Michael Barone

Like some U.S. Democrats, the Lib Dems had become disillusioned with state schools' performance and the teacher unions' objections to accountability. Education became one of the issues on which the Lib Dems decided the two parties could work together, and they continue to do so despite Cameron's failure last week to produce the Conservative votes needed to pass the Lib Dems' proposal to change the House of Lords.

Gove has insisted that state school pupils read 19th century literature -- Byron, Keats, Dickens, Jane Austen -- and study a foreign language. He has pushed more instruction in history and geography, and higher standards in math and science.

His greatest innovation is the academies -- an idea he picked up in Sweden, of all places. Individual schools, local school authorities, businesses, universities, charities and religious organizations can petition to start academies. But they have to meet certain standards to be approved.

Like many American charter schools, the academies can set their own pay and devise their own curriculum and schedules; they receive the same per-pupil funding as state schools. The idea is to liberate education from domination by the Blob, and the results so far seem encouraging.

Gove's policies cannot be entirely replicated in the United States. Britain's central government has full authority over schools in England (Scotland and Northern Ireland have their own systems), while in the U.S. education is largely controlled by state governments and local school boards often dominated by teachers unions.

But we might do well to keep an eye on Britain's 1,776 academies, which now number 1,957, as a subsidiary page on the website informs us. We English-speaking peoples have been lagging behind on education.

We can do better, and as Gove says, those most in need are the poor and disadvantaged.


Michael Barone

Michael Barone, senior political analyst for The Washington Examiner (www.washingtonexaminer.com), is a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, a Fox News Channel contributor and a co-author of The Almanac of American Politics. To find out more about Michael Barone, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com. COPYRIGHT 2011 THE WASHINGTON EXAMINER. DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS.COM