Friday, December 02, 2005

Phonics and stuff

There's a piece over at the Jarndyce Blog about the Government's plans to re-introduce the 'synthetic-phonics' method of teaching children to read. Well, that was the method by witch I was taut to reed and right and it surved me veri well indead I think.

Anyway, I've also discovered that apparently the fact that this hadn't been the practice in primary schools in England and Wales was used by free-marketeers as justification of their bizarre notion that education should be privatized. It's only since I've started blogging that I've come across this eccentric idea and I'm wondering where it comes from because this certainly was not Adam Smith's view and I'd thought all but the most loopy 'anarcho-capitalist' types still resisted the widely-accepted view that there are a variety of 'public goods' that the market is incapable of providing. I really think the economic argument falls into, "No, really - the earth's round" category so I won't bother going into it except to point out that no industrialised country has depended on the free-market a universal compulsory education system.

The enthusiasm for the free-market appears to be based on the idea that it would release schools from the 'micro-management' of the classroom by central government. Well, I'm glad that they've seen the errors of their ways because it was Thatcher, followed by Major, who centralised education in this country to an unprecedented degree with the national curriculum and its accompanying 'death by assessment' approach to education. And one could point out that not only is privitisation not the only way autonomy can be passed back to schools, it would not in any event guarantee this autonomy, given that they are subject to the same curriculum and exam system as everyone else.

Finally, I'm not one of those who thinks that state schools are as good as private ones; for the most part they are not, and the reason is really jolly simple: private schools are selective, end of story. The uniform, the 'ethos', the smaller classes, the 'traditional' methods all put together aren't anything like as significant as this simple fact. Parents who have forked out such large sums of dosh aren't for the most part going to put up with their offspring wasting time and disrupting the education of others and if they do, the school always has the option of telling them to bugger-off.

Whereas we in the state-sector have the policy of 'social-inclusion' where one could be forgiven for thinking that the only criterion under which a pupil can be permanently excluded is if Her Majesty's Prison Service absolutely insists.

In the unlikely event that any teacher from the private sector is reading this and is thinking, "Oh no darling - it's the callibre of the teachers in the private sector", I hereby challenge them to a duel behind the Cathedral at six. Weapons are to be hammers and empty bottles of Buckfast.

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