Saturday, May 16, 2015

The ABC's of Modern Teaching

Fast forward to the past: Victorian values at the heart of America's and Englands 21st-century education reform system

Our Victorian forebears liked the ABC as a teaching aid. To mark
the fact that English and American Education policy appears to be going backwards in time, here’s a modern ABC that attempts to explain this strange direction of travel.

‘A’ is for Assessment

Current policy has given birth to the largest measurement frenzy since the three month period following the invention of the metre stick.

Definition: Assessment (n), a method for demonstrating the success of a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Parents may coach offspring to increase chances of passing assessments. Projectile Vomiting Target Practice (PVTP) for instance (Check with your local PTA for availability of classes). 'Child must be able to take out half of the Disney characters in a cot mobile on one stomach load. Aim for power over distance.

B is for Blame: Blame the teachers, Blame the schools, Batteries of tests and Batteries of rules

The cause for falling standards can't be social inequality and a failing middle class...

Why? Because if it were, we’d need to address the disproportionate number of private school toffs in moleskin trousers who pass straight from their 47k per year boarding school to Wharton College and thence to Daddy's Real Estate business riding in Daddy's Bentley (Windows tinted on the inside to avoid ego-driven toffs catching a glimpse of any food banks or charity shops where the poor hang out instead of looking for work). Then on to soft jobs with daddy’s real estate chums making photocopies of Deals for 90k a year in preparation for a namby-pamby job in the family's firm at 1,020,000 per annum.

…so, if social inequality "poverty" isn’t to blame, it must be the fault of teachers, schools, and curriculum. I mean who else is involved? QED.

C is for Curriculum

Definition: (n), a completely arbitrary selection of subjects for teaching, considered by those who devise them to be the unvarnished truth. Usually imposed with no consultation and carved on tablets of stone.

A curriculum can be constructed by starting from a Cloud Cuckoo Land vision of your favorite utopian neoliberal society, and working back from there to the skills needed to build such a monstrosity. Finally, class these skills as absolutely necessary, silence dissenting voices and push on with teaching them. Art, drama, conversational skills or anything aesthetic don't really have a place in this model but with many of our graduates destined for low-wage drudgery in the zero hours economy, has anything really been lost?

C is for Cherry Picking

Definition (v), A method of guaranteeing the delivery of a self-fulfilling prophecy. Pay for voodoo statistics commissioned to prove whatever you want. Then pick the evidence that supports your ideological stance. You can then—

1.    Ignore and/or discard what doesn't fit
2.    Demonise anyone who disagrees

D is for Disappearing childhood

Current policy reprises the glory days when children were seen as young adults. In those days, some were midshipmen by the age of twelve, by which time they already knew the inside of a chimney like the back of their sooty little hands. There was no time for childhood then and the same will apply here in future if we’re not careful.

E is for Education

A quaint idea from the 70s, when children were at the heart of the curriculum and not Members of Parliament. Children were taught in a holistic way which took account of their uniqueness and the teacher’s job was to do the best she could to help each child fulfil their potential as human beings. In the England of 2015 the heart of the curriculum is the bell curve.

E is for Expert

Definition (n), a person whose opinions are feted or ignored depending on their usefulness in making the political case for putting school grades above life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

E is for Evidence

Definition1: Strong evidence (n), A body of knowledge that supports the government’s worldview.
Definition2: Weak evidence (n), evidence offered by anyone who opposes the government regardless of merit.
Definition3: Evidence based policy making (n), a discredited, overly restrictive idea which used to hamper progress (of the ruling classes) toward a utopian Conservative future.

F is for Four

In England, the age that a child has her world turned upside down by overblown, half-baked theories.

G is for Government

Definition: (n), a bunch of people voted for by 30% of the electorate, who take this to be a  mandate to push through 100% of their cockamamie policies.

H is for Harking Back

Definition: (v) Looking back on the halcyon days of some imagined Belle Époque when the policies you want to foist on an unwilling public are imagined to have flourished.

I is for Inequality

Definition: (n), a word where all the letters are silent when pronounced (See under pachyderm in the classroom). The real reason for attainment gaps. A concept that dare not speak its name.

J is for Justification

See under Cherry Picking

K is for Knowledge

What we all want our children to gain (so long as it isn't in the Arts or the Humanities, we’re told)

L is for League tables

An attempt to put schools on a par with basketball teams. Makes top schools smug and bottom schools despondent.

M is for Management of schools

Something best left to politicians (apparently)

N is for Numbers

Just one in 100 members of the UK public was educated at Oxford or Cambridge. Yet graduates from those two universities make up 75% of senior judges, 59% of cabinet posts, 57% of permanent secretaries, 50% of diplomatics, 47% of newspaper columnists, 44% of public body chairs and 33% of BBC executives. Discuss.

O is for Oversight

Teachers cannot of course be trusted. Somebody has to make sure they don't sneak in any of their horrid child-centric ideas (see under Heresy)

P is for Political Interference

Definition: (n), a Civil Service synonym for support’.‘Pis for Poverty

Definition: (n), A word where all the letters are silent when pronounced (See under pachyderm in the classroom). The harmful effects of poverty are well known to statisticians and studiously ignored by right wing politicians.

Fact: Only 48 per cent of 5 year olds in the UK entitled to free school meals have a good level of development at the end of their reception year, compared to 67 per cent of all other pupils. 

Fact: Less than half of pupils entitled to free school meals (just 36 per cent) achieve 5 GCSEs at C or above, including English and Maths, this compares to 63 per cent of pupils who are not eligible.

Q is for Quantum Leap

We all accept that the government has made a quantum leap in educational policy. It’s just that no one suspected it would be backwards.

R is for Rote learning

Where we are headed if we are are forced to work to test.

S is for Straight Jacket

Definition: (n), Mandatory daywear for educational professionals in front line schooling.

T is for Twenty Two

The number of pages in the government’s policy document on standards in education. Also the mean age at which children subjected to the current testing regime will start to recover from the trauma.

U is for Understanding

Definition: (n), Something nobody has in relation to the government's moral basis for its ideological crusade.

V is for Victorian Values

Hard work and thrift. Thank God they are on the way back!

W is for Witch-hunt

It’s been a long lime since Salem so I guess we were due another. Pity it had to be against teachers.

X is for X-Rays

Fact: No X-Ray has ever revealed a modicum of common sense at the heart of the current education policy.

Y is for Young children

Definition: (n), a group whose lives will be disrupted (possibly blighted) as a consequence of imposing arbitrary, unsubstantiated educational dogma on them. If the OCD levels of testing continue apace, the current batch of young children will be the last to have a childhood.

Z is for Zero Social Mobility

A pachyderm in the classroom.  All educators in the UK need to get their heads round the idea that it is just possible that the divisive nature of British society may lie at the heart of falling educational standards and not poor teachers or schools after all!

In life’s madcap 100m dash to the finishing line, the rich and privileged have a 50 metre start, theyre all wearing Nike Air and you are in your bare feet and dragging an anvil behind you.

Currently available choices:

Suck it up, and get some grit
Learn to run faster
 Learn to fail
All of the above

Have you grasped the idea? Yes? Then never dare speak of it again. Doing so may result in the personal carriage of your career train being shunted up a siding.

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