So said the headline at the start of this week on the website of publicservice.co.uk .
Inept is an interesting word. A very challenging word.
Inept: Unsuitable for purpose, unfit, invalid, lacking in judgement or skill, foolish, clumsy, incompetent, out of place, inappropriate. [OED]
So what’s happening here?
Sir Michael Wilshaw’s press onslaught has continued throughout the week – see yesterday’s 3Di blog.
Today he was back on the Radio 4 Today programme [Schools: ‘Only good is satisfactory‘], and today the Guardian published another column based on the thoughts of Sir Michael.
Ofsted chief: scrapping ‘satisfactory’ rating will focus headteachers’ minds
Sir Michael Wilshaw is replacing the grade with ‘requires improvement’, while ‘outstanding’ schools will be reviewed
Some people are beginning to see some parallels with the early days of Chris Woodhead.
Let’s hope there are lots of potential recruits to headship waiting in the wings – ready, willing and able to step up to the hot seat. Or maybe we’ll rely on a small army of “Executive Heads” to run several schools each.
But how did all these ‘inept’ headteachers get into the job in the first place? Haven’t we had decades of preparatory training and in-service training for headship? Haven’t we had a National College for School Leadership since the year 2000? A college that, incidentally, was built at a cost of £28m and has been regarded by many as ‘the Sandhurst of teachers’.
PUBLICSERVICE.CO.UK recently published a very interesting interview with Professor Noam Chomsky of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology:
The world according to Noam Chomsky
by Dean Carroll
Q: European Union member states like the United Kingdom are opening up public national health services to the market and actively seeking out American healthcare firms as potential service providers. Is this a good idea, in your view, when the system in the United States fails to care for some many millions of people without adequate medical insurance? And, more generally, are there any lessons that European welfare systems and public services can learn from the US?
A: “Well, they can learn what to avoid. The facts are pretty clear and not at all controversial. Healthcare expenses are about twice as much per capita as other Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development countries. The outcomes are not among the best. In fact, they are often quite low. And, as you said, there are millions without any health insurance. Indeed, there are many millions of deaths from lack of healthcare.”
“So, if the question is – should Europe move towards a highly dysfunctional system and away from a system that is working pretty well? Then it is kind of hard to understand why that’s a question in the first place. The real question has to be – should the US move to the sort of system that other industrialised countries have at half the per capita cost and, generally, better outcomes? There is a good reason why the US system is so inefficient, it’s because it’s the only privatised system. After all, private insurance companies are businesses. Their goal is to make money, not to make people healthier.”
Q: Here in Europe, we have just witnessed yet another EU summit achieve very little in terms of radical solutions to tackle the eurozone crisis. From an outsider’s point of view – what is your impression of the European Union; how do you see its institutions and member states; and do you think the eurozone economic crisis helps to make the case for a United States of Europe?
A: “The eurozone crisis is a self-generated one. Europe is attempting to impose austerity at a time of near, if not actual, recession. That’s a recipe for disaster. I mean, every economist knows that. In fact, the International Monetary Fund just came out with a study of 150 cases of austerity under recession and they are all a disaster. You can see it in the UK right now; the economic decline has now lasted longer than it did during the Great Depression. Austerity just makes matters worse. What is required is economic stimulus and Europe has the resources for that, which would allow countries to grow their way out of the situation and overcome the decline.
Q: If further and deeper integration is not what the future holds for Europe, then what is the alternative? And how can Europe resolve the current economic crisis?
A: “The right move would be economic stimulation and abandoning the rigid concern of the European Central Bank for a 2 per cent inflation rate. The only argument I can see for that is class war. It weakens labour and helps dismantle the welfare state, but it is not the way out of Europe’s economic problems. The ECB is substantially German-controlled – although, I should say, that in the last couple of weeks it has been easing its policies slightly, but it has to do much more. Germany has been a hugely successful economy of late and a large part of its success relies on the fact that it has a European market. It now has a responsibility to carry the system forward towards growth and development; and not sink it deeper into a vicious cycle of austerity, decline of growth and inability to pay debt and so on – which is what is happening. As to this vacuum of leadership among European leaders – well, there doesn’t seem to be much sign of change there at the moment I’m afraid.”
Q: What are you views on the so-called “war on terror” and the threat now to western nations from Islamic fundamentalists?
A: The problem of Islamic terror is consciously exacerbated by the US, Britain, France and others. Take the invasion of Iraq, it was predicted by the intelligence agencies – the CIA, MI6, all of them – that it would be likely to increase terror, which it did. Terror increased by about a factor of seven in the first year, according to US government statistics. A lot of this came out recently in the Chilcot Inquiry, in the UK, but it was known before. Taking actions that increase terrorism are plainly not the way to deal with terror.
“After the 9/11 Al-Qaeda attacks, there was a choice. The attacks were pretty harshly condemned within the Jihadi movement, fatwas from British universities and so on. That has been well-studied in the academic literature. So there was a choice, either you try to isolate Al-Qaeda by separating it from the constituency it is trying to reach – the Jihadi movement, the Muslim populations and so on – and then go after it, if that makes sense. Or the other choice was essentially to follow Osama bin Laden’s orders and carry out wars in the Muslim world, which would be perceived as wars against Islam and, therefore, mobilise more terrorists. This is not just my opinion, incidentally. I am virtually quoting leading US intelligence specialists. The US followed bin Laden’s script; his best allies were in Washington. The threat of terrorism is not trivial and there are ways to deal with it, if you want to reduce the threat and there are other ways to react if you don’t care about terrorism and are willing to extend the threat. Unfortunately, those are the ones we have been following.
Q: Finally, what are the main new areas of research you are working on at the moment?
A: “I have been writing, working and speaking on longer-term issues. For instance – there has been a major change in the US and, indeed, across global economies. Since the 1970s in the US, there has been a sharp reversal of hundreds of years of American history – that saw ups and downs in not very pretty ways, but a general trajectory towards development, economic growth, industrialisation and progress and human rights and so on. There were unpleasant variations along the way, but that was the general tendency. That started to reverse in the 1970s. The economy shifted towards financialisation, a huge increase in the role of financial capital and offshoring of production. So production continues and you have the same owners and managers, but manufacturing in China instead of Ohio. These have been big changes and it extends, to an extent, beyond America.
“Germany has maintained a strong manufacturing and export economy, but there have been changes elsewhere in Europe in many respects. It has been extremely harmful socially, politically and in other ways. Some commentators have described the financial institutions as like a larva eating away at the economy from the inside. And I think that is correct. These changes set in motion a vicious cycle in which there is rapid concentration of wealth – mostly in the financial sector and a tiny part of the society – that leads to a concentration of political power and legislation, which carries the cycle forward with fiscal policies and deregulation. Then you have the state being called upon to step in regularly to salvage the economic crises and the immediate consequences of these processes that have been happening since the Reagan and Thatcher years. It is privatising the profit and socialising the debt.
“Meanwhile, the political system has been shredded. The cost of elections has skyrocketed and that drives the political parties deeper into corporate profits to the extent that to gain a position of some authority in congress, you now have to buy it. It used to be seniority and service that got you to the position of committee chairman. All of this is leading to things like the farce that you are observing right now in the Republican primaries and it is dangerous. There is, finally, some popular reaction to these processes, though, and that may be meaningful.”