Just How Do CJs support ‘Freedom and Democracy’?

In a spate of moronic ‘reforms’ Education Ministers in England (of all parties) have vowed to set schools free from the dead hand of local (elected!) authorities. Hence there are Academies, Free Schools, Foundations including some for-profit schools. Yet all of these are funded by the State through taxpayer money.

So how should these ‘free’ schools be governed? A Governing Body, but chosen by election? No, no!

Better by far, we would say, to draw on a random selection of the most important group of stake-holders — the parents of the pupils. Only of the willing? It would be quite easy to make willingness to serve as a Governor a condition for acceptance of little Jonny or Fatima.

So it should be a matter of great joy if a school in Sparkhill, Birmingham (of happy memory for me!) reflects the view of 90% of the parents, and chooses a Muslim ethos. And following advice from an Imam segregates the sexes and introduces school uniform with burkas for the girls. That’s what they want.

Isn’t this just local democracy in full flowering?  Isn’t this exactly what CJs are for?

And yet I feel uncomfortable able this. Can someone explain why this kind of CJ with ability to change things doesn’t seem right, yet other CJs with only an advisory role seem to be such a rip-roaring success?

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10 Responses

  1. Election is a perfectly proper way of appointing governors in schools, where all of the candidates will be known to the voters (parents). The real issue is whether the taxpayer should be funding organisations whose aims may be antithetical to their own.

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  2. > And following advice from an Imam segregates the sexes and introduces school uniform with burkas for the girls. That’s what they want.

    Any evidence for this other than prejudice?

    > And yet I feel uncomfortable able this. Can someone explain why this kind of CJ with ability to change things doesn’t seem right, yet other CJs with only an advisory role seem to be such a rip-roaring success?

    Because, it seems, you are happier with the policies of the current system (reflecting to some extent majority – non-Muslim – opinion in the UK) than with the hypothesized policies supposedly reflecting local majority opinion. This seems more to do with local-vs.-national issues than with allotted-vs.-elected issues.

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  3. What is a “CJ”?

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  4. Just as I thought! Give CJs or elected bodies autonomy to act, yes; but the minute they step over the line (who’s?) they must be curbed! Not much respect for democracy, the vote, localism…..

    btw, my example above is almost exactly what happened. The school in question was rated ‘excellent’ on results. None-the-less the governers were all sacked.

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  5. > What is a “CJ”?

    Citizen jury, I presume.

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  6. Conall, this has nothing to do with CJs or elections, only the tension between local and national preferences (that would occur under any political system). The peculiarity of UK governance is that local goods and services are funded out of national taxation, so which politicians get to decide and to be held accountable?

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  7. […] Speaking of Citizen Juries, I’ve wanted to share something about this “Rural Climate Dialogue” since I attended as an observer last month in a small town in the Minnesota prairie. Below are excerpts from the participants. The the full report includes a statement to the public drafted entirely by the 15 randomly selected participants and an explanation of the CJ process as facilitated by the Jefferson Center. […]

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  8. So in principle there is no difference between a Governing Body which has been elected by the parents and one selected at random from the same group of parents?

    C’mon! The election process hands power to the ‘Resolute Minority’. Don’t you expect better from a true cross-section of the parents? Less deferring to extremist views, more emphasis on what’s best for their children?

    And yes, that leads me to another feature of CJs (Citizens Juries, sorry I thought that was widely known here) which most of you on this blog overlook: Jurors need to be protected just like on legal juries from threats and influence, to be anonymous, and not have their deliberations examined, only their verdict.

    Of course none of this would matter if the CJ is just a toothless talking shop!

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  9. > Don’t you expect better from a true cross-section of the parents? Less deferring to extremist views, more emphasis on what’s best for their children?

    Of course, but that did not seem to be the issue you raised.

    > Jurors need to be protected just like on legal juries from threats and influence, to be anonymous, and not have their deliberations examined, only their verdict.

    We’ve been over the secrecy issue before. In general, secrecy and good governance are antithetical. Yes, there may be special cases where anonymity would be required – that should not be the norm.

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  10. School governors perform a quasi-executive function, so the CJ model just doesn’t apply.

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