article-single

The Price of Non-Failure

The recent school exam results in Britain made me run to my keyboard, not in joy, but despair. Whilst a record 94.3% of all pupils passed the university-entrance exams (called A-levels), the State-controlled exam board chiefs boasted of “driving failure out of the system” and looked forward to 100% pass rates in the next few years. Incredibly, the pass rate has gone from 77% to the new record in only 12 years. I smell the smell of manipulation in the drive to eliminate failure.

What are they afraid of? Mobs of traumatised zombies trudging the streets and wailing “I’ve failed. Failed!”? Mass suicides because they cannot take the stigma of failure? Please, Miss Nanny State, return these young people their backbones and give them some credibility.

But what an evil this great exam inequality is – some pass but some do not! The haves and the have nots syndrome is facing extinction as the crusading exam setters strive to produce exams which are failure-proof (or is that idiot-proof?). Having bravely slain this chihuaua, it will be on to the other bugaboos that vex society so much such as poverty and discrimination. Perhaps, like the easing of the difficulty of exams, the government could just relax the definition of “poverty” and shift a few million voters over the newly drawn border into the land of prosperity. It is amazing what a few strokes of a pen or a keyboard can do – just ask their colleagues in the Treasury who conjure up billions of fiat money at a stroke. Unfortunately, this is not very likely, as “poverty” is one of the great nebulous entities that government needs to justify the Welfare State.

Moving on from the hallucinatory world of government spin and massaging of figures, the not so twilight world of business recruitment is murmuring. The heretical malcontents are claiming that the people they are getting are actually stupider. The head of the influential Institute of Directors even had the temerity to say that “Young people seem to know less than they did 20 or 30 years ago”. When these “fiat” qualifications are exposed to the free market, they are found wanting. After all, imagine no one was allowed to fail in business ventures, imagine a world where employees were never allowed to be fired for failing to meet the grade. Actually, I can, it is called the public sector and this disease is spreading to our bright and bushy tailed youth.

So let us forget about the cleansing and sifting process of failure which has allowed capitalism to progress when it comes to education. Just give the former failures a false sense of achievement and deter them from being motivated by the pain of failure to try harder. In fact, we’ll just palm them off onto insipid courses such as media studies or sociology and they’ll surface again in some deadbeat job in a social security office. You know a bit like shovelling snow for a living in the old USSR (sorry, that should be “Subzero Precipitation Displacement Management”).

Free education for all is such an albatross, the universities are running at overcapacity due to easy exam requirements, too many establishments and the ubiquitous State subsidies to prop up entrants who were better off just getting a job and applying their latent talents at the coalface of the real world. But, instead, they spend three or more years at State-approved establishments learning skills which do not reflect free market demand and in between lectures they generally live it up at the taxpayers’ expense (well, they did until grants were abolished). Then they graduate and find they cannot even get a job at MacDonalds because they are deemed to be overqualified.

It is time to let private exam setters set the standards and let the customers decide which set of exams are the best and the ones to covet. The government has sat the test of exam-production and has come it at grade Z (no doubt a pass in the government’s eyes).

August 16, 2002