Friday, 9 September 2016

Grammar schools (and faith schools and while we're at it private schools) can get in the sea

I have a lot of time for Paul Mason.

1) Because he's from Leigh.
2) Because he's one of the few vaguely mainstream thinkers who has noticed that we are facing more than a downturn in the economy and are in fact actually facing a major change in the structure of society.
3) Because he's from Leigh.

Image result for tyldesley county primary school old building
Some children in Leigh. 

Any way, his latest article on grammar schools is exactly right. I just thought I'd add to what Mason says with a few arguments of my own.

- Without comprehensive education how do people learn to interact with a wide spectrum of intelligence types? Even if you are destined to be a captain of industry full of psychotic zeal and disdain, it might be beneficial to learn to talk to us oiks from a comprehensive system in order to understand a little how the lesser minds of the common folk work.

- This wider appreciation for the fullest range of people can only be understood in a broad way. It can't be measured by a simple test.

- Failing to understand (or at least ever mention it ever) that education is about socialisation is one of the biggest failings in current thinking.

- The pressure on children is already leading to misery. I'll post at length my opinions and experiences regarding mental health and the education system at some point in the future but it surely can't do much to relieve the pressure on young people by offering further selection and more tests to pass.

- Has no-one noticed that in a 21st century secular society that faith schools have been gifted greater freedom to select their intake based on faith? That because I've decided to base my ethics and outlook on the evidence of my experiences my child will potentially be barred from a reasonable proportion of the local high schools. Add this to grammar schools and your average child of sceptical parents is not really looking at a wide range of options. I honestly can't see any rational argument for state education being provided on the basis of faith. I'm not really sure what religious faith has to do with education which at it's heart is to do with questions. It might seem like the liberal braying of a guardian columnist but why has no one seriously questioned the right of a parent to impose their faith on a child?

Sure, you've got the right to believe in what ever nonsense you like, but to make your child perform the rituals of your religion? To base their entire education on your faith principles seems odd to me. I'm not convinced that several major religions don't have some pretty dodgy/frightening aspects at their core. Beliefs and messages that have no basis in evidence or fact and don't really go very far in explaining the world. Let me be clear, I've absolutely no objection to religion being taught as part of philosophy and no objection to someone having faith or living their life accordingly, but to ghettoise their children to protect them from the wider sinful world seems a backwards attitude. To actively encourage this seems at best nostalgia and at worse downright dangerous.

- If you were serious about equality of opportunity you'd offer everyone access to the same system. You'd do away with all grammar schools, faith schools and private schools and you'd build a state system which offered the best things from those systems. The best things from those system isn't the fact that by their nature they take from the most motivated (parent supported) young people and from my limited knowledge, it isn't the teaching in the main (I don't know that many privately educated people and in general those I know report that it was nothing special) - it's that to some extent they offer a degree of choice for young people who may struggle in a larger less personal 'factory sized' comprehensive.

Having witnessed two seemingly perfectly adequate smaller local schools in my local area close (probably because they were more profitable as building sites), I can only conclude the government aren't planning on following my advice any time soon and opportunities will continue to narrow if you can't afford an alternative to a vast multi academy trust run by a super head who is on site occasionally. My first school was a smallish comprehensive primary run by an eccentric, deeply caring lady with cats in her office, an open door to anyone and a mission to get to know everyone, parents and children alike.

It is that sort of educational manager that seems to be driven out of the state system by an invasive corporate culture which hides the drive for efficiency behind an agenda of standards and yet private schools seem to revel in (and receive lavish praise from government) precisely the sort of eccentricity and personality which has become unimaginable now. When I'm not in full blown 'first against the wall' mode, I don't blame affluent parents for seeking green fields, small classes, long serving staff and a convincing veneer of character and charm over a huge intake, a raft of NQTs and a 'purpose built' box straight from the big book of PFI designs where character runs as deep as the marketing agency who designed the identikit logo and new mission statement (which is probably about the fourth mission statement in as many years)

- If the SATs are so good, why aren't they used for grammar school selection? Why do they have a different test which is more like something from a bumper book of puzzles from the 1950s?

- If this policy doesn't unite the Labour party then what will?

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