chapter  9
17 Pages

Turning the tables: the Conservative education offensive

Fight for Education: A Black Paper appeared in 1969 as a set of dissenting right¬ wing essays from the margins of the educational world, by which it was largely reviled and discounted. Only six years later, by 1975, the fourth such Black Paper was able to claim with satisfaction a wide realization that ‘education had not delivered the goods. . . there was now a case that had to be answered’. In the ‘Great Debate’ of the following year many of the writers’ assumptions had become indistinguishable from those of the Labour government itself. By 1979, the electorate could walk past a large Saatchi and Saatchi election poster for the Tories: Educashun Isn’t Wurking. In the ensuing government an ex-minister of education took office as the most committedly right-wing premier since the war, and appointed a Black Paper editor and articulately aggressive right-wing ideologue as her minster with responsibility for higher education. It was not just that within a decade the trail had been blazed for a thoroughgoing restructuring of education, but that the debate around schooling and its purposes had been put at the political forefront in the attempted recasting of late British capitalism, as a chief site for the staking out of new parameters of consent. We begin by noting in broad outline some of the connections and divergences between this and earlier periods in Conservative educational strategy.