The Panoptican is alive and well

Check out the image on this article. The one towards the bottom of the page by Lucy Nicholson, with the steel cages arranged in a semi-circle. The ideal Panoptican. With a cage they can be observed from all sides as well. Totally visible. Washed in surveillance.

The Wikipedia article on the Panoptican (which was developed by Bentham) quotes Bentham as saying:

a new mode of obtaining power of mind over mind, in a quantity hitherto without example.




Bread and Circuses

I’ve heard about a new web site which will offer patients / customers the opportunity to rank their local hospital. The web site appears to be if not funded by then at least endorsed by central government:


This could be said to be an example of market madness. Does anyone seriously think that having a surgeon sweating over his ‘Health Adviser’ ranking as he performs a heart by-pass operation is really going to help ‘patient safety’?

Certainly it would be possible for people with the right kind of knowledge and experience to review clinical figures and spot problem areas. This can and should happen behind the scenes. Turning it into a public auction won’t make anyone any safer, probably less, for the reason given above. (It puts people under pressure just when they don’t need it).

So; what is striking about this is the way the political class are engineering a populist ‘customer-focussed’, public participation charade. Why might they be doing that?

1. Conditioning the public to accept that everything has to be driven by market operations. Driving out any last vestiges of ideas about social provision of social goods. The

The Pupil Premium and Oxfordshire County Council

The ‘pupil premium’ is a fund created by the government which is distributed via local authorities to schools. It is linked to the number of disadvantaged students in each local authority area and is supposed to be used to give these students an ‘extra’ boost. It is specifically linked to numbers of young people in care or receiving free schools meals.

It was heralded by the leader of the Liberal Democrat party as a major initiative for social inclusion. Nick Clegg said:

Get this right and we make good on education’s progressive promise. To give every child the chance to go as far as their abilities and effort can carry them

How is it being used in Oxfordshire? Extra lessons or provisions for these disadvantaged groups? The equivalent of private tuition that other young people enjoy? No. In Oxfordshire what they are doing is taking these disadvantaged young people out of classes such as art and P.E and giving them extra lessons in maths and English instead. (I know this because I applied for a job on the programme and was told this by one of the programme managers). The point of this is obvious: to increase the figures in the various league tables and SATS scores etc. Art and P.E are not scored for national measures. English and maths are.

So. A policy sold by a politician as a major initiative for ‘equality’ and social justice is being implemented in a wholly cynical way by Oxfordshire County Council to boost some league tables. To make the Council look good. Nick Clegg has said that the policy would be monitored to check that local authorities were implementing it properly. Clearly they are not checking or Nick Clegg regards this kind of manipulation of the figures as an acceptable use.

Many young people who do not do so well at school will tell you that the only lessons they enjoy are P.E and art or music. (Mostly just P.E). So, Oxfordshire is taking these young people out of the one lesson they enjoy, making sure that their experience of school is totally unsatisfactory. And doing this in order to boost school performance figures. Central government appears to be conniving.

In addition this of course makes it clear to everyone in the school who are the young people in care / on free school meals, thus working to promote division rather than inclusion.

This is a typical example of manipulation for outcomes. This is what local authorities and government do with your money. They spend it on making themselves look relevant. With no thought of what is really good for people.