Socialist Intentions

John Rentoul
gove getty 1024x768 Socialist Intentions

Michael Gove (Getty Images)

India Knight in The Sunday Times (pay wall) on Michael Gove’s curriculum reform:

Gove, rightly, calls his proposals “fundamental building blocks”. These will result in children learning fractions from the age of five, knowing their times tables by the age of nine and learning to recite poetry from the age of five, with an added emphasis on grammar, spelling and punctuation.

These are good and achievable things, and put important knowledge in place before any “difficult” or troubled child has the chance to go Awol, which doesn’t usually happen until secondary school. I’m also in favour of learning history chronologically, and of English students not being entirely baffled by literature that wasn’t written in the past 12 months.

Gove’s proposals are, to me, socialist in their intention, which is to equip every child with the sort of education that has traditionally been available to only a very few. How is that wrong? And what do left-leaning academics think they’re doing when they say, “Ooh, no, the children won’t understand any of it; it’s bad for them”? What? As bad as the fact that state-school students are still shamefully under-represented at our top universities?

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  • snozzle123

    Learning facts is only one very small part of ‘education’, the other part is an acculturation where kids pick up social capital, much of this depends upon one’s peers though and who one’s parents know. Most of this acculturation takes place outside of institutions.

    Anyway a universal education system is hardly ’socialist’ it is a very requirement for capitalism which needs individuals to be formed, commodified, regulated, trained in the ‘correct’ way, given ‘credentials’, both as labour and consumers. It is a mistake to think socialism is the alternative to an aristocratic or plutocratic society. The only privilege Capitalism recognises in theory is money, and anyone can own that.

    I’m pretty meh about Gove and his education reforms, he’s a smart bloke but on the other hand has no experience teaching. I don’t think teaching is especially noble or ‘good’ per se, Foucault sees the school as the same kind of institution as the prison, dispensing discipline, perhaps it’s more a necessary evil?

  • porkfright

    All this seems to be unsubstantiated twaddle. There are a lot of children who are not going to be able to manage fractions at age five, recite poetry at age five and know all their tables at age nine. The vast majority, probably. It goes against a vast amount of psychological research to think otherwise, and it shows a complete lack of competence in understanding human learning to believe any of this arrant nonsense.

  • creggancowboy

    Looking forward to seeing Mr Rent**l at G8;)

  • porkfright

    Perhaps the person who voted this down could reply and explain quoting research how these barmpot ideas could possibly be made to work in any way shape or form. Waiting in little hope.

  • porkfright

    There we go-the apparent paltroon has visited again. Waiting for reply !

  • stonecold90

    I imagine this author is just childishly trying to wind people up by calling these reforms socialist.

  • Russell Child

    Presumably the shameful under-representation of state-school children at the top universities is entirely due to the inadequacies of state schools themselves and has nothing to do with the prejudices of the universities themselves, or the distortion of the education system and our wider society by the continued existence of private schools.

    The fundamental problem with comprehensive schools is that they are not, socially and economically, comprehensive schools.

    I wonder when the last time Eton had a parents evening and a team from the local council had to be invited in to explain to parents the impact of changes to the housing benefit system.

    Or a child arrived at school not knowing where her family would be living that evening.

    Or a child came to school hungry.

    Given the circumstances many inner-city comprehensives operate in, their staff do a phenomenal job. We should applaud them, not demonise them.

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