Saturday, 14 January 2012

And he has a shifty stare

We have completed our final discussions about the UK Education Secretary, Michael Gove.

The outcome is, he has to go.

Have you ever worked with someone you couldn't figure out? When, say, they implement a new policy, and you think, Eh? What's going on there?

Then you reason, they either just committed an act of alarming stupidity, or there is a master plan, and I haven't seen what it is yet.

So you waste your time trying to work out whether they are inept, or whether their latest action is an inscrutable step in a hidden agenda. If only you could make the imaginative leap to get there and see what's ahead!

For some time I have had this feeling with Gove.

When he visited China and Hong Kong in 2010, then went home to Blighty, he wrote this:

'the Government has been responding to the economic and social crises we face with big and comprehensive programmes. And nowhere has that been more needed than in education, where I am happy to confess I’d like us to implement a cultural revolution just like the one they’ve had in China.' (28.12.10)

My original reaction was, What an idiot! Doesn't he know what happened in the cultural revolution?

Now, I think his words were much more sinister and scary. It's a statement of intent. He was telling everyone exactly what he was going to do.

Yes, he's looking to effect a cultural change in the social status of teaching. He's going to label, ridicule, humiliate and bully teaching staff before throwing them to the loudest, most resentful voices of the parent population for the inking. He's determined to strip any final respect anyone can harbour for the profession. He's forcing schools to change, to become academies (whether they want to or not), as a means to destroy the present system. Once schools become a vehicle to divert public money into private hands, the role of every participant will be changed into a seller-buyer relationship. Yes, he's destroying state schooling. It is a cultural revolution. Mao already showed him the principle: destroy first and construction will look after itself. In Gove's reconstruction, that will be the market.

Thinking all this puts me in a problem. I believe schools need shaking up. They use a Victorian factory model that needs updating. I resent the simplistic worlds modelled for children via the curriculum, and I loathe the testing, the lack of flair, and the either/or/arts/sciences choices slapped over a child's ambitions like the cold hands of a corpse. School culture can be stultifying and deadening. Kids are locked away from the community. There's a lack of social mixing. Expectations drift to the mediocre. You can see the creativeness and inventiveness of new staff slowly ebb away. And I agree, there are some suspect and hopeless teachers, where it's difficult, even after years, to shift them.

Schools need to freshen their ideas, yes, but Gove's way?

So many, many more good people work hard in challenging situations with little room to develop professionally. They'll never see rewards in A grades, but are motivated to impact positively in a young person's life. Many parents want the fine responsibilities of education removed from them; they don't have the resources, time, or stomach, to put together an education alone. And many children want another place to go: for some unfortunates, the classroom is a sanctuary from a turbulent and destructive home life.

I don't want to see any of these people, who needs state schools, trafficked to corporates and privateers.

If Gove continues rearranging education, then yes, he'll be one of the most dramatic Education Secretaries we've had. But I don't consider that any glory. In the last few years, schools have been thrown about, driven by ideology, run by institutional mentalities, set up like businesses and been used as agents of social control. It's time they had someone who did less, allowed teachers more creative freedom, and listened to the ideas of scholars, educators, and children.


sharon said...

Well said Grit. I would go further and say that all public services in the UK, if not already privatised, appear to be heading that way. Woe is the consumer with less than a stratospheric income in the years to come.

Nora said...

Is it true that he wants to give the Queen a yacht for her birthday?