Wasn’t going to write as the muse hasn’t taken me awhile until I read John Harris’ piece on current education http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/feb/11/margaret-thatcher-state-school-michael-gove-education-legacy-exams It pretty much sums up the current parlous state of education except for the very unfortunate title: ‘I’d rather have a margaret thatcher state school than a michael gove one’. He bases this on the relatively enlightened education he had compared with his daughter’s now. What he doesn’t appreciate is that in the longer term historical perspective it was the changes introduced by thatcher’s cohorts that have led to the current state. There are a number of reasons for the aetiology of our contemporary system but one of the main ones is a rather ironic ignorance of what education actually is and the imposition of blinkered systems and curricula by a succession of blinkered education secretaries, sort of a blind negative loop. Instead of opening up young people’s brains and minds we now have a system that does the opposite, which is very sad but just what the powerful folk want. Keeps the plebs in their place and doesn’t afford them any great critical faculties.
You fucking arrogant bastard Duncan, how dare you consign so many to this state.
Anyway, Mr Harris talks of how 30 or so years ago there was “a momentary flowering of modern educational methods”. Just so in my not so humble opinion having actually experienced it as a trainee and then practicing teacher, I kept practicing and eventually thought I was a pretty good teacher. But I also experienced the baleful influence of thatcher and it’s consequent development. We now have a system so top heavy with testing, assessment, targets and boxes to tick that the absurdity is so blinding that cognitive dissonance doesn’t even begin to describe the situation. Why even at my last school, a school for students with a multitude of learning, behavioural and social difficulties, there is such an obsessive culture of imposing a system of ‘measuring and demonstrating progress’ that any semblance of thought about what we might be trying to achieve for our young folk is lost amidst a shitstorm of targets, assessing, measuring, and the like. Sad days.
And then there is my particular bete noir the imposition of horribly skewed ‘risk’ stuff. The latest is a bureaucratic nightmare of individual ‘risk assessments’ for each student that is designed not to make life better for them, their peers or staff but mainly to protect the company and the establishment from any ‘reputational harm’ or prosecution. No consideration of how it might impact on a student’s well being, life chances or even simple enjoyment of their existence. Again this has come about with the imposition of the ‘audit culture’ by neoliberal governments; listen to Kooks again by Mr Bowie for a different and more loving, really caring message.
Weird dreams last night that I was still working at the school, even though I’d retired had got my pension and wasn’t supposed to be working but no-one was questioning my being there.
So there were Kate and I armed with phones and computers tapping away at 9 a.m. yesterday to try and get tickets for The Boss in Dublin. Kate finally got through on her computer but then became very frustrated when our bank blocked the payment. She let rip at a poor unfortunate at the bank and left for work a little huffed. I persevered, frequently having to tick the box saying I wasn’t a robot and having to identify the photos with flowers, or shop fronts, or flaccid penises from a selection of photos to further prove my non-robotness and getting increasingly despondent as time ticked on. Then suddenly, as I was about to give up, success and probably among the last to be sold and we’re off to the Emerald Isle to see Mr Springsteen in May, what a birthday present.
Keep on keeping on, love Duncan.