Written by Frederica
Several decades before Anthony Lynton Blair’s meddlesome intrusion into ‘Educashun, Educashun, Educashun’ the ‘progressive reformers’ began to undermine the foundations of that most noble of institutions. I am going to attempt to compare and contrast the education that I received from the State and that received by my own children.
I attended a CofE primary school. Between the 5 – 7 year, I must have learned to read and write sufficiently well so that when I crossed the road and became a Junior at 7, I was able to write a short essay and illustrate the subject matter in my school exercise book (still in my possession).
I have two items of needlework I made at that age. A gingham apron and a pencil case made by using a piece of open weave fabric decorated as a sampler with lines of embroidery stitches. It was lined with linen, folded and stitched at the sides to form the case.
By the age of 9/10 I had been taught the parts of speech and could dissect a sentence into its component parts. Spelling lists were issued and learned week on week and tested at length on the Headmaster’s weekly visits to the classroom. Chalk pieces were flung at those who failed by the third attempt to enunciate the spelling successfully!
Fast forward at this point by thirty years and witness my ‘toe to toe’ dispute with my son’s English teacher who had told the class that “spelling and grammar do not matter. It is how you express yourself that counts”!
At 9 years I joined the Junior Library, whence I was taken each fortnight to choose three books. Along with perennial favourites such as Worzel Gummidge and Sam Pig, I also devoured The Scarlet Pimpernel and Junior versions of the biographies of Louis Pasteur; Marie Curie; Gladys Aylward; Joan of Arc and Thomas Becket.
Lest you think me a saintly swot – I should point out that it was quite usual for me to be attending more to the game of travelling chess that was often set up on the bench between myself and the boy next to me, than to the subject of the lesson! Perhaps that inattention is why I failed the 11+.
At 13 I did pass the exam and passed on to ‘higher education’. The headmistress was a noted martinet (I believe that she cultivated that belief deliberately). For the first term we were obliged to wear name tags around our necks so that the teachers could learn our identities. We were made to write in italics and were not allowed to use ink until we had mastered the art of using chiselled point pencils.
There was an emphasis on community and organisation. A School Council convened once a month after school on Friday afternoon. Each form elected a member who carried the views and suggestions up to Council and returned with decisions and news. A system of committees existed and every pupil belonged to a Committee that had input into the daily running of the school system. Once a week Committees met and information was disseminated back to forms during ‘registration’ periods.
The teachers were totally dedicated to the task of training our unwilling teenage minds to learn what was on the syllabus, but above all to open up to the concept that education did not begin and end with schooling. We were encouraged to open our minds to all knowledge. We were not force-fed dogma or propaganda.
What a contrast to today’s system, taken over by Government, currently in the hands of a fireplace salesman who has found himself totally unable to deal with the rapacious NEU that has brought our children’s education to an abrupt halt!
‘Educate to capacity’ was the mantra then. It should be the mantra now but politicians do not care about children. They do not care about the damage that their policies do to young minds. Standards are set in order to suit the lowest achiever level (under the ‘all must have prizes’ principle). Less able pupils may now receive higher grades than perhaps they might have done under the old system, because the standard is lower and the pass rate reduced (despite frequent protestations to the contrary). A couple of years ago I found, in a newspaper, a re-print of a 1960’s arithmetic exam paper. The comment was, that many who now tried to complete it today had failed! It took me a while to get my brain back in gear!!
Most children have many more material things today than we could possibly have imagined half a century ago. But they are poorer because they are being denied the unbiased education that should be theirs by right. Students now rely on iPads and the Internet. Books, as such, seem to be avoided.
A teacher recently told me that 16 year olds are now likely to ask Google or Siri if it is cold enough to need to wear a sweater! They cannot tell the time by a traditional clock! She is still teaching phonics to 7 year olds and a pupil argued robustly with her that there are only six months in the year! She also commented that “these days we do not educate children, we train them to pass exams”! Incidentally, she hates giving zoom classes because it detracts from the teaching ‘message’.
My choler rises when I hear that young children are being exposed to ‘gender issues’ and the too early inclusion of sexual matters that surely should be at parents discretion. It all has an unpleasant whiff of ‘child abuse’ about it. This has been driven by government policy. I accept that child abuse is not unheard of in the home and perhaps teachers should be able to assess and alert the authorities to same.
Primarily, schools are places of learning. ‘Learning’ for its own sake is no longer ‘politically desirable’. Education is now a means by which the government of the day can obtain mastery over the minds of children and bask in the self-congratulatory glow at the ‘ever-improving’ exam results tables that appear to justify their actions! I believe that schools are becoming places of indoctrination to make pupils into future servants of the State!
Diverse courses in non-academic subjects abound today. In itself this is not a bad thing so long as they are provided at what used to be polytechnic establishments and give good training for future work prospects at B-Tech level. However, since these polytechnics are now integrated into the university degree system, it has (in my personal opinion) distorted and degraded the significance of obtaining a degree (the legacy of Mr Blair!). Not to mention that students are being charged ‘top dollar’ for often substandard degrees that will leave them starting their working lives with huge debts hanging round their necks.
The rise and rise of PPE degree courses is merely feeding the already over-populated ranks of political ‘wannabes’. We have so many of these lacklustre graduates filling the HoC. Where is the experience and wider knowledge that would qualify them to manage the great roles of State to the betterment of society?
Universities are failing to provide us with the large numbers of doctors, engineers and other practical scientists that in the past have made Britain Great. They are needed now more than ever to rebuild Britain again from the ‘slough of despond’ into which she has fallen in recent times.
Children must be given the broad education they need to make their way in the world. To prepare them to accept their responsibilities as well as to demand their rights. I believe that our children are being cheated by the State that is using ‘education’ as a political tool. Our children are the losers!