Wednesday, November 10, 2010

National Political Standards

As I listened to Parliamentary Questions yesterday on TV the thought struck me – if the Government is so keen on national standards in education why doesn’t it apply the same criteria to politics. Let’s measure the efficiency and effectiveness of the Government of the day against agreed criteria.

I suppose John Key’s comparison with Australia is a crude attempt at that but politicians of any party always leave themselves wriggle-room. The Reserve Bank has to operate within certain prescribed conditions. But on the whole the Government has little ultimate measurement or assessment except the ballot box which is a crude form. [Necessary though].

But if kids are expected to measure up to certain standards, why not politicians. If one begins to think about measurement of such standards the pitfalls of a too simplistic approach become increasingly clear.

Certain measurements are obvious. GDP is one. Longevity? Income? Taxes? Economic criteria and averages are relatively clear-cut.

But what about Freedom? Happiness? Security? Fresh Air? Clean Water? Access to Medical Services? Mobility? Living Conditions? Civilised Debate? Equality? Rule of Law?

Maths, writing and reading are specific tasks the critics will respond. They narrow education down if they argue so. Can, and should, government be similarly narrowed down? If not, why not? As a citizen I want answers to the questions in the paragraph above.

I don’t want to live in a country with a few gated mansions and miles of slums. But let’s not define national standards in politics in terms of negatives. I would like to live in a country that’s fair, compassionate, prosperous and exciting. I’m well aware that means compromise. Can one measure selfishness as one can measure reading ability?

The more I get into the thought the more complicated it becomes. Hence, my sympathy for teachers having to implement a half-baked standards scheme. Not that I approve of teachers comparing the policy with Hitler's regime. That's counter-productive, indeed downright stupid, if not verging on the dangerous.

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