And yet, according to Gove’s tub-thumping epistle yesterday in the Daily Hate (sorry, Mail) I, and the people I work with are simply ‘Marxist... Hell bent on destroying our schools’.
I have a few points to make in reply to our esteemed member of the Cabinet.
Firstly, I’ll be printing his torrid article in order to teach the power of rhetoric in writing to argue – so thanks for that, Govey. But I’ll be at pains to explain that in writing an argument for the GCSE exam, it’s fine to ‘make up’ facts and figures, cast aspersions, and speculate; the examiner will never know you have. Unfortunately, for an elected member of Parliament to use these kinds of GCSE-level features is woeful. Whipping up the (already rabid) readers of the Mail isn’t clever; isn’t fair; isn’t even accurate in its reporting.
Secondly, an ‘Enemy of Promise’? Does Gove have any inkling (or indeed the inclination to find out) what happens in schools up and down the country? That though we are indeed paid to mould our nation’s future, we are not paid to be nanny, secretary, counsellor, baby-sitter or indeed friend? Yet we do all these things, every day, uncomplaining... because we chose this job; nay, vocation. Unhappily for my non-teaching husband, most of my friends and my mother are teachers. So what do we talk about? School; what we’re doing, how we’re doing it, what we could change to make things better. Not for ourselves – but for the students we work with. So actually, far from being the ‘Enemy of Promise’, I might re-label this profession as the ‘Promised we’ll do it.’ Promised, when we signed up, that we would work as hard as could to do our best by -and for - our students.
I quite agree that education is the key out of poverty – indeed to ‘take their place as confident, modern citizens’. So why is it that the new reforms planned for our nation’s children seem designed to doom so many to failure? Indeed, the lofty proposal that students should be learning and reciting poetry by heart is a worthy one (though you might like to read Michael Rosen’s excellent thoughts on the subject here and yet, a more out-of-touch policy could not have been advocated for the youngest in our schools. More than ever, students are arriving at school unable to use the toilet, use a knife and fork, or indeed with mastery of day-to-day speech. How will it help those students to learn the English Canon? At five? Already – the divide. It’s a shame that India Knight has blocked me on Twitter for daring to disagree with her stance in her ST column (£ per view I’m afraid or I’d link) because – actually – this point
‘Gove wants to give everyone a proper education, of the kind often described as “privileged”. “Shakespeare at school?” those parents will cry. “Far too difficult.” They won’t mention that they’ve been reading Tales from Shakespeare to little Portia since she was three. It’s so dishonest.’
was one I quite agreed with.
Additionally, I take umbrage at the woefully cheap jibe levelled at the 100 academics who wrote to Gove this week; doesn’t this line seem a bit, well, tired and contrived? ‘What planet are these people on? A red planet, if their published works are anything to go by’. Have we suddenly entered a time-slip? Pleased though I would be to have the Doctor come to rescue me were this the case, we’re – happily - not in 1950s America... perhaps someone would like to mention that to ‘McCarthy’ Gove. As I see it, making cracks about the political leanings of your opponents is simply appealing to the lowest common denominator. After all, it is these very ‘guilty men and women’ who have spent a career learning and teaching others about the pedagogies we in schools know to be right. Furthermore, should it not be these very people who Gove should be seeking the opinions of? Oh, wait, he did... and then rejected all their proposals. I just can’t see how it’s healthy for education to be run on ideological lines, which is the dangerous game being played by Gove in mentioning any political leanings as a smear.
I am at a loss to understand why, exactly, Gove appears to feel so much revulsion towards us teachers, over any other profession. Commendable though his intentions to ‘give children the tools they need’ undoubtedly are, the best tool for learning is a great teacher. It’s difficult to see how that tool can remain sharp and true when it’s being constantly chipped at and worn away by such platitudes as we’re all tired of hearing; the ‘endless holidays’, ‘gold-plated pensions’, ‘coasting schools’ ‘out the door at 3pm teachers’. I would like any of these to be true. And yet, they’re still not the things that drew me to this profession. In fact, it was the thought of working with our future doctors, plumbers, teachers, musicians, lawyers, hairdressers, writers, artists and (dare I say it?) politicians that excited me. I want to be challenged – in my classroom, by a sparky 13 year old. Not by a politician with not the faintest idea of what I do and why I do it.
On a side-note – Gove’s performance on Question Time last week both worried and amused me; I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry at the inexplicable thickening of his Scotch accent whilst talking about his (only initially) State education, though my feelings were certainly more decided at hearing his response to Emily Thornberry’s point – does anyone say ‘Yadda yadda yadda’, unless they literally have no concerted response?
This post has been quite long, and ranty. Sorry about that* (*not sorry. This message needs to be out there).