Yes Minister – 3 minute skit on parents choosing a school

A 3 minute video from the British Comedy “Yes Minister” about parents choosing a school.

Unfortunately, the version of the video with English subtitles is no longer available for free on the internet.

Fortunately, this text accopmanies the video:

The “yes Minister” show is centered on the relationship between Minister Jim Hacker, the elected representative of the people and nominally in charge, and Permanent Secretary Sir Humphrey Appleby, the chief bureaucrat, who sees his job as placating the minister while ensuring that the experts in the civil service, insulated from the meddling of the politicians, are really running the show.

Some highlights from the episode as excerpted by EdChoice. In this scene, Prime Minister Hacker, with the help of his political adviser, Dorothy, is pitching the idea of school choice to Sir Humphrey.

Prime Minister: I’ve realized how to reform the education system.

Humphrey: Excellent, Prime Minister.

Prime Minister: I’m going to let parents take their children away from school, and move them to any school they want.

Humphrey: Well you mean, after application, scrutiny, tribunal hearing and appeals procedures …

Prime Minister: No, Humphrey, just move them. Whenever they want to.

Humphrey: I’m sorry, I don’t quite follow.

Dorothy: This government is going to let parents decide which schools to send their children to.

Humphrey: Prime Minister, you can’t be serious.

Dorothy: Why?

Humphrey: Well, you can’t expect parents to make these choices. I mean how on earth would parents know which schools are best?

Prime Minister: Which school did you go to Humphrey?

Humphrey: Winchester.

Prime Minister: Was it good?

Humphrey: Oh, excellent, of course.

Prime Minister: Who chose it?

Humphrey: My parents, naturally. Now that’s different, Prime Minister. My parents were discerning people. You can’t expect ordinary people to know where to send their children.

Dorothy: Why not?

Humphrey: Well, how could they tell?

Dorothy: Well, they could tell if their kids could read, write and do sums, they could tell if their neighbors were happy with the school, and they could tell if the exam results were good.

Humphrey: Exam results aren’t everything, Prime Minister.

Dorothy: That’s true. And those parents who don’t want an academic education for their children can choose progressive schools.

Humphrey: But … parents have no qualifications to make these choices. I mean, teachers are the professionals. Parents are the worst people to bring up children. They have no qualifications, no training. You don’t expect untrained teachers to teach. The same should apply to parents….

Later Sir Humphrey, in a discussion with a fellow high-ranking bureaucrat, concludes that the school choice needs to be blocked, and they discuss the tactics they’ll use.

Humphrey: But it’s hard to get the Prime Minister to see that it’s a bad idea.

Civil Servant: Of course. It’s actually a very good idea, it just mustn’t happen.

Humphrey: I wonder whether we oughtn’t to play along with it. In the interests of the nation’s children.

Civil Servant: Nevermind the nation’s children. What about our colleagues at the Department of Education?

Humphrey: Yes of course. Sorry.

Civil Servant: Humphrey, let’s be clear about this. The only people who will like this idea are the parents and the children. Everyone who counts will be against it.

Humphrey: Teacher’s unions …

Civil Servant: The local authorities …

Humphrey: Educational press …

Civil Servant: And of course, the DES [Department of Educational Services]. So … what’s the strategy?

Humphrey: Well the unions can be counted on to disrupt the schools …

Civil Servant: And go on television saying it’s the government who are causing the disruption.

Humphrey: Good, yes … And the local councils will threaten to turn the constituency parties against the government.

Civil Servant: Fine … or the Department of Education will delay every stage of the process, and leak anything that embarrasses the government.