Whilst David Cameron struggles to climb out of the Murdoch sewer, we shouldn’t forget that other senior ministers are down there with him. Is Michael Gove one such?
Gove is a former Times columnist and reputedly a frequent visitor to Rebekah Brooks’ Oxfordshire set. But it is Gove’s ideological connection to Murdoch that really matters.
The key link is Joel Klein, former chancellor of New York City schools and now CEO of News Corp’s education division. He flew into London last week to help fire fight the phone hacking scandal, but this was not his first visit to London this year.
In January Gove invited Klein to give the keynote lecture at the inaugural Free School Conference.
Klein was reported as saying “I’m excited by the opportunities that Free Schools will give children of all backgrounds in England and I’m looking forward to sharing my experiences on how to achieve this at the conference”
Klein’s record in NYC is controversial to say the least. He was notoriously anti-union, but also obsessed with standardised test scores which he believes are crucial to ensuring accountability. To get a full picture of his politics it is worth reading his farewell letter entitled The Failure of American Schools.
But as Bernstein & Woodward said; “follow the money”. You don’t have to hack anyone’s phone to find out that News Corp has grand designs for education. Murdoch believes that technology is central to the future development in education. His purchase of Wireless Generation an education technology company that seeks to develop hand held wireless technology to support classroom teachers illustrates his intent.
“Wireless Generation is at the forefront of individualized, technology-based learning that is poised to revolutionize public education for a new generation of students.”
Klein’s view is even more sinister
“Last, to shake up the system, we must change how we use technology to deliver instruction. (This is what I’m now seeking to do at News Corporation.)… [O]ne of the best things we could do is hire fewer teachers and pay more to the ones we hire. And, as in any other field, technology can help get us there. If you have 5,000 math teachers, many of whom are underperforming, significantly improving overall quality is nearly impossible. But if you get the best math professors in the world—who are great teachers and who deeply understand math—and match them with great software developers, they can create sophisticated interactive programs that engage kids and empower teachers.”
Ring any bells? New technology to break demon trade unions? You got it? If you haven’t then take a look at this report about concerns over a deal between News Corp and NYC Education Department.
Murdoch and Klein have a game plan. Gove is their cheerleader. Klein’s last visit to London was for the Sunday Times Festival of Education at the end of June. In the programme notes, Klein commented
“Change is possible, if politicians are willing to risk significant political capital. It requires taking risks, knowing that not every change will work out and that critics will focus mercilessly on those that don’t”
This sounds very like Gove’s own rhetoric about a “schools revolution”. The DfE talk of a ‘breathless’ pace of change, but there is also a growing sense of policy spiralling out of control. Are we ready for the Murdochisation of our schools?