Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Bring back the Department for Education

When one has been privately educated and then gone up to Oxford, it may be posited that one lacks real knowledge of state education. Both Michael Gove and David Cameron are men of passion and conviction when it comes to the need to reform the sclerotic, statist, bureaucratic and deficient system of education in this country. But it will not come about by insisting that all teachers must have a 2:2, or a 2:1 from an élite group of universities which will then qualify for having one’s student loan paid off.

First of all, the calibre of teachers’ degrees is not presently an issue: more than 95 per cent of the profession already have a minimum 2:2, and it would be a very fair bet indeed that the remaining 5 per cent are not the worst teachers, for quality teaching is not the result of an élite intellect.

But that may well be the perception of those who have been to Eton and Oxford, for the teachers and dons who inhabit those institutions have never had to control a rowdy classroom of 30 children, or creatively engage recalcitrants who have absolutely no aptitude for learning, or deal simultaneously with a myriad of 'special needs’ children apart from the demands of those who are truly ‘gifted and talented’. These institutions have the luxury of employing educators with First Class degrees because their days are spent imparting subject-specific knowledge to students who are eager to learn in a context of academic rigour. Even if the teacher is socially inept, the student will play the willing disciple, for the educational ethos demands it.

One does not need a 2:2 in any subject to teach in some schools: one needs a strategy for survival. In an hour-long lesson which may have three or four adults in the room to cater for those who do not speak English or have Asperger’s or some other ‘special need’, it is a remarkable achievement if the teacher manages to impart 10 minutes of new knowledge, let alone fulfil the utopian dream of an entire lesson plan.

In such a context, the survival strategy is wholly dependent upon the extent to which the teacher is able to interact with the students and entertain them. And that is not ‘entertainment’ in the popular ‘light’ meaning of the term, but to entertain in the sense of 'to hold the thoughts and attention of'. If a teacher cannot do this, he or she cannot teach, for there is no point even opening one’s mouth to spout the great knowledge which derives from a First if one’s audience is shouting expletives, throwing chairs across the room, blowing smoke in one’s face or beating the living daylights out of the boy who, only yesterday, was his bestest mate.

And there is no degree of any calibre which qualifies one to inspire children to listen.

If you want to read about the most effective teacher ‘types’, please read Francis Gilbert in today’s Guardian. With writers like this on the Left, one has to wonder who is advising the Right.

None of these teacher types depends upon having a 2:2, though it would be a fair bet that all have.

The reality is that education in this country did not start to go wrong when the profession began admitting academically under-qualified teachers: it was when a culture emerged which placed trendy teaching methods above effective learning and the opinions of ‘experts’ above the needs of pupils. It was when the whiff of Marxism entered in the bland uniformity of the comprehensive system which was supposed to ensure ‘excellence for all’; when pupils became empowered with their ‘rights’ to insist that ‘all must have prizes’; when equality of outcome became more important than equality of opportunity; and when all political parties began to adopt the virulent rhetoric of anti-selection in the name of social justice.

These developments were followed by the abolition O-levels, the dumbing down of A-levels and a prohibition of corporal punishment in schools. These were then followed by the state cloning of teachers through repressive training colleges, the enforced ‘closed-shop’ membership of their ‘professional body’ the GTC, and the creation the Stasi-like Ofsted bureaucracy to ensure that the state’s exemplary standards are met and its programme of indoctrination is rolled out.

It is no surprise that the Department for Education was abolished under this Labour Government, for state education had long ceased to be about the sort of inspiration envisaged by Plato: when the DfE became the DCSF, some teachers cynically termed it the Department for Cushions and Soft Furnishings.

They might as well have added breast feeding, nappy changing and child-minding. For the functioning of family had been fused with the business of schools, and the teacher became confused with the social worker.

One final though on the 2:2 stipulation is that implementing it is going to be an overly-bureaucratic task in what is supposed to be the ‘post-bureaucratic’ era.

There are presently thousands of overseas-trained teachers working in England’s schools: the system would collapse without them. It is frequently a hard task for the TDA to work out which of their qualifications is equivalent to a UK degree, let alone what might equate to a First, a 2:1 or a 2:2.

And since Mr Cameron's new policy can apply only to teachers in England (education in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland having been devolved), might we not see some inspirational but under-qualified teachers popping over the border to fulfil their vocation?

One cannot help but feel that this is another policy which may well be kicked into the long grass (along with cutting the number of MPs and the subsidiarity demands from the EU) as the Conservative Party focuses its efforts on the need to cut the budget deficit.

It will soon be forgotten.

Or they will realise that 95 per cent of teachers already possess at least a 2:2, and the 5 per cent who do not will go on being employed by schools because the Party has promised to give headteachers the freedom to employ whomsoever they wish and pay them whatever they wish.


Anonymous martin sewell said...

At the risk of sounding fogeyish I was educated in a State Primary School with 42 in the class, and neither the Headmaster nor my teacher in the last two years had degrees. We came from a mixed area with some homeownership but many Council houses. We had little equipment, and outside toilets. it was one of the most successful schools in the area for securing grammar school places. It illustrates that so much of what we talk about as necessary to educational success is peripheral.

19 January 2010 at 10:09  
Blogger gyg3s said...

There's something sinister and evil in this whole spat. I've called it 'degree aparthied' on a previous comment on your blog but it goes beyond degree awards.

It is the use of education, vs lack thereof, to discriminate against, rather than between, people.

People who have a degree (no matter the subject) appear to sneer at those who are not so blessed. Employers advertise for positions demanding a degree irrespective of whether or not one is really necessary. As for those who are neither in education, employment or training (NEETs): that is, they haven't done very well at school; the system our prejudices have constructed, means that these people invariably die. They don't appear to get past the age of 26. (Look it up, if you've got the stomach for it).

The education system is not being used in the sense that Mario Savio would understand but instead, it is now what he railed about in his famous speech. The system is not being used to liberate and empower the individual but to control and crush (and in the case of NEETs, kill).

This system is extraordinarily creepy; extraordinarily malign. The stink is under everyone's nose but very few people appear to detect it.

Including Cameron, including Your Grace.

ps I wonder what Cameron would make of Denis Rancourt? (I mean with respect to education but I suppose the views he has expressed on the environment would also be a challenge to the world according to Dave).

19 January 2010 at 10:26  
Anonymous Zach Johnstone said...

As the dust settles surrounding this policy, I am erring more and more towards the resolution that this policy requires considerable supplementation. I too would like to see a dissolution of the ‘trendy’ teaching culture. As Burke argued in 1790, abstract idealism is doomed to failure; legislation can prevent a lot of harm but equally it cannot do a lot of tangible good. This only comes from a modification in the very culture surrounding an issue (a notion equally applicable to all sorts of policies).

For that reason, empowerment of head teachers as well as alleviation from the obdurate flow of paperwork will be key to any success. But as I said yesterday, I think the PGCE needs to be more heavily weighted in the area of encouraging a disciplinarian approach. Respect does not come to pass ex nihilo – rather it is something that is earned through the actions (and indeed the demeanour) of figures of authority. My only reservation is that I am of the firm belief that truly inspirational teachers possess something which cannot be taught.

That, however, should not give cause to not even bothering to try and instil such values and traits in the posterity of the teaching profession.

19 January 2010 at 10:28  
Anonymous Michael said...

Completely agreed. I have blogged on this in the past, though the problem is that because the 'trendy teacher' etc. language has now passed into stereotype, it becomes easy to dismiss as an exaggeration - however true, indeed very true, it might be.

19 January 2010 at 10:31  
Blogger gyg3s said...

A point of clarification: by no education, I don't mean ignorance.

Instead I mean that a greater and greater part of the employment market has been hijacked by the educational institutions. They have done this by setting themselves up as gatekeepers; they prevent us from entering some parts of the job market unless we pay them both in time and money.

Although we could get our employment required education by other means.

19 January 2010 at 10:38  
Anonymous Can both sides stop the class war said...

@gyg3, actually its worse than what you say. It is also people with degrees from Oxbridge think they are superior than ANYONE, degree or not. There was a comment on one of the other posts about a third from Cambridge being better than a 2.1 or first from anywhere else. How arrogant is that? I think you should be proud of a degree if you have got it, but on the other hand there are plenty of people who do not have degrees and are intelligent and have made a good go of their lives. Why? Perhaps because they had the support of their parents ?

19 January 2010 at 10:51  
Blogger Rebel Saint said...

Even the name itself "Children, schools & families" betrays something of the governments subliminal thinking with regards to the relative importance of each of the named groups. The socialists seem determined to put themselves inbetween children & their families. Hence their full bodied assault on those who wish to home educate ... of course it's for the 'good of the children' because home education is just a front for abuse [a great coverall ... like terrorism].

Schools are of course meant to act 'loco parentis'. But the reality is families are slowly becoming a convenient out of hours child-minding service for the state.

19 January 2010 at 10:54  
Blogger English Pensioner said...

For teaching up to GCSE, I have great doubts as to whether a degree is needed, especially as at many schools teachers cover more than on subject and can't have degrees in them all.
The main thing is an ability to teach and make the subject interesting; to be able to retain the attention of children and make them actually want to come to your lesson.
I remember from my grammar school days; Our geography master had a doctorate (as did the head), but his lessons were totally boring. He just seemed to drone on in a monotone, covering the blackboard with incomprehensible diagrams.
On the other hand our History master was the exact opposite. Certainly not so highly academically qualified, but a brilliant teacher. He could make the dullest parts of history sound exciting, and always seemed to find a decent battle or something similar to finish the lesson.

I think we should return to the Victorian system of training teachers for younger pupils, by apprenticeship in the classroom. It would be far cheaper, allow apprentices to drop out if they decided that the job wasn't for them, and allow those without strong academic ability but with the right temperament and charisma to find a niche.

19 January 2010 at 11:01  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yawn, another topic about teachers. Are there not better things to talk about? What kind of newservice is cranny running?

19 January 2010 at 11:20  
Blogger Timothy Belmont said...

"New" Labour has made an utter mess of the traditional departments of State.

Apart from the Office of Lord Chancellor; the House of Lords; the Department for Trade and Industry; President of the Board of Trade; and, of course, the Department for Education which they virtually got rid of.

The next Government should restore the traditional Offices.

19 January 2010 at 11:27  
Anonymous Zach Johnstone said...


If intellectual dissection of topical issues is not palatable to you, then I'm sure that His Grace would remind you at this juncture that you are free to leave the website just as readily as you arrived at it.

If it is fatuous entertainment you seek, perhaps Celebrity Big Brother would be more to your taste...

19 January 2010 at 11:27  
Blogger Lord Lavendon said...

Your Grace,

With all due respect to the teaching profession, given as you say the lack of ability to discipline and therefore teach children, I think the best educators in the world are parents who take an interest in and help to develop (if that is the correct word) their children, and yes, this would include a smack when they are being naughty.

And how many parents read classics at Oxbridge and got a 2.1 or a triple first? Perhaps then half the battle might be won for the teacher?

Also I cannot see the problem with bringing back the cane- I remember that the thought of a dam good thrashing when I was at school make me think twice about getting into a few japes, such as scrumping for apples etc.

19 January 2010 at 11:35  
Anonymous Natallie West said...

Is it me or is this the third post about teachers in two days? Yawn! Can't Cranny blog about something a bit more interesting than whether or not teachers should have a 1st or not. And half of the posters are tiresome anyway- do we have to read about the "oxbridge is the best" bull?

19 January 2010 at 11:39  
Blogger D. Singh said...

Your Grace,

You have indeed locked horns with the difficulties that teachers must contemplate overcoming before they can impart ’10 minutes of new knowledge’ in the standard urban state comprehensive school.

The list of difficulties that the teacher in the state comprehensive encounters is well known: rowdy classroom (lack of self-control and discipline); ’30 children’ (excessive number of pupils (please, not the left-liberal ‘students’); addressing a minority who do not wish to learn whilst simultaneously trying to teach the other ‘28’ who do wish to learn; pupils who have ‘special needs’; ‘those who do not speak English or have Asperger’s or some other ‘special need’’; pupils who project expletives ; throw chairs; who smoke in the classroom; commit common assault. And may I add a few more to your list? Pupils who falsely accuse their teachers (some teachers have committed suicide); pupils who rape their teacher; the parents of pupils who assault the teacher for rebuking their ill-mannered off-spring and the teachers who are afraid of intervening in a fight amongst pupils for fear of being accused of assault.

It seems that what has shifted is the balance of power between parents and teachers (standing in the place of parents) on the one-hand and the child (pupil) on the other.

The shift in the balance of power has been effected by the Human Rights Act 1998 (importing into domestic law most of the provisions in the European Convention on Human Rights). The issue of corporal punishment has been tested by Christians in the law courts (we lost). Parents are afraid even in their own home to exercise corporal punishment for fear of being prosecuted under the 1861 Offences Against the Person Act (which parent or teacher can cite a defence in that Act?). This has led to a collapse of discipline in the home, at the bus shelter and in the school (aided and abetted by the teaching profession teaching human rights to young minds that are clearly intellectually immature to comprehend the debate between rights and duties (the latter concept considered old fashioned).

In consequence the very idea of deference by the child (pupil) to the parent (teacher) has been all but extinguished. The result is that the home, bus shelter and the school is ruled by the ‘trousered ape’. It merely takes two unruly pupils in a class of 30 to rob the other 28 pupils of one hour’s worth of learning.

When you deprive parents of authority you deprive the teacher who is acting in the capacity of loco parentis. When you rob them of their authority and the ultimate sanction – corporal punishment – you rob the child itself of proper boundaries for moral, spiritual and intellectual growth. You have to have fixed standards before you can assess improvement: the 12 inch ruler is a fixed standard (once used by teachers for measurement and the rap on the knuckles).

When the socialist elite mocks and derides Judaeo-Christian moral standards and presides arrogantly over their fall in the home and school – improvement in the behaviour of parents, teachers, children and pupils is degraded.

That is: socialist education.

19 January 2010 at 11:47  
Blogger Anabaptist said...

Cranny, you wrote:
'The reality is that education in this country did not start to go wrong when the profession began admitting academically under-qualified teachers: it was when a culture emerged which placed trendy teaching methods above effective learning and the opinions of ‘experts’ above the needs of pupils. It was when the whiff of Marxism entered in the bland uniformity of the comprehensive system which was supposed to ensure ‘excellence for all’; when pupils became empowered with their ‘rights’ to insist that ‘all must have prizes’; when equality of outcome became more important than equality of opportunity; and when all political parties began to adopt the virulent rhetoric of anti-selection in the name of social justice.'

Good rhetoric, and your heart is in the right place, but you are wrong, wrong, wrong!

Education started to go wrong when the state hijacked it. It was the state takeover that allowed all the evils you identify to get into schools.

No state involvement: no mechanism for enforcing state aims.

Politicians cannot put it right because they are the problem, not the solution.

So also with health and welfare.

The solution is to recognise that education is the responsibility of parents and to give back that responsibility. Gove has made some noises in the right direction there, but not enough.

When I began teaching back in the late 60s, I did so with a good degree, but no teaching qualification (it was allowed then). Having been to a grammar school myself, it came as a terrible shock to begin my teaching career in an inner-urban comprehensive (which was in reality a vast secondary modern school). I was given only two pieces of advice:

It's either you or the kids; don't let it be you.

Always keep between them and the door.

They stood me in good stead.

19 January 2010 at 12:13  
Anonymous Mark Blades said...

Mr. Cranmer, I thought this analysis today of State education in England to be particularly good. Thank you for it.
On a more lighthearted note,I remember a retired teacher telling me, tongue in cheek, that it didn't matter WHAT you taught kids, just as long as they didn't like it.

19 January 2010 at 12:23  
Blogger Anabaptist said...

Mr Singh rightly identifies the word 'students' as leftish.

It isn't just trendy, though; it is far more sinister than that.

A pupil is somebody who receives instruction and tutelage from a master. But that model of education is not appropriate in today's thinking, in which kiddies are supposed to be self-motivating, self-teaching, containing already in themselves the wisdom required. All that is needed is for that which is within to be brought out. A good teacher these days is one who 'gets great things out of the kids'.

I tend to think that a good teacher is one who puts grat things into the kids, and that pupil is exactly the right word to use.

A student is one who staudies, rather than one who is taught. There was a big shift in the 80s from 'teaching' to 'learning', which was all part of the move towards 'student-centred' learning. During that period, the teacher moved from being an instructor to being a facilitator, providing the 'resources' students need.

The idea of learning as opposed to teaching is derived from the malign philosophy of Roussea, whose thinking underlies the entire edifice of teacher training, and which has infected at a deep level the entire culture of modern education.

This trend was and continues to be accompanied by the nirvana of 'individualised learning, in which all students follow their own course of study, individually tailored to their particular needs. It was technically known as an ILP (Individualised Learning Plan).

The next semantic shift is in ceasing to use the word student and replacing it with the even worse learner.

Watch this space.

19 January 2010 at 12:30  
Blogger Little Black Sambo said...

A degree used to be not something you "have" but something you are admitted to. It ought to be enough for anybody to be an MA and a gentleman.

19 January 2010 at 13:03  
Anonymous eton is better than harrow said...

The trouble is that too many middle class oiks have got ideas above their station- why you need a degree to be a teacher in the first place is beyond me. As the old saying goes "those that can do, those that can't teach".

19 January 2010 at 13:07  
Anonymous Jewish Bag Lady said...

Anabaptist, as Vader says to Obi Wan,in the film star wars "I am the master now , not the pupil now"

19 January 2010 at 13:09  
Blogger D. Singh said...

Your Grace,

Mrs Jewish Bag Lady presents an interesting teaching from the fictional religion Jediism ‘… as Vader says to Obi Wan, in the film star wars "I am the master now , not the pupil now."’

How differently our Lord stated it (although I must confess I do not fully understand this saying of his):

‘The disciple is not above his master: but everyone that is perfect shall be as his master.’

Luke 6:40

Perhaps one aspect of this, in the modern context, is that if the master believes that his charges are the product of evolutionary biology, and teaches them thus, then they will behave like ‘trousered apes’.

19 January 2010 at 13:24  
Blogger DDIM 'n HOFFI said...

Discipline is crucial to the education of anyone. There will always be those who are naturally endowed with the gifts for learning and absorbing information, and there will always be those who are not. But in order to bring the best out in everyone it is crucial to create a highly disciplined environment that fosters a sentiment of deference and respect. In my days these things were achieved with a small degree of physical violence in the form of a cane across the arse muscles.

I may not be a high achiever but the odd sore arse has me on the best track possible. If the liberal wish-wash can get their heads around this then we might begin to turn things around in this country for the benefit of all. After all said and done we all grow up in the end and even the biggest prat in class has to get on with it like all the rest, and if all the rest of his chums are digging in then he will be more inclined to do the same. The main problem for the 21st century is distraction and lack of focus. It's no good bleating about social control and then bleating about lack of social order. Take control and create order - or shut the FFFF up. Simple really. If it's going to be March or Die , then let's march to the right beat.

19 January 2010 at 13:41  
Blogger DiscoveredJoys said...

Schools are now seen as an instrument for social change.
The Police Service is now seen as an instrument for social change.
The National Health Service is now seen as an instrument for social change.
Local Government is now seen as an instrument for social change.

Is it any wonder that our children are not being educated properly, criminals are not being caught, patients are being ill treated, and the bins are not being emptied properly?

A little re-dedication (irrespective of qualifications) would do wonders.

19 January 2010 at 13:54  
Blogger Holy Smoke said...

Unfortunately the Holy Grail in Education circles is TIMSS (Trends in Math and Science Study) This test which is administered internationally ranks countries according their students achievement on the test. Singapore is ranked 1 and is cited as the be all in education. One serious flaw in this thinking is Singapore is a city-state with a unique population and economic resources.

You need to kill TIMSS before you can get rid of all the ideas it is spawning.

19 January 2010 at 13:54  
Anonymous Knighthawk said...

Politics seems to have reduced education to a ghastly mess. All the main parties are suffering from an epidemic of what I can only describe as equalimania.

We hear a lot about 'level playing fields' but not all the players have equal natural ability, though all should be helped to realise their full potential. 'Excellence for all', why promise what you cannot possibly deliver and set yourself up for failure from the outset?
'Excellence for all' is impossible, and in a culture of bland uniformity tends to distill into 'mediocrity for all'. A dumbing down to appease the gods of Equality, where social justice is twisted into Socialist justice. A 'red' regime with State cloning of teachers, repressive training colleges, closed shop control of professional practice. Statist standards and programmes of indoctrination enforced by Stasi style enforcers. Welcome to the Gulag.
Abandon hope all ye that enter here.

But not all would agree, for one mans 'indoctrination' is another mans 'edification'. This seems to present society with an unsolvable contradiction, since there are as many opinions on education as there are people to educate.

19 January 2010 at 14:37  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I really recommend this article about teacher selection (and quarterbacks)


19 January 2010 at 16:33  
Blogger Owl said...

One of the first moves towards a sensible schooling would have to be the removal of so called "school psychologists" who's main task seems to be to get as many children as possible hooked on Ritalin. In 99% of the cases, a wallop on the backside would have solved the problem without creating a generation of junkies.

19 January 2010 at 16:52  
OpenID manicbeancounter said...

Well said your Grace.
One point to note. The idea that a level of qualification signifies the suitability for teaching comes from the general idea that it is only the measurable that is relevent. Abilities can only be decided on a case by case basis, requiring judgement and discernment on the part of an interviewer. That would never do, as the interviewer may discriminate for negative reasons (e.g. a moral christian over a pagan amoralist, or a working-class tory over a middle-class vegan environmentalist.)
The way to get better standards is to encourage diversity through competition. In education this involves letting schools set their own standards and syallabuses and generate their own cultures. It means abandoning the box-ticking culture that uses up so much of the time of the talented professionals.

19 January 2010 at 17:20  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your Grace, a brief and perhaps picky comment. It was not Mr Blair who renamed it DCSF. Under Mr Blair it was the "Department for Education and Skills" or DfES. It was one of Gordon Brown's first acts to rename it. Let us not let Mr Blair take the blame for something he did not do - he takes enough blame for things as it is!

19 January 2010 at 18:38  
Anonymous Atlas Shrugged said...


It is said that for a 'civilization' to remain stable a pyramid structure of command and control must be kept in place. Any student of the classics that was paying proper attention to their tutors, will know this to be the case.

Therefore, we can not all be at the top, or indeed in the middle. For a functioning pyramid structure to exist the majority must be FORCED by one method or another, to stay almost permanently at the bottom.

Otherwise the top of society will fall, and all hell with break out. Or at least that is most surly what our own RULING ELITES all believe, without any shadow of any doubt whatsoever.

Socialism in all its forms is an invention of the UPPER UPPER-CLASSES.

All forms of socialism have nothing to do with freedom, liberty, or prosperity, and still less to do with social mobility. After 13 years of a very much socialist government, surly this is now self-apparent.


We are about to replace one form of socialist government with an oh so slightly different form of socialist government run by Cameron, and his blue form of corporate socialists, namely the Conservative Party. The Liberal Democrat Party of course, being also a socialist party, under an even more highly miss-leading name.

If we did not have any crime or criminals, we would not require hardly any police men, judges, prisons, lawyers, barristers , prison, and probation officers.

Without endemic poverty, and ignorance, we would not need hardly any social workers, the above, a state indoctrination service, namely the education system, or indeed insurance companies.

Without all of above we would not hardly need any government at all.

Without a government, we would not need an establishment to tell them what to do.

Without an establishment we would not need a World establishment.

Without a world establishment, THEY would not be able to run the world like a whole corrupted game of life or death Monopoly.

What is worse, our ruling class elites have always known this to be the case. As they learn this sort of thing whilst attending our top universities and educational establishments, and of course from the own parents. Which is why they have given us the type of so called modern society, we currently have.

In other words

This is all a massive, and very long standing conspiracy to keep THEM, were they have always been, and us very much where they have every intention of keeping US.

In other words.

Without their EVIL, we can not have our GOOD.

Without THEM constantly reinventing, sponsoring and promoting the LEFT, THEY can not also control the RIGHT.

Without THEM causing perpetual Chaos, they can not give US their version of self-interested order.

Without THEM causing WAR, they can not force an always illusionary peace.

What is even worse then all of that put together. If the proverbial THEY stopped causing all of the above, and a whole lot more extremely nasty things. They could not TAX us as much as they do, in order to pay back the banking system, for all the help it constantly gives THEM in arranging such mayhem, and mass murder.

So there you have it. The human condition summed up for you all, in as simple a language as I can muster.

If the whole of the above is not by now highly SELF-APPARENTLY SELF-EVIDENT, then quite frankly it never will be, and never was going to be.

Please understand that this does not mean that these people see themselves as EVIL, even though they are personally responsible for virtually ever single truly thing EVIL, that has ever happen on the planet.

They were all told from a very early age that doing this sort of thing was not only their GOD given right, but also their GOD given DUTY.

You see, the sort of GOD they gave us, and the sort of GOD they follow, are not the same entity.

19 January 2010 at 20:26  
Blogger Miss Snuffleupagus said...

I agree with much of what you say, and indeed say lots of it myself all of the time. However, I do not agree with its central premise: that degree class and the institution from where it came are of no consequence when teaching in state schools of the 21st century. Neither do I agree with the implication that those with Firsts are more likely to be socially inept.

While it is true that degree class and institution are not the only things considered when sifting through application forms, they are given much weight. Some Heads will not even consider you if you have less than a 2.1. Indeed, only the exceptional teachers with less than a 2.1 tend to get through in any half-decent school. That is, unless you are a Maths or Science teacher, in which case, if you can breathe, we'll take you.

The reason for this is that teaching is such a difficult and demanding job that unless one is bright, one simply cannot do it. My own personal experience is that those teachers who I have known who were Oxbridge educated tend to be very good indeed. I have known several and I have yet to meet one who isn't any good. They tend to be talented and they have a work-ethic that others do not necessarily have.

Not only must a good teacher be bright, they must be willing to put in the hours to succeed in the classroom. Oxbridge graduates tend to have a certain kind of drive and ambition. Those with Firsts are similar. And when one discusses policy or teaching strategies with bright people, they understand immediately, are reflective on their own practice, willing to be adventurous, and are skillful in ways that only bright people can be.

I have appointed teachers with Firsts but one of the best appointments I ever made was one who had a Third. But this woman is bright. Somehow, I guess things must have just gone wrong with her degree. Normally, degree class lets an employer have some idea of how able the employee is. So to ignore a teacher's degree would be foolish. I have known many a teacher who has struggled with 'understanding' things. No doubt they struggled with their degrees as well.

To insist that they all have 2.2s is also foolish of course. A 2.2 from Middlesex and a 2.2 from Cambridge are two very different things. Clearly it is just a political ploy - as is everything that politicians do.

At heart what bothers me in this post is the underlying assumption that teachers need not be bright to be good. This is a very common assumption. But I can assure you it is mistaken.

Those who can't, teach - they say. In fact, it is those who are extraordinarily talented who do it well, and normally, such talent shines through in one's degree long before that teacher ever set foot in a classroom.

19 January 2010 at 22:33  
Blogger Archbishop Cranmer said...

"I do not agree with its central premise: that degree class and the institution from where it came are of no consequence when teaching in state schools of the 21st century. Neither do I agree with the implication that those with Firsts are more likely to be socially inept."

"At heart what bothers me in this post is the underlying assumption that teachers need not be bright to be good."

Miss Snuffy,

If you would care to enlighten His Grace as to where he said these things as dogmatically as you aver, he would be most appreciative.

19 January 2010 at 22:53  
Anonymous not a machine said...

I agree with much of what your grace says and some posts seem to have to small a view .

An Education is important , everyone seems to be forgetting its origins , we must never forget how somthing as basic as numbers allows you to make things and use money , and being able to read and write allows to access all human knowledge . Regardless of where you have come from in life you are skilled to at least live in it with the basics .

From the basics you then can find your own talents or skills , some have practical applications ,some intellectual .

The behavioral aspects are more enviromental , but again I take the position that education offers oppertunities , for 6 plus hours a day we hope that our education system can shape developing minds into somthing to help them for the rest of there life , from 5 to 16 we hope that teachers are investing a sound framework in some instances reflecting what parents would do.

And there we have in some ways what i think has been the monumental fail of this government . Good parents and good schools are necessary , fundamental even for society to function and civil life in general .

The poor may indeed be always with us , but i am quite sure that the poor will increase without good education .
We had the blair idea of expulsion and the idea that rittalin was the way to proceed , yet the reports from schools show violence and expulsion has not gone down .

Knive detectors , drug scans you may wonder what circmstances are bringing children to schools in such a way of mind . Perhaps we are looking at larger societal deteriorations , but it is no excuse for believeing that "rock school" is the future , where the world of learning is framed as pop music .

Teachers themselves find it difficult where classes have no order or respect , let alone the parents who do not know what to do .

This project has to start somewhere and its ambition is admirable in that it dares to suggest and redress the long forgotten and in many ways drowned out basic functions of education .

To some it may seem to far off and it will be interesting how it rolls out as it encounters some of the resource points , but in this area it has always been an aspirational matter of high standards and good work and making the institutions function and interact with there enviroment and people . Real futures are made in these places , real poverty if do we not value them .

20 January 2010 at 00:30  
Anonymous no nonny said...

The senior physics/maths mistress at my grammar school had a doctorate. I assumed this was why I couldn't learn from her; but other pupils pointed out that her degree didn't necessarily prove that she was either the brightest or the best of our teachers.

So I watched her and learned about teaching; and every bad teacher I ever met did as she did. She taught by dictating from her notes and by favoritism. Those she victimized were, metaphorically, beaten about the head with a wooden plank: and their brains pulverized into lack of confidence.

She was, I later learned, a communist. I now believe she had some political reason for making it explicitly clear that I had no right to an education, let alone my place in the top stream; and she treated me accordingly. Her favorite put-down: "Don't try to understand; you'll be married and having children in no time - you don't need to learn."

This is how a bad teacher works to prevent learning or academic success. There are many such at all levels, and they encourage students to follow their examples. Their object is anything but education in the sense of development of the mind and its equipment: of nourishment and growth of the intellect.

They exercise personal and political clout so as to dis-empower anyone who is likely to challenge or criticise the progress of their agenda. Their favorites are probably the children of their political associates.

Good teachers do exactly the opposite - and the atmosphere in their classes can become vibrant as students watch each other attain levels of accomplishment they always dreamed of!!

So I say the skill lies both in excelling at the subject and in finding ways to engage the students.

And that education should be about facilitating intellectual freedom; not about forcing every mind into the same steel trap.

20 January 2010 at 06:41  
Blogger D. Singh said...

How the BOG standard state comprehensive could make mincemeat out of Harrow and Eton:


20 January 2010 at 12:14  
Anonymous no nonny said...

Nice one, Mr. Singh!! Thank you.
[She did a decent number on Dante, too, as I recall.]

20 January 2010 at 16:56  
Blogger Miss Snuffleupagus said...

Your Grace...
'Dogmatically' is perhaps the key word in your question. I don't think you were being dogmatic. But the assumptions are there nonetheless.

'These institutions have the luxury of employing educators with First Class degrees because their days are spent imparting subject-specific knowledge to students who are eager to learn in a context of academic rigour. Even if the teacher is socially inept, the student will play the willing disciple, for the educational ethos demands it.'

The above implies that those with Firsts are socially inept. IMPLIES - not 'states dogmatically'.

'One does not need a 2:2 in any subject to teach in some schools: one needs a strategy for survival.'

Not true. One needs both. Indeed without the capacity to get at least a 2.2., one is unlikely to have the capacity to develop a strategy for survival. They go hand-in-hand.

'And there is no degree of any calibre which qualifies one to inspire children to listen.'

Really? One must be bright to get a First. One must be bright to inspire. Not all bright people can inspire, true, but certainly those who are not bright cannot do so.

Perhaps our disagreement lies in what we believe one's class of degree tells us about a person?

'...there is no point even opening one’s mouth to spout the great knowledge which derives from a First...'

This quote suggests that perhaps this is where the disagreement lies. As I do not believe a First tells me that this person has great knowledge. Indeed, some years after having achieved this, that knowledge is likely to have disappeared or at least dissipated. What it tells me is that this person has a certain kind of ambition, work-ethic, drive, and brains. And THAT is why a First - or indeed class degree is important. It lets me know that this person is far more likely to succeed as a teacher.

People with Thirds tend to have drifted through university and have ended up as teachers because they could not do anything else. So I agree with the Conservative instinct that such practice should stop. But as you correctly point out, this only refers to a small number of people - so frankly, who really cares.

20 January 2010 at 19:01  
Blogger Archbishop Cranmer said...

"Even if the teacher is socially inept, the student will play the willing disciple, for the educational ethos demands it.'

"The above implies that those with Firsts are socially inept. IMPLIES - not 'states dogmatically'."

With respect, it does nothing of the sort, even with the upper case assertion.

'Even' in this context is clearly used to invite comparison with what a hyperbolic extreme; 'if' is implicit reservation rather than assertion.

'I will never love you, even if you were the last woman on earth' does not imply that you are the last woman on earth.

21 January 2010 at 11:08  
Blogger Miss Snuffleupagus said...

Come, come, Your Grace... You're being crafty...

Although it was my error not to point out that the implication is not made within this statement alone. It comes from what lies before it. You speak of those with Firsts, and then follow with 'Even if the teacher is socially inept' when what you say of teachers with Firsts does not in any way make a connection between those with Firsts and those who are socially inept.

It is like when Bush used to talk of Muslims generally and then would suddenly speak of the War on Terror. The former is guilty by association. It is the juxtaposition of your sentences which creates the implication.

But I'm sure you know this, as unlike Bush, you are very clever and I certain that you are just playing with me. But Snuffy cannot help but rise to it, as she will always be your fan, even if you were the last dead archbishop in Blogsville.

23 January 2010 at 20:11  

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