Wednesday, December 20, 2006

The Educational State We're In

Who's been reading their E.G. West then? Why none other than home educating journalist dad, James Bartholomew, of course. If you need a quick history of the establishment of state education, coupled with a succinct debunking of the fiction that it is generally good for you, you couldn't go far wrong with the chapter on education in his book "The Welfare State We're In".

Some choice quotes:

"Compulsory schooling, contrary to what nineteenth century reformers expected, has not reduced crime. The indications are, if anything, the other way around: that compulsory schooling has contributed to the rise in crime."

"We published a paper in 1990 showing that Zulu children could spell better than UK children, and English is their second language." quoting Nick Seaton, chairman of the Campaign for Real Education.

"In some cases the decision of a parent not to force a child to go to school is perfectly rational - indeed, wise and in the best interests of the child. A significant proportion of truancy is actually caused by state education. Disorder, low achievement and sometimes bullying turn people away..."

"The basic problem is this: there are far too many people being funded to monitor, advise and even direct the far too few actually doing the work." quoting Jim Hudson, head teacher.

A supply teacher found that "she was not actually expected to teach the children anything. 'My task is simply to prevent them from wrecking the classroom and injuring each other.' Many (of the schools she worked at) were 'not for the faint-hearted.

'The pupils are bad mannered, disaffected and often violent. They shout, swear, throw books around the classroom, kick over chairs and tables, laugh in your face, call you names, and threaten to "have you done" if you remonstrate with them.

Almost daily, I suffer abusive behaviour, foul language, personal insults and comments of a sexual nature too disgusting to repeat. When I first walk into a classroom, it is not unusual to be greeted with the comment "just another f***ing supply teacher.' "

"The most worrying aspect of the lack of parent power is that bad schools and bad teaching methods can go on forever."

Bartholomew also roundly trounces the claim that there has been any genuine improvement in educational standards, as could be inferred from the rise in GCSE grades. He says, for example: "One supply teacher told the TES how students at a private school in Lancashire were allowed up to six 'drafts' of English course-work before submitting a final version for marking."

Bartholomew doesn't mention that he has chosen home education over private schooling, and it would be easy to infer from this chapter that he sees private schools as significantly better option than state schools. Perhaps he has been subsequently disabused of this idea for whilst private schools may turn out the academic results, they produce significant problems of their own. Nick Duffel's book The Making of Them about the psychological effects of independent schools looks like a good place to start on this subject.


Anonymous said...

Can't say I argue with any of this! Quite the opposite - very well put! However, I am curious to know where the fact I've quoted below comes from?

"The indications are, if anything, the other way around: that compulsory schooling has contributed to the rise in crime."

Crime has risen, it seems, but since when? Is that from the 40s to the 90s, or between the 19th and 20th century...and how are they measuring this? Or is it just one type of crime affecting one age group? Or is it one of those annoying, nearly meaningless facts!! :)


Carlotta said...

I think the argument was that crime by young people has risen since the birth of state education, ie: since 1870 and the proposed explanation of this was that the disaffection, frustration and sense of impotence and failure that state schooling causes results in criminal behaviour.

Anonymous said...

Am nevertheless amazed that they measured child crime prior to state education. All the Victorian novels seem to suggest that it was rampant, is hard to imagine that it is even worse today!! Although obviously, sadly, the case.

Thanks for that explanation!

David said...

Hmmm. I find that very flimsy. Does he mention any proper study or suchlike? I'd (obviously) have put Capitalism in the dock, which having informed Govt policy has, through schools (and The System), had the effect you decribe, Carlotta. I'd have thought the particular nature/form of the ejucashun used is an important factor, not simply Compulsory State Education per se.

Carlotta said...

Hi David,

Am interested to know what particular characteristic of capitalism would inevitably result in the type of educational provision that would contribute to crime?

For arguments sake, could we accept the premise that capitalism doesn't inevitably = coercion..?

David said...

We could agree that Capitalism isn't necessarily coercive. People are desperate for your money, and will do many things to get it, but I'm not sure if you could describe it as straight-up coercive.

I do consider advertising abominable, but I'm not sure if it's coercive or some passive-aggressive form of chronic nagging/grotesque flattery. A grandparent is to be visited, but the child doesn't want to go. In the old days, the child would simply be dragged along. Coercive? Nowadays, it's more likely to involve "it's up to you, but grandad would really like to see you. We don't visit often enough as it is, and he's been terribly lonely since your nan died. He may not have all that long left himself. Personally I don't think it's much to ask but, you know, it's up to you". Coercive? Because that's my advertising analogy.

There's an advertisement on The Simpsons - all roads lead back to The Simpsons - for a computer game. The final line being, "If you haven't got Brainstorm, you're nothing." As they say, it's funny cos it's true.

Maybe I'm hyper-sensitive, but a good advertising break, or a trip involving endless advertising hoardings, can leave me feeling assaulted and insulted. If you didn't catch it the first time, and if you have a few hours to spare, maybe you can hire the A-, I mean, I reommend this:

I suppose there's Capitalism in the Ideal (whatever that is), and Capitalism as practised by humans. I'd like to be some sort of Anarchist or Democratic Socialist, but usually I end up making a wimpy Dickensesque plea of 'look, can't we just be nicer to each other?'.

That's a big question: what do Capitalism the Ideal and the Humans Who Practise It do to each other? What sort of humans does a Capitalist system create, and vice versa?

Am interested to know what particular characteristic of capitalism would inevitably result in the type of educational provision that would contribute to crime?

Anyway, education. Well, essentially, the government now sees (for how long I don't know. Always?) the purpose of education as to deliver perfectly formed cogs to the capitalist machine. All endeavours must lead to making (and spending) money - this is the reductio ad absurdsum of Capitalism, but absurdity is no guarantee against existence. Education, in whatever sense, is no longer a good in itself. Nothing is a good in itself.

Creativity is not encouraged - far better to play safe. When Blair talks up The Arts, for example, it's always about how much they contribute to the GDP. The final end of anything is to be measured in sterling. But people aren't complete cogs. And sometimes people can look around and see their sort of cog isn't wanted, isn't necessary, which can be depressing. The endless testing, to make sure everyone's on their way to employability, is responsible for heaven knows how much anguish and despair.

Stuff like that. I'll add more later.