The Establishment (and I include within that heading not just Gove, the Tories and the Lib Dems, but also the Labour front bench) have developed and are implementing a vision of education that is utterly miserable. It is an education system based on fear, in which children fear adults, in which adults fear their bosses, and in which everyone fears the league tables and the dreaded OFSTED inspectors.
It is an education system in which all of our schools are privatised and run by corporations hell bent on cutting costs and maximising profits.
It is an education system in which the curriculum is paired down to rote learning of facts, which can be easily and cheaply tested by profit hungry exam boards. It is an education system in which children are tested almost to destruction, to be sorted and sifted and graded, like so many components on a conveyor belt, so they can be prepared by low paid demoralised teachers for a low paid demoralised future as cogs in the corporate machine. They want a history curriculum for example in which Britain’s imperial, racist and warmongering past is glorified, all the better to secure Britain’s imperial, racist and warmongering future.
The establishment vision of education is a truly miserable, rotten, alienated vision rooted in the competition of each against all.
But it isn’t enough for us simply to condemn the future that Gove and his allies are forcing upon us. We teachers must also inspire people to believe that a better world is possible, by developing our own alternative vision of the future. Here are a few tentative suggestions as to what such a vision might include:
We want an education system in which the goal of education is human development, not examination results and league tables.
We want well-funded schools that are publicly owned, democratically controlled and genuinely at the heart of every community.
Where students are motivated not by the fear of failure but by the love of learning and the adventure of discovery.
Where children are encouraged to value mutual support and solidarity above mutual hostility; to value equality above the pursuit of individual riches, to value cooperation above competitiveness.
Where children are taught to live in harmony with nature, instead of being driven, in the interest of corporate profit, into the mindless consumerism that is destroying nature.
Where children are encouraged to question and confront power and authority, including the power of wealth and the authority of celebrity, instead of being bullied into bowing down to power and authority, and cajoled into worshipping celebrity.
Where children and adults alike are treated with respect and dignity.
But of course, it isn’t enough to dream of a better future, important though that is. We must also be prepared to fight for one.
I have started this blog in order to share ideas on how we can develop a positive, humane vision of education. And also how we, as teachers, parents, students and workers generally, can build a movement capable of realising such a vision.