Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Education and the paranoid style of politics #1

I see this largely, but not exclusively, as a rightwing phenomenon where people with power and influence strike a pose - apparently in all sincerity - as oppressed outsiders. I was reminded of this when reading the following by James Delingpole on the state of education:
"Britain’s state school system is a conspiracy against the public on an epic scale."
A nice piece of understatement, I think you'll agree. I found this via Ms Birbalsingh on Twatter who adds the comment that this hysterical nonsense does a "fab job of saying exactly what I'm trying to say!"

Now, I'll return to this in more detail later because the whole 'debate' about schools in England has become extremely silly indeed. I'll confine myself to a couple of observations just now:

1) I refer to schools in England advisedly because despite what Ms Birbalsingh and Mr Delingpole would have us believe, there is no such thing as 'Britain's state school system'. I hope you don't think this is too pedantic a point to make. I'm not doing it on nationalistic grounds. It's just a plea for simple accuracy and one I think is worth making to those whose criticisms of education include the idea that learning facts is underrated in today's system.

2) I was reminded of the paranoid style after reading Mr Delingpole's line about "a period of at least three decades" where "generations of children have been sacrificed on the altar of an entrenched ideology". The question of whether and to what extent the criticisms of 'progressive education' have any validity is one I intend to return to later. I'll restrict myself for now to asking the question: even if this were so, who on earth do these people think have been running the country during this time?

Three decades ago Thatcher had been in power for two years and the Conservatives did not return to opposition until 1997. Then we had Blair and his notion of 'progress' seemed to draw a good deal of inspiration from Gladstonian Liberalism - this being amongst the reasons that Mr Gove declared himself to be such an admirer of him.

One would have thought at the very least those who complain about the progressive takeover of education, and liberal elites controlling the media and so on, would have drawn from this a lesson about the limits of what can be achieved by having their lot in power?

Blog Archive