John Mowbray's response (TES, September 5) to my "lament" over business culture in further education is confusing. Rightly, he is angry at the ill-considered decisions which have caused chaos in FE, yet at the same time celebrates the culture that is the result of these decisions. He can't have it both ways. His support for a system in which colleges are in competition, while somehow collaborating with one another, is similarly incoherent.
It's not a question of "recognising fundamental (but educationally disastrous) realities", but of seeing these realities as politically manufactured, and therefore, open to change. So I agree, we should try to influence future policy. Highlighting how the FE market has wasted resources and disorganised provision, and articulating on consumerist educational values are legitimate ways of doing this.
John Mowbray, however, seems content with the "all-singing all-dancing" chorus so often heard from FE leaders, in which any criticism is seen as carping. There is a definite hint of managerial machismo here, as if our worth is measurable by our willingness to cope with whatever is thrown at us.
But, like Mowbray, I applaud change - if it is worthwhile. The growing commitment to "inclusiveness" in FE would be one example.
His mention of other public services is interesting. Here, too, local managements attempted to swallow the impossible demands of an unsympathetic government, passing the buck on to staff, through cuts in provision, while drawing on a pernicious rhetoric of "realism" and "the need for change" to justify this behaviour. It is now widely accepted that the commercialisation of the National Health Service has been utterly wasteful.
Meanwhile, I'll continue to lament. Lamenting what has been lost helps us remember what needs to be regained.
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