I don’t mention a great deal here about my work as a teacher in London, but a book review in The Observer this weekend made me want to post something.
There has been some new law or initiative every year since [1997 when Blair came to power]: literacy hour, “Every Child Matters”, academy schools, Early Years Foundation Stage, the “Gifted and Talented” programme, personalised learning etc.
This process, Furedi argues, signals a politicisation of education that makes schools responsible for the correction of social ills. As a result, their proper function – as transmitters of the accrued wisdom of humanity from one generation to the next – is squeezed out.
Too bloody right. Having begun teaching in 97/98 it’s been clear over the past decade that the school’s role in loco parentis is now often taken to the extreme. If children are fat then we need to teach them healthy eating. If there are too many teenage pregnancies, teachers need to improve sex education. If children are depressed, or taking drugs, we need to now teach happiness. And if children do not agree with the policies of this government, we need to timetable Citizenship lessons:
By extension, teachers have become mediators in a process of socialisation – policing “values” rather than directing thoughts; a secular political clergy with the education secretary as pope.
Pedagogy, meanwhile, has come to look more like therapy, with motivational and psychological techniques coming to the fore, along with a fashionable horror of allowing children to get bored. Everything must be “relevant”.
The end result of this is a utilitarian curriculum where every minute of lesson time must be accountable for a dollar it will help earn a child when they grow up. Teaching Mathematics as I do I always get the regular question when we open the page to circle theorems or some such: why am I learning this – when am I ever going to use this in my life. And my answer never fails to shock them: you’re never going to bloody well use it.
A lecture on the essential uselessness of education follows: they will never need to know about Macbeth’s wife, never need to know about glacial moraine, never need to know 99% of the stuff that is taught.
What they need to know is how to think, because if they think they are free.
Which is perhaps why the government wants to fill our curriculum with all this nonsense. They don’t want education to be educative. Generations of free thinkers would simply not stand for the crap they are currently allowed to get away with.
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