Yesterday is the New Tomorrow

Location: London, United Kingdom

Saturday, June 16, 2007

A Sentence or Two on Education...

In the whole debate about education - private versus state; grammar school versus city academy; comprehensive versus selection – very little notice is ever taken by politicians of any hue of the root causes of the manifest decline in standards, other than to deny that those standards have in any way declined.
But Civitas has identified a highly concerning trend over the past decade, and that is the ‘hi-jacking’ of traditional academic subjects to promote ‘fashionable causes such as gender awareness, the environment and anti-racism’. Instead of imparting knowledge or inspiring children to want to learn, teachers in the state sector are now shackled and bound to realise the Government's social goals, and to shape a cohesive society according to the new pre-ordained multi-culti blueprint.
In English Literature, the Civitas report shows how issues of race and gender have become pre-eminent in the study of 20th-century poetry: ‘A British pupil can go through the school system and get the top marks in English and English Literature without knowing that Spenser, Milton or Pope ever existed, but having studied Carol Ann Duffy twice, both at GCSE and A-level. With all due respect to Carol Ann Duffy, she is on the syllabus, not because she is a greater poet than Milton, but because she is more "relevant", dealing as she does with very contemporary issues such as disaffected learners.'
In Science, the distinct disciplines of chemistry, physics and biology have been fused into 'scientific literacy', which is more subject to the trivia of the media than with the bedrock of the scientific method: ‘Students are asked to discuss issues such as global warming and GM crops, based on media coverage, and to consider whether or not scientists can be trusted’.
In History, there is no sense of narrative or chronology, but analysis through the lens of politically-correct perspectives: ‘Children jump around in time between, for example, Vikings and Victorians, Ancient Greeks and Tudors… There is no longer any requirement at all to teach about any specific personality from the past. Nor is there any requirement to teach about any specific event - other than within a world history context for one unit.'
One survey is noted in which it was found that half of young people ‘did not know that the Battle of Britain took place in World War II, and thought that either Gandalf, Horatio Hornblower or Christopher Columbus led the battle against the Spanish Armada’. Such ignorance is storing up consequences for the future. Civitas states: ‘To know the history of one's country is a birthright. It tells us who we are and how we got here. It tells how our shared values came into being. A people that does not know its history is a people suffering from memory loss, amnesia - a damaging illness.'
Perhaps the most significant corrosion of the educational imperative may be seen in the hi-jacking of Geography by the advocates of ‘global citizenship’, with ‘environmentalism’ as its core faith: ‘Global citizenship education is tied to specific non-academic values that tend towards the replacement of knowledge with morality as the central focus of the curriculum. Thus global problems are not presented as issues to be interrogated for truth, knowledge and meaning, with a view to students developing ideas about the potential courses of social and political action. Instead, the solution is to be found in the personal realm and is presented as a given: that people need to adhere to a new global values system that encourages them to consume less, have fewer children, take public transport rather than drive their cars, be less money-grabbing, support charities, and so forth. Such an approach is no substitute for educating pupils to interpret the world for themselves.
The report states that 'increasingly, independent schools are refusing to submit to this inadequate curriculum, and are opting for courses and examinations independent of government manipulation. Thus the O-level, the IGCSE, and the International Baccalaureate are increasing in popularity. While some state schools are also opting for these qualifications, the significant disincentive is the realisation that government does not fund them, and schools are left to cope with the financial consequences. Such academically-rigorous qualifications are therefore simply out of reach for many state schools. Issues of pedagogy, upon which civilisations has been constructed for millennia, have been subordinated to social engineering and political expediency. The moulding of the ‘responsible citizen’ has supplanted what Mill called the ‘higher’ pleasures – intellectual and aesthetic enjoyments. The school curriculum has been unacceptably dumbed down, with some subjects (like philosophy and ancient history) being publicly decried by ministers of the Crown, while endless lessons are devoted to obesity, sex education, black history, gay history, and ‘fairness’.
The Civitas solution is simple: to depoliticise education – ‘politicians need to be discouraged from regarding the curriculum as their platform for making statements'.
The question is whether there are any politicians in this country prepared to start making the necessary changes.