Policy vs Public Administration

Dr Patrick Coghlan, National Transplantation Services Manager, Australian Red Cross Blood Service, raised a wide range of ethical issues and challenges for organisation development practitioners at the OD Australia AGM last Wednesday.
One of the many that raised our interest was the current blurring of the line between government policy and administration. Policy is becoming so detailed that there is no room for interpretation. Chriscurnow.com regards this as an example of the Culture Wars (also here on wikipedia) in action.
The view of the new right, and possibly a majority of the public in general, is that public administrators cannot be trusted to implement public policy. Teachers, for example have become slaves to a new educational ideology that at beast produces poorly educated children.
At worst, and of most concern to conservative thinkers, progressive educationalists while claiming that they encourage students to think widely for themselves, actually indoctrinate children in anti-western, anti-capitalist thinking.
This is only one area where this thinking challenges the ability of public administrators to carry out policy. The response is to write policy so detailed that there is no room to move. In education, as you can see is a topic close to chriscurnow.com’s heart, this has meant a move from school based curriculum and testing to nationally prescribed curriculum and “standards”.
Fundamentally, this is a result of public insecurity. At a time when our life expectancy is longer than ever before, we are more concerned about health risks than ever before. Our parents and grandparents lived through two world wars where tens of millions of people perished. Our generation is paranoid about terrorist attacks in which tens or hundreds of lives are at risk.
Chriscurnow.com wonders if the wheel will ever turn again towards a more tolerant and liberal society.

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