Tuesday, 31 March 2009

Rant for the day

I just heard an educational 'expert' on 5 Live claiming that most parents would prefer their children to go to a school that was safe and well-ordered, rather than one that had high academic standards. 

Since when were these mutually exclusive? It's like saying that most people would prefer a hospital that was comfortable rather than one that cured you, or a restaurant that was clean to one that served nice food. 

For a school, being safe and well-ordered shouldn't be an option: it should go without saying. It's not the job of a school to provide a safe environment for children, any more than providing clean tables is the primary function of a restaurant. The job of a school is to educate all children to the highest possible standards. 

I wouldn't get so worked up by the opinion of a lone expert if it wasn't typical of a worrying trend. I wrote in this post about the tendency of some government advisors to set up a false dichotomy between an emphasis on 'wellbeing' and a focus on attainment (and to prefer the former). And as I wrote here, I predict that the result will be state education becoming reduced to therapy and 'skills' for the working class, while private schools carry on providing middle class kids with the knowledge they need to reproduce their social advantages.

And just in case it's not clear: this is not a reactionary call for a return to 'traditional' education, but a lament for the loss of a radical socialist vision of education as personal and social transformation, and of high aspirations for all.

Rant over.

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