to such a move would be fierce and well organised, but the other two items could prove difficult for legal and practical reasons.
Why scrap public schools?
Many people in the Labour Party, among others, see them as symbols of class, privilege and inequality. They also argue that public schools help to maintain the above and impede social mobility. However, many people want to keep them.
- Some want to keep the benefits of privilege for their families and their class
- Others say the public schools provide the best education. Scrapping them would do nothing to improve the rest of the education system
- There are also people who think it is important to have some schools outside the state system so as to allow greater freedom to experiment or simply do things differently. Of course, that depends on how uniform the state system is, or will be.
What are the risks of scrapping public schools?
- Firstly, there are the risks of losing the benefits listed above, two of which may be worth keeping. Other schools might sometimes benefit from copying the best ideas piloted in independent schools.
- Secondly, there is the risk of wasting too much time on an issue that is not high among the priorities of most people. Remember foxhunting?
- The third risk is the least obvious but the most serious: maintaining class privilege!
How can class privilege be helped by scrapping public schools?
If there is a Labour Government and if it tries to abolish independent schools, it will divert attention from all the other ways in which the class system operates. It will leave unchallenged the assumption that people educated in the private sector are somehow better than all the rest. Even without these schools, a person’s class will still be apparent, and with it the key to unlocking so many opportunities. What needs changing is the false assumption held by so many (of all classes) and for us to become a genuinely egalitarian society. Reducing the gap between rich and poor would help too. So would improving our state schools.
What has the scrapping or not of public schools got to do with your business?
One of the biggest failures in risk management is misidentifying risks. In the same way as public schools are a symbol and symptom of a much bigger social phenomenon, class barriers, many apparent issues in business are often mistaken for the underlying causes. “I’m not afraid of flying – only of crashing!” Are you avoiding flying, or something else, when you should be looking for ways of improving air-safety, or whatever? I wrote about misidentifying objectives in another post which you may find relevant. For more ideas about risk management, try my book, Load The Dice – or have a word with me.