Following the revelation about the forthcoming free school forming part of ”The Frank Field Education Trust’ chain, we were left wondering about the ideological foundations behind the development .We were thinking it has the whiff of ‘The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie ‘ about it ( ” Give me a girl at an impressionable age and she is mine for life” ) Coincidentally there is an extremely prescient blog post dating back to 2010 titled ‘The Prime of Miss Frank Field’ which we would like to recommend but as this is a family blog we’ll leave you to Google as it’s strictly parental advisory!
Fortunately we can turn to Professor Gregg ( ‘The Prof’) for a much more eloquent exploration of the drive and motivation behind the creation of a ‘Neo-Victorian Moral Utopia’ which is derived from Frank’s own works.
Frank’s Brave New World : The Role of Education
So Frank Field is trying again to impose his model of society on Wirral, this time through the education system. Perhaps it would be wise to look at that his ideological foundations before we applaud this initiative. The best way to do that is to consider his literary master work, ‘Neighbours From Hell’ which is highly recommended.
‘The natural authority that society requires for its proper functioning is being overrun by the storm troopers of nihilistic behaviour. It is becoming ever more necessary for that authority which is fundamental to the operation of a free society, and which was once freely accepted, to be imposed’
‘Moral and civic duties provide the very foundations upon which civilised life is built
and are a proper area for legislative prescription and if necessary sanctions’
Readers may already begin to detect a small disconnect here between a free society and the imposition of Frank’s views on morality and enforced authority. We must also understand that when Frank talks of ‘Frankian’ intervention he is thinking big. For example
‘Tackling the breakdown of the common decencies culture requires an effort equal
to that which is mobilised for war …Just as wars are too important to be left to
generals, so parenting is too vital to society’s wellbeing to be left to parents unaided’
Generals of course are experienced, often competent, experts. Frank, as an obviously experienced expert in parenting, is going to rebuild the education system in his own image.
But Frank lives alone in his high tower, unmarried and childless, from which he looks down on the rest of us in righteous judgement as we struggle below to do the best for our families, however inadequately. Frank believes lack of a family gives him a godlike objectivity!
Teaching the elements of good parenting and indeed citizenship in schools is a sensible innovation so long as unnecessary and ill-founded ideological baggage is not built into the package. As we read on consider whether such baggage could ever be excluded under Frank’s model and influence. The imposition of new authority is to come via ‘citizen contracts’ and pseudo-religious ceremonies covering all aspects of our lives.
‘The new citizen contract would spell out for the first time the duties society places on
citizens by linking them to benefit entitlements’
‘The celebration and registration of the birth of a citizen, the signing of pupil’s school contracts, the contracts for drawing income support, housing benefit, incapacity benefit and the like, and the celebratory contract for citizens as they reach the state retirement age, will each offer the community the opportunity to teach through the registrar, priest, teacher, trade union official or benefit clerk, what the duties and rights of citizenship involve’
These teaching agents he calls ‘enforcement officers’. Just to be clear what Frank means by teaching he also says
‘…new boundaries need to be drawn… Benefits provide such a boundary as between
them they provide a universal coverage for those most likely to commit antisocial
Frank has told us that antisocial behaviour and bad parenting are phenomena of the undeserving poor in the underclass but also that he is not ‘poor bashing’. Yet it is the poorest who will experience Frank’s benefit sanctions for behaviour he disapproves of. Remember that in his Birkenhead, 55% of adults depend on out of work benefits, never mind those on working tax credits and the rest. So we will combat hunger and re-programme the undeserving poor using benefit sanctions if necessary…er, but won’t that increase their hunger? Won’t they need Foodbanks? Didn’t Frank condemn the Coalition and Conservative governments for making benefit sanctions and cuts?
The well off, who do not need benefits, are outside such sanctions but in Frank’s Utopia they would still suffer the indignity of being lectured about their responsibilities to the
state as Frank sees them, by his approved agents: priests, politicians and minor state ‘enforcement officers’. How will such sanctions be enforced in Frank’s Neo-Victorian
‘The agency deciding what action should follow a repeated failure to meet a [citizen’s] contract should be the police and only the police. Once the police have the required evidence to levy a sanction, and then lodge that decision, the sanction should automatically come in to operation on the appropriate benefit.’
So the police are to become the only enforcement arm of Frank’s Moral Renewal Jihad. The involvement of the police in controlling benefit provision surely makes Frank’s fundamental political attitudes and intentions only too plain. What would come next we might wonder? Well Frank tells us in the third element of his final solution, which is to combat the voices of ‘nihilism’ in the interests of protecting his idea of a ‘free society’. But do not worry dear reader, since
‘In no way is Neighbours From Hell advocating some kind of thought police…At no point is the aim of NFH to open a window into the minds, thoughts or beliefs of voters… The attempt of critics to occupy the high ground is misplaced for although the new politics is different it is most definitely not about invading the private as opposed to trying to influence what goes on in the public domain’
Yes, in Frank’s ‘1984’ Utopia you are free to think what you like …in private. However
‘We enter a different domain when these private views are expressed in public …Private opinions are usually made public with one objective. They are offered in the hope or determination to change the views of other people. Once such opinions are made regularly in a concerted way in public the guardians of our public space have a responsibility to consider the impact on the public peace…If the new politics can be said to be about anything it is how to challenge the private views and values which are impacting so adversely on public conduct’
So, what do we have? Replacing parents with Frank’s educational storm troopers; Imposing citizen’s contracts; Using the police to enforce Frank’s social sanctions; suppressing free speech if it disagrees with Frank’s ideology. Considering all these views, do we really want Frank imposing his model of a moral and social utopia on our local schools? We could just invite in the Taliban or Boko Haram instead.
Professor D Gregg