'I love Michael Gove', but...
The MSM today is full of more good news of the greatest of glad tidings in the continuing education revolution, which is irritating the hell out of socialist-inclined teaching profession (ie 99.85% of them) and their guardian Marxist unions, to whom Secreary of State Michael Gove is "'an evil entity' bent on 'demolishing state schools' who is surrounded by 'cronies' and pursuing 'fetishes' while 'terrorising teachers' and empowering 'vultures'" (h/t Paul Goodman for the summary).
Having sent a King James Bible to every state school (how many politicians would have done that?), and having demolished Lord Leveson in defence of liberty, the fearless Gove has taken an axe to to GCSEs and announced the return of O-levels (for the academically able) and CSEs (for those less so). After decades of breastfeeding, the nation's children are to be weaned off milk onto beef: the 'gold standard' is to return, we read, accompanied with the abolition of the National Curriculum.
And so, once again, Michael Gove is being talked of a potential prime minister, and Paul Goodman has penned a love letter.
His Grace loves Michael Gove, too. But...
There can be no real abolition of the National Curriculum while the state determines the the content and rigour of the qualifications: the two are mutually integrally contingent. By all means, heap your praises upon the man, but the contradictions and tensions remain.
On one day we read that all children are to be
Any move to dilute, devolve and deregulate the National Curriculum is unlikely to lead to a strengthening of educational provision: school governors, heads and teachers will simply invoke the liberties granted by the Academies Bill 2010 to base their educational ethos on the magic breathing philosophy of Goldie Hawn, on the Islamic principles of sharia, or on Dawkins’ extremist atheism.
It is strange indeed, not to say something of a contradiction, that the academy or ‘free school’ movement, which proposes to permit local groups of parents and teachers the autonomy to develop their own curricula and forge a distinct educational ethos, should simultaneously have imposed upon it a standardised national history syllabus which is to be written by Niall Ferguson.
Mr Ferguson has his views and his version of history. But an awful lot of academic historians, history teachers, and teaching organisations disagree with him. How does that equate with less prescription, yet an imposed centralised curriculum?
Michael Gove cannot have it both ways.Either one trusts parents and teachers or one does not.Either one is prescriptively imposing a centralised national curriculum or one is not.
And if this right-wing, Christian, Whiggish Secretary of State is permitted by Act of Parliament to demand that academies and free schools teach a particular view of history or encourage children to recite poetry, then his successors will be endowed with that very same authority to ensure the teaching of whatever leftist, globalist, multi-faith, multi-cultural or ‘environmentalist’ creed he or she requires.
With the advantage that 99.85% of teachers and 100% of the teaching unions are far more disposed to such a worldview.
So, when we laud Michael Gove for placing an emphasis on the rigorous study of traditional subjects and the reintroduction of difficult exams rather than wasting time on what he calls 'pseudo-subjects' and inspid GCSEs, let us not forget he forgets that Goldie Hawn’s school will be free to prioritise the technique of breathing over sentence structure and poetry recital (though the latter may well assist with breathing techniques).
And when Mr Gove encourages a focus on the teaching of language and literature, his ‘greats’ of Shakespeare and Chaucer are not going to be everyone’s: there will be one or two governor-bishops who might want the list expanded to include Herbert, Donne, Newman, Hopkins, Eliot, Chesterton, Greene and Belloc. But the final list of these 'greats' will ultimately be determined by the state's qualifications agency (or appointed quango), which necessarily remains responsible for developing the curriculum, improving and delivering tests and assessments, and reviewing and reforming qualifications.
His Grace's love for Michael Gove is not unconditional.