Last week, there was a mini-furore over an exam question inviting candidates to explain antisemitism. British Education Secretary Michael Gove ventured, clearly with little or any thought, the following devastating apercu: "To suggest that antisemitism can ever be explained, rather than condemned, is insensitive and frankly bizarre".
This demanded a letter to The Guardian, which was published today. It provided an opportunity to tie together three strands of thinking that have been occupying my mind.
First, of course, there's Grosse Fugue. As the numbers reading it have increased and comments started to flow, it's clear that the main 'agenda item' - shifting the Holocaust debate from articulation of the horror to articulating its legacy - does have some genuine resonance.
Secondly, education. from my privileged position as a Chair of Governors, it seems pretty clear to me that there is a form of jihad going on, where the holy war is against anything resembling corporate statism. One manifestation is the deliberate fragmentation of local state education structures, creating a free-for-all in the provision of primary and secondary schooling unhampered by inconveniences such as planning, centralised procurement, co-operation or, indeed, any other concept that might encourage consistency of provision. I should say also that this process is without any evidence base whatsoever. It is an exercise in reverse social engineering and class war that will have as its inevitable legacy the need for local democratic institutions to pick up the pieces and rectify an act of wanton vandalism.
And, thirdly, I'm exercised by issues of experience and competence. Michael Gove was a journalist before becoming Education Secretary. What possesses people like this to think they can do a job of near-infinite detail, requiring exceptional people skills and, perhaps most importantly, considered intellectual thoughts and responses? To quote Calpurnia to her hubby in Julius Caesar: 'Your wisdom is consum'd in confidence'. The problem with people who have passed through an elistist education system is that they believe in their own powers in an entirely non-critical, non-self-censoring way. Gove's remark is typical of many: 'If I say it, so must it be'. It is not so.