Education, education, education…

My mother, who worked in education for her whole life, always used to say that it was a political football; what I never quite grasped was that education is the first knackered old ball a new government reach for when they want a kickabout.

I spoke to the deputy at the kids’ school the other week. The subject of the new government saw her slump in her chair, her face fell. My words in her mouth are that education in schools is just a merry-go-round and there is little new thinking. Instead a sense of: oh here we go… we’ve all get to get out of the red teacup and into that blue teacup on the roundabout and spin round until we are dizzy and sick.

All the news is about cutting funding to our universities and allowing them to raise their fees. Certainly that’s going to make a lot more families think twice about the cost of a degree. Maybe it will put it out of reach of some them. It is a devastatingly efficacious way for the “progressive” coalition to begin to reverse the effective Labour policy of many more young people getting a university education, thereby restoring the natural, elitist order of things. Keeping the majority of people in their place, whilst ensuring we all know that the poor smelly kids will get extra help from a caring regime.

And that’s a problem isn’t it? It’s patriarchal munificence – like chucking a penny in the beggar’s hat. It might help the odd young person follow their dreams and aspirations, but most of them will be left as they are. The Tories may believe in a meritocracy where the Sir Alan Sugars will rise to the top regardless, able to flourish as individuals in a market economy, but actually aren’t they banking on keeping just enough of the electorate in the style to which they are accustomed and not worrying too much about the rest?

I think the main problem, at the root of many ills, is that education in schools has been designed to meet the needs of the market place. Do we really teach kids what they need to be fully-functioning human beings or are we educating future worker bees, drones if I want to be really negative? So many adults I meet don’t know how to think independently and believe what they read, see or hear whilst absorbing capitalist and government messages by osmosis. If people are not taught as children how to learn and think for themselves, what use is school?

Yet the government are in there like Flint, tinkering around at the edges and cutting budgets, because they know best. Schools are factories, and the product is mainly people who conform without challenging the status quo. How can they not be when they are dealing with the quantity of kids that they do. Of course not all schools are equal, some teachers are gifted and inspire children, but even gifted teachers must surely become bowed under the sheer weight of the unequal task, wrapped as it is in unremitting bureaucracy and in a perjorative political climate.

David Cameron and his crew misunderstand humans because primarily they are marketeers selling a product. Today he is going to tell parents who don’t get on with each other that their children are going to be poor, and probably criminal when they grow up. Don’t worry though, Dave is going to fix your problems with the Family Champion scheme. The help offered is of the Victorian kind, where they keep the power and influence entirely for themselves and the effluent is the oppression of others. Until schools are free to produce adults that know that learning is their lifelong right and that their independent thought is vital to resist the pervasive influence of the market, nothing much will change.

43 students went to hospital yesterday, maybe some of them were what the media will brand troublemakers, but I know in my heart there will be at least one brave and independent thinker amongst them. Hope is not quite dead.

George Loveless, Tolpuddle Martyr

Posted on December 10, 2010, in Art, Be not idle, Consumerism, News, Politics and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. Have you noticed the way that certain key phrases and ideas spring up around debates like this? ( I say ‘debates’ – like anybody has any influence on how politicians think).

    The two I’ve noticed here are: ‘why should I pay for other people’s education?’ which is a real Thatcherite idea boiling down in essence to ‘there’s no such thing as society’. The answer obviously being that these are the people who will teach your kids, make you well, produce the arts and media you consume, drive the economy and pay your pension when you’re old. But that’s equally obvioulsy not enough.

    The second is the whole schtick about ‘useless degrees’ in arts and humanities which comes down to what you say about education being there to produce drones.

    We get what we deserve, frankly.

  2. It’s all so depressing! The most depressing thing is we’ve been getting what we deserve for far too long and the current education system is not going to produce people who can change us getting ‘what we deserve’.

    The Daftburgian theory is that the government of whatever hue doesn’t really want an educated electorate as it may just rise up and do something about it.

    Pulis Out!

  3. Well I also suppose that the government we have is a product of the system I am railing against.

    Those “useless” degrees are the ones that mark us out as individuals, not just generic consumers, but in the market they have little value.

    Surely the market in its original format, somewhere you go to buy things you need from time to time, enables humans to realise their potential. Now we have permanently trapped ourselves in one giant global shopping mall, where everything is product and brand, smoke and mirrors, spin and hype.

    • Commenting on my own comments is just an aide memoire: take no notice of me…

      How about this? Rather than finding communities of practice, why not create communities of practice which is what we have done with one of the groups I work with…

      Then learning does not merely “live” in buildings and teachers who transmit to faulty receivers, it belongs to us all with equal access…

      Now the question is how to roll that out? That’s less depressing and hand wringing.

  4. This policy seems likely to affect the middle classes most. I am no fan of university but surely entrance should be on grades rather than money. Otherwise why bother trying at school or college.

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