Towards Finding a New Order in Education – John Abbott Part 3
As schools in the past fifteen years have become very busy places, so increasingly have homes, as parents seek to juggle the demands of their jobs, their own ambitions, and the needs of their families.
But where is all this ‘busyness’ taking education? Why do children look so hammered? What has happened to the natural exuberance of youth? An awful question arises, and is left embarrassingly unanswered; are young people now too busy to think for themselves?
Is this really what parents want or children need?
Have today’s schools somehow trivialised education and effectively missed the boat that children need to catch if they are to sail into an uncertain world?
In their efforts to improve their examination results have teachers been forced into so over-teaching their pupils that the pupils rarely learn how to work things out for themselves?
Would not many of today’s ‘school refusers’ relish the benefit that St. Augustine had all those years ago;
“I learnt most, not from those who taught me, but those who talked with me”.
Don’t many teachers accept in their hearts that school in its present form simply turns large numbers of youngsters off ever wanting to learn anything for themselves?
Many parents and teachers would probably agree wholeheartedly with the American who said,
“School disruption comes from children who have given up hope of trying to learn anything”.
Observant critics have been saying things like this for years. In 1927 Aldous Huxley, five years before he published “Brave New World”, wrote a most perceptive essay about education;
“Teachers… may put things well… they have a power of making difficulties seem easy. The child will listen (carefully) particularly if she has an examination to pass in the near future. But the more accomplished a teacher is in the art of lecturing or coaching, the worse he is as an educator. Working on the old-fashioned system, the clever teacher (deplorable paradox!) does almost more harm than the stupid one. For the clever schoolmaster makes things too easy for his pupils; he relieves them of the necessity of finding things out for themselves. By dint of brilliant teaching he succeeds in almost eliminating the learning process. He fills his pupils with ready-made knowledge which they inevitably forget (since it is not their knowledge and costs them nothing to acquire) as soon as the exam for which it is required is safely over”.
A few years later Sir Richard Livingstone, the soon-to-be Vice Chancellor of Oxford, described the secondary curriculum as “an amazing and chaotic thing… one subject after another is pressed into this bursting portmanteau (overnight case) which ought to be confined to the necessary clothes for a journey through life, but becomes a wardrobe of bits of costume for any emergency”
In the mid 1970s the then Prime Minister, James Callaghan, invited the public to investigate “the secret garden of the curriculum”. But to no avail. Mike Tomlinson, the former Chief Inspector of Ofsted, tried again in 2005 with a proposed radical overhaul of the entire examination system, only to find his report emasculated; the Prime Minister’s ever-sharp political antennae had told him that vast sections of the electorate had no stomach for ideas that upset a status quo which gave them their privileges.
Towards Finding a New Order in Education – John Abbott Part 4