Tuesday, 5 May 2009

Less Authority, More Learning

Re-establishing authority is the purpose of speeches that will be offered to us by the flailing Prime Minister, beginning today with one on education.

Education has produced an entire generation from rising fives to sixteen plusses since the big blunt felt tip began to scrawl across our futures. We know that more than a third of that generation cannot read, write or do simple number. We know too, and perhaps this is worse, that many more are unable to spell, punctuate, construct formal sentences, command different modes of speech, have no foreign languages, no musical training, have lost their sports fields and swimming pools, are without libraries and even text books, and certainly face teachers under-skilled and poorly trained to teach subjects as central to any education as physics, chemistry, mathematics, classics or German. So that cannot have been the primary purpose of education since 1997.

The wasteland has been produced, at enormous cost but here we are, at year zero. The next five or ten year plan will be revealed, to be implemented by the so ominously named Department for Children, Schools and Families with its built-in Respect Taskforce.

Lines are to be drawn - big, thick, ugly lines between Them, who offer austerity and retrenchment in the face of financial and economic collapse and dreadful indebtedness, both public and private, and Us, who offer growth and opportunity. To be what? Entitled, but with duties. Duties to the government which is to be seen as the state. Entitlements available only to the obedient and enrolled. Enrolment made compulsory. The thick dividing line that should exist between school and family moved to encompass what remnants of family survive after indoctrination posing as teaching and provision which is compulsorily consumed within New Labour's social discipline.

But we've had far too much authority-establishment over the last dozen years. Apologizing with humility would suit us all much better. And far better austerity and repayment, with education shrunk back to the smaller goal of teaching literacy and numeracy with more for those who have the skills and thirst for learning, than further impoverishment to fund the remaking of society in an acquiescent New Labour image.

1 comment:

Odin's Raven said...

There's supposed to be an old Taoist proverb that in the hands of the wrong man, even the right methods produce wrong results.