National announced an education policy yesterday. The Greens are announcing one on Sunday. Labour are announcing one on Monday.
This doesn’t seem like coincidence to me. It seems like the strategists, pollsters and market-researchers are all telling the main parties the same thing: that middle-class voters are concerned about education and will respond to policies targeting that issue.
My pop-psychology explanation for this is that parents are in the process of returning to work, sending the kids back to school, resuming life-as-usual and working long hours, not seeing that much of their kids, feeling guilty about this and transmuting that into anxiety about school and teachers and ‘doing the best for their children’, and that political parties are picking up on that anxiety and preying on them like predators raiding herds of grazing animals at a water-hole.
And it’s stupid! Because we have a very good education system by world standards. It’s probably the best value for money in the world! Most of the children who are under-performing in that system are from poor backgrounds and studies routinely show that their learning problems can be traced to poor nutrition, living in damp houses and related problems that can’t be solved through tweaking the education system. But there’s no political capital in telling anxious, guilty middle-class parents that their kids are basically fine so instead we get this poll-driven obsession with ‘fixing’ a system that’s not broken.
Will National’s policy capture votes? My gut tells me no. Maybe because of tribalism, maybe because the press gallery think Key has just made a brilliant tactical move and I assume they’re wrong about everything, but mostly I can’t imagine parents getting exciting about the headmaster at their school getting paid an extra $50,000 to spend 40% of his time off helping run other schools. I just can’t see that swinging any votes.