Earning the right to preach

I watched the tweets from the WISE13 conference with interest. One that caught my eye (and rather made it water) was Gordon Brown extolling the value of education and its benefits for society. You can see his talk below:

It's a good talk, impassioned and well reasoned. I agree with everything he said. But I find it strange that he is saying it. Brown's record on international development is good, it's something he really believed in. But when he was Prime Minister, he abolished what's called ELQ funding in the UK. This meant that you couldn't get funding to study if you already had an equal or higher qualification. This was enormously damaging for many of the people you want to avail themselves of education – those who have been made redundant and want to reskill for examples. 

I appreciate this is a minor concern compared with global education for all, and particularly the social power of getting girls into school. But it's the principle – you don't get to talk about the wonderful power of education if when you had the chance you looked at the budgets and thought "nah, education's not worth it, we can make a saving there." 

Everyone (well maybe not some of the Taliban) thinks education is a good thing. It's an easy totem to gather around and make impassioned calls for. Education has a lot of social credit. We shouldn't let people use it without having shown their credentials, and Brown botched his chance when he had it to demonstrate that he really believes in the transformative power of education. Of course, compared with what's come afterwards, Brown's crime is minor in comparison, but even so, you don't get to use education now as your platform. Or at least not without some contrition. The same goes for openness – you have to earn that badge through action.

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