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.

Caring fulfillment

Catherine Fox, in this month’s BOSS magazine reviews Anne Manne’s book Motherhood.
I’m saddened by her undoubtably accurate observation:

I’m happy to agree with Manne’s conclusion that our obsession with work has gone too far – after all, I co-wrote a book with [BOSS editor] Helen Trinca about this addiction, Better than Sex: How a whole generation got hooked on work, which she cites.

But part of our thesis was that paid work had become the public stage in modern democracies and women wanted a chance to have a role in that forum and ideally to change the workplace too.

It’s just a bit convenient to argue that caring work, which is admirable, can be as fulfilling as some of the jobs well educated women now have access to [my emphasis] – it’s not just men who use work to justify “absence from family obligations”.

It’s no doubt a true observation, but it’s sad. There must be a way in which we can learn to value caring work while allowing both women and men to find fulfillment in all the work they do.