Monday, 4 March 2013

What's a manifesto? It's a statement of promises, guys!

Thanks to the efficiency of a local home educator (I am truly, utterly grateful), Shark, Tiger and Squirrel were smuggled into the Houses of Parliament today.

They weren't allowed to enter with knives, balloons, hats, gloves, or incendiary devices. Nor wear tee-shirts with big, rude messages on them. They could, however, take in a sulky scowl and a suppressed stream of juvenile sarcasm. Okay, that was in the shape of me, but in my defence, I didn't start until we hit the after-tour education session.

No, truly, first, you must take the public tour round Parliament. It is essential for every one of us, big, small, voting, non-voting, anarchist, conformist. If only to see the impressive toilet facilities and old boy rooms occupied by our elected representatives.

But the education session? Hmm. Okay, blame the fact that I am a tough demanding educationalist. Or the fact I am easily irked by being hailed with HEY GUYS! followed by a constant bombardment of AMAAAAAZZZIIING! with high-fiving and gyrations straight off a Bollywood dance routine, and a breathy jumping up-and-down routine in the manner of a game-show host from a Channel 5 quiz show who incidentally is hooked on acid.

So it's me, obviously, being an old fuddy-duddy, but the whole wildly amaaazzziiing performance of the education officer seemed to tell me much about the assumptions from our schooling world, where learning about your right to vote has to be presented as edutainment otherwise it can't be interesting and teacher success is marked by how high-fivin' you can get when you deliver a pre-set packaged workshop.

To ole-Grit ole-woman it seems a dumbing down, if anything is, right in the heart of Parliament which (theoretically at least) is supposed to be against the peddling of low educational expectations.

Here's a telling moment. The wildly bouncing education officer, glued to the workshop script, announces 'A manifesto is a statement of promises! What is it? It's a statement of promises! HIGH FIVE ME! Amaaazzzing! HEY GUYS! Can you remember that? A statement of promises? If I ask What is a manifesto? at the end, and you answer It's a statement of promises! then EVERYONE GETS A BADGE! Can you do that? Can you? AMAAAAAZZZIIING! HIGH FIVE ME!'

But then the MP arrives, half-way through the session, to do her turn, and one kid mentions this 'statement of promises'. Oh no! It all goes wrong! The MP's not following the edutainment script! She seizes on this phrase to suggest that maybe a manifesto isn't a statement of promises, it's a list of preferred policies; a grand to-do list, and - basically - it's where your politics start. From here grow discussions of value and interest: the manifesto is an origin for your political allegiances, agreements, rationalities, supports and refusals. And what she doesn't say, is which politician wants to be held to a promise?

So now, in Grit's mind, we hit the interesting stuff. But interesting stuff can't be had in a one-hour prescribed workshop on citizenzship KS2/KS3. We must ignore any sniff of dissent, any unpredictability, as an operational difficulty to the smooth-running of the package; we must reach the amazing conclusions that we prepared at the beginning, for we have boxes to tick! High fives to slap! Guys to hail! Acid to take! And badges to give!

It put me in a right fractious mood all the way round Tour Two, Westminster Abbey, that's what it did. Safely back at home, mama gave a big lecture on why it's our damn right to go to Parliament, how I fear PGCE teaching courses are turning out edutainment game-show hosts, and how the culture of the sodding National Curriculum Key Target Indicator Performance Track Stage Three Workshop is downright anti-educational.

(Gah. Here, have the things I truly fell in love with today. Calming medieval floor tiles from Westminster Abbey.)


Irene said...

I wish I could translate "edutainment" into Dutch.

Michelle said...

Well that agrees with C's verdict!

Grit said...

hi irene! i bet dutch could do a neat mash-up of entertainment and education!

hi michelle! yes, i found it annoying, loud, over dramatic and delivered in a voice tending to an american intonation, for what sake i do not know. tsk. set me off again now. (ps, we never said goodbye! i had to run after the organiser since i hadn't a clue where the next meeting point was. see you over easter. xx)

Michelle said...

Yes. Will try and get dates sorted. X

julie ridley said...

A group of us from Manchester went to see the Houses of Parliament and our MP a few years ago during the Badman stuff. We had been meeting with him, and he volunteered to show us around (to some bits where the tour guide wouldn't take us) and we had a quite nice time. We had a tour guide rather than an edutainment high 5 person. It still managed to be interesting. I think the kids fave bit was going through the metal detectors, getting checked by security. My fave bit was sitting on the floor in the House of Lords to breastfeed.