A couple of days ago, I bought a morning paper (the i, as it happens, though more for reasons of financial restriction than political bent; I’m not a great fan, although I’m aware I’ve done it in the past, of putting people into party-political pigeonholes based on their choice of journalistic reading-matter). Those of you on the Twittersphere thing may know that a certain leading article got me a little irate: Michael Gove’s plans for developments in education. I tweeted as follows:
I know some ppl who do better in exams than coursework; I know many more who don’t. What about them — the majority — #gove?
And it’s nothing to do with parents’ help, or laziness: ppl’s brains work differently, at any age. #gove
I thought about this afterwards, and wondered why it got me so irate — given that GCSE-age children are not a demographic I tend to have many dealings with, either inside or outside education. This short blogpost is an attempt to explain myself in rather longer than 140 characters.
I didn’t much like being a teenager. I don’t really know many people — if they’re perfectly honest — who did. Peer pressure, actual/latent bullying, puberty, romance, school: not a great combination. I do have a bit of a soft spot, though, for the secondary education system, in the same way as I do for the NHS: I don’t have to benefit from it at the moment, but I can see how other people do, I may have to in the future, and I’d rather politicians didn’t completely screw it up before that time arrives, thank you very much.
Also, on a more personal note, I’ve been a part of the education system since January 1989 — that’s back when Yugoslavia, the Berlin Wall, and relative peace in Iraq existed, kids — so I’ve got a certain amount of intellectual and emotional capital invested in it. Not least because I’m still a part of the education system, although I deal with students who are rather older than GCSE age; already, though, I’ve come across students who don’t know about the history of the Caribbean and can’t use apostrophes to save their lives (to name two personal bugbears), so I know something is not altogether un-rotten in the state of the United Kingdom.
More generally, though, my gripes with this policy are based in my belief that, much as I dislike other politicians — and with the notable exception of Gideon ‘What’s a Budget?’ Osbourne and Jeremy ‘Abortions Are Bad Mmmkay’ Hunt — they seem to know what they’re doing; this is not the case with Michael Gove.
Someone needs to remove him from a position of authority on educational matters, send him to whatever the modern equivalent of Coventry is, and install someone like Mary Beard:
Then, and only then, can the educational system in this country start to recover: from the grass-roots up.