Is choice always a good thing? The story of the Towneys, the Burbs and the Sticks.

Thomas Hobson 
A Hobson's choice is a "free choice"
 in which only one option is offered. 
There is a lot of talk about "choice" in education at the moment. Parents should be able to "choose" which school they want to send their children to. Choice is automatically seen to be a good thing and what people want. That is just assumed. But is it?

Imagine the following scenario. It's a few years down the line and the "Towney" family live in inner London. They have a choice of four schools for their son. One is very academic. Another offers a faith ethos. One is staffed mainly by former soldiers and another is some kind of an "ecology" school. Three of these schools perform really well and the Towneys visit all of them and are pleased to be able to choose the most suitable school for their son.

The Towneys think choice is great and one weekend they meet up with their friends the "Burbs". The Burb family are not happy. They have just been looking at schools for their daughter Sue Burb and there are there are two choices. Ah says the Towneys I see your problem you only have two schools to choose between, what do you expect living out in the suburbs? But Mr Burb replies that that isn't the problem. The problem is that neither of the schools are any good so the choice is neither here nor there.

The next weekend the Towneys travel out of London to meet their other friends the "Sticks". The sticks also have a son who is very excited about starting at his new High School in September. Mr Towney asked him if he liked it better than the other schools he looked at and the boy looks at him as if he is mad. What do you mean? I didn't look at any other schools. Towney eyes Mr Sticks with suspicion and asked him why. Well says Mr Sticks there is another school but there isn't an easy way to get there so we didn't have any choice. That's dreadful says Mr Towney you really should write to your MP. Why says Mr Sticks, the local school is excellent and all his friends are going there.

In this scenario two families are happy. The Towneys and The Sticks. The only unhappy family are the Burbs and they had a "choice". The Sticks had no choice but were still happy.

Now of course there could be many permutations of this story. Perhaps the only school that The Sticks could send their children to is not very good and they ended up unhappy.

But my point is choice and satisfaction are not the same thing. You can be satisfied without having a choice and dissatisfied but have a choice.
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