QotD: June 14th, 2006

From “Growth Fetish”, by Clive Hamilton:

“The emphasis on equality of opportunity in place of equality of outcomes has meant that education has become central to the political program of modern social democracy. Education has replaced motherhood as the goal no one dares oppose. It is a universal good and the more we have of it the better off we are. It can rescue anyone suffering from disadvantage. It is politically more attractive than motherhood because the state can provide more and better education simply by allocating more funds through the budget and training more teachers.

“Education and training have become the new mantra for social democratic politicans. Tony Blair famously describes his three main priorities in government as “education, education, education”. The parallel with the well-known slogan of real estate agents is not without significance.

“It is undeniable that education is important in tackling social exclusion: the relationship betwen education and social mobility is well established. But education cannot be the panacea that social democrats and conservatives hope for. In short, what is good for the individual is not necessarily good for society. The rapid increase in investment in education in recent times has mostly been a form of ‘defensive expenditure’ as people attempt to maintain their position in the employment hierarchy while everyone around them upgrades their qualifications. There is no reason to believe that the new emphasis on education will bring about a more equal or just society, although it may stave off a worsening of inequality. Indeed, by transferring the blame for ‘failure’ to the individuals who do not take advantage of the educational opportunities on offer, the new approach may erode public commitment to greater equality and inclusion.”