The follies of educational dogmatism
The identity of the minister is a mystery – he/she not revealed in The Sunday Times, except to say that he/she ‘used to be a key part of Tony Blair’s education team’.
UPDATE Mon 8 Jan
It is revealed that the minister in question is none other than the representative of Opus Dei to Her Majesty's Government, Ruth Kelly.
Of course, the child, a dyslexic, has every right to remain anonymous, but not so the hypocritical minister who preaches one dogma whilst practising another – simply because she can afford to.
Labour has closed 117 special needs schools since 1997, insisting that all should be educated in mainstream schools. This has had the unintended effect of forcing schools to find £100,000s for infrastructure improvements and specialist staff to cater for the plethora of divergent needs that these children have, not to mention the adverse effect some special needs children may also have on the education of others.
It is also a little irritating that this minister has not sent her child to a special needs school within the catchment area of the London borough in which she lives, but to a rather more pleasant school in the home counties. It is reported to possess ‘extensive grounds, including a heated swimming pool, and also offers riding and golf’. It teaches just 60 students, offering an enviable student-teacher ratio. So why do our dyslexic children (and those with Asperger's or Tourette's - the list is vast) have to be educated in mainstream schools, while the minister's child enjoys the best that money can buy?
Mr Blair’s 10-year focus on ‘Education, Education, Education’ has manifestly failed to deliver, at least to the satisfaction of Ruth Kelly. But then, she is simply following the example of the Prime Minister himself, who sent his own children to a grant-maintained, selective, Catholic school. Harriet Harman also sent one of her children there, and another to a selective grammar school in Bromley; and the left-wing MP Diane Abbott sent her son to the fee-paying City of London school. When one adds the names Paul Boateng, Lord Falconer, and Baroness Symons to the list, one may very justifiably ask why politicians only become aware of the absurdities and inadequacies of their educational dogmatism when the practical outworking begins to directly affect them.
So why, O why, is Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition embracing such dogma, opposing the introduction of new grammar schools? They have been a formidable engine of social mobility, and a manifest educational success story. Doubtless Mr Cameron’s policy will endure just as long as his own children are of the age they are, and not directly affected. In the meantime, we ordinary folk simply have to put up with the system, and pray for our politicians to be more empathetic of the trials and tribulations they inflict upon us.
Philosophical dogma is only worth spouting when the political consequence is good. That must be the universal aim of all human ethical activity, and it must begin with education, since reasoning is a distinctive human capacity. A life lived according to reason, and aimed at virtue, results in the happiness that comes from fulfilling one's purpose in life. Why should any deficient educational dogma be permitted to interfere with that noble pursuit?