Newton's laws offer a bumpy ride

20th October 2000 at 01:00
EVERY action has an equal and opposite reaction, I remember Isaac Newton once saying to me. And, do you know, his laws of motion still hold true today. For every Birt there is a Dyke. One sacks BBC producers because the future lies in buying programmes from the "indie" sector, the other sacks the independents after discovering that talent must remain within the corporation. My father was in teaching long enough to see spelling abandoned because it inhibited creativity, then reintroduced because it was discovered to be necessary if you wanted to communicate that creativity. One bright young educational Birt even introduced the idea of removing classroom doors as these inhibited the child's freedom to learn from whichever lesson proved most interesting. Fortunately, after several pupils wandered off, never to be seen again, and the rest got colds a new minister took over and the doors were dyked back on again.

Dyking is a way of life in the BBC. One brilliant new controller moves The Archers, the next, even more brilliant, controller dykes it back again. Both are praised for their visioary radicalism.

The same game of nonsense runs throughout the Government: ask any civil servant. Each new man or woman at the top is keen to make a mark and often the simplest way to achieve that is by undoing everything the previous regime achieved. Rule by ping-pong can reach lunatic proportions with no one idea holding sway long enough for us to see the benefits. While nobody wants to advocate a Soviet-style 50-year plan I do sometimes think a little more consistency might not be a bad idea. This particularly applies in education where 11-plus selection has been on its way out and then reprieved so many times that these days I'm as confused as the leader of the Labour party.

But there is a simple answer. The assumption made by every ambitious careerist - be he John Birt, Tony Blair or the headmaster of St Vandals middle school - is that they have arrived to put things right. After all, if things were OK there'd be no chance of making an impact, would

there? Too many people forget

Newton's all-important fourth law of motion: If it ain't broke don't fix it.


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