Friday, September 9, 2011

Squaddies in free schools?


There is one 'Union dividend' which us Scots should really appreciate and that is that under the Act of Union, our education system remained independent. It may have let us down at times - such as in the 1872 Education Act which effectively demanded an end to the use of any language other than English as a medium of education. This lead to more than a century of kids in Gaelic speaking communities from Stirlingshire to Sutherland having their community tongue forcibly removed. But, it was ours to keep and to improve.

Enlightenment has seen big strides in Scottish education since those dark days. The new Curriculum for Excellence promises to put research, inquiry and rational thinking into the heart of the classroom. Rather than teaching to the exam and filling kids' heads with lists of dates and facts, why not teach them to ask, to enquire and build their own skills?

England is stuck with a right-wing mentality and a top-down attitude to education. Fill their heads with 1066, 1945 and 1966. And, if they forget or object... lets get our unemployed squaddies in to 'give' them some discipline.

No wonder that Terry Deary, author of the Horrible Histories, hates schools. In a recent article in the Independent, he:

... brands the national curriculum the "biggest disaster in British history".
"W B Yeats said education is not filling a bucket but lighting a fire. The national curriculum has turned children into buckets. And teachers are just bucket-fillers now. Dividing knowledge into subjects is a very archaic approach to studying."
On top of elitist 'free' schools, the latest ConDem wheeze to appeal to goose-stepping chattering classes of Middle England is to put soldiers into schools. It seems incredible that in an age where anyone teaching a child in any form of the word is vetted for any kind of criminal record that politicians would want to put brutalised, war ravaged and institutionalised basket cases into 'teach' our kids is incredible. The British Army's track record on discipline ain't that hot either. Apart from the cases of torture in Iraq there are the numerous sad incidents of bullying in British Army barracks such as Deepcut which has seen many teenagers left dead, either through murder or suicide.

Just what untrained soldiers are meant to achieve is not explained. Trained teachers can use many methods to deal with unruly pupils. Teachers in Scotland's schools regularly work wonders with some of the damaged young products of our society. Their efforts may ultimately count for nothing but that is more likely than not a result of failures to address poverty, addiction and violence in many of our communities. General permissive attitudes in society towards anti-social behaviour haven't helped - and here, I'm thinking more of MP's, bankers and journalists than hoodies.

So, will Cameron's short, sharp, shock squaddies beat up wee Jimmy if pulls a face during a Maths lesson? Perhaps insolent wee Billy will just be stripped and urinated on? 

In the meantime, I'll take my lessons from the kind of progressive and multi-lingual education systems we see in the Basque Country, Finland and Norway.

1 comment:

pictishbeastie said...

Good article,although it's a pity you had to use a quote from Terry Deary whose Horrible Histories are,on the whole,pretty bad history and can be very anti Scottish! Slainte!