Gove’s ghastly discrimination against non-academics

If Gove can disregard professionals telling him that he’s making a big mistake with the curriculum, what the hell effect can I have? (see this article)

But I can’t be silent; his blinkered approach to what’s needed in education is too dangerous to ignore.

When he says that kids need more academia – which kids is he talking about? The kids of the elitist upper classes like him or the rest of our children?

We used to need academia. Back in the dark ages when peasants couldn’t read, write or understand numbers beyond bartering.

But we have a different culture – with Internet now – has he noticed? Has he noticed that the destructively prescriptive curriculum is the very reason that thousands of parents, teachers, other professionals and children, are leaving the system?

And he thinks making it more prescriptive is going to help? Ask any teacher – he’s got it so wrong.

By forcing more academia on kids we are failing to address their wider needs as real people, not elite people. The world is full of very real and ordinary people making extremely valuable contributions, living their lives in hard working, moral and principled ways, managing to be independent, house and feed their families on an income too small for politicians to even imagine. For many of them, academia played no part and their children are probably not interested; more of it will drive more from education and we’ve enough disenchanted youngsters already.

And anyway is education only about academia? Because if it is, then it’s extremely narrow and disrespects and even discriminates against all those who lead lives through other approaches.

Not everyone needs academia to go forward to a fulfilled and productive life. But of course, that depends on your definition of a fulfilled and productive life. Is the only life Gove sees as worthwhile the sort of elitist, academic life that he leads?

There are youngsters who go on to lead fulfilled, productive, wage earning lives that are equally valuable and contribute something without academia. Who live these valuable lives without being posh, rich, academic or political.

Did the people who do valuable work like emptying Gove’s dustbins need academia? Because they are doing relevant and important jobs without it. Did the people who care for the elderly, clean hospitals, build roads, produce our food, cut cabbages in all weathers, work on production lines – did they need academia? Or those creative people who build new businesses? Not everyone needs or wants academia to lead valid and fulfilling lives.

Not everyone needs curriculum either.

So what do youngsters need?

They need experiences. They need to be inspired.

They need to feel what it is to be motivated. They need to understand that their world is such a rich and wonderful place it is inspirational to learn about.

Do they feel that now? Is more academia going to help? Doubt it.

They need to experience what it’s like to be fulfilled by what they do. They need to feel what it’s like to create life by their own hands and their own work. They need to find their strengths through a broad range of experiences that give them confidence, courage and self esteem. They need to understand how vital are good connections with others.

You don’t get any of that through contrived and disempowering curriculum.

Our young people need respecting for not wanting to be academic if they choose. Through respect they learn respect. Not through a curriculum that disrespects the fact that we are all different and makes failures out of those who don’t fit.

Academia as a basis for education is past its sell by date. What we need for our kids now is to ignite them and show them how they can make a valid, productive and rewarding contribution, whoever they are, academic or not.

The point is proved by the thousands and thousands of families now opting to educate their children outside of schooling and some without curriculum too. Very, very successfully. And many teachers are home educating too, not because as teachers they can teach – as teaching isn’t always required really. It’s because these teachers have seen what damage an overly prescriptive curriculum does to kids – it switches them off to learning.

Education will continue to be poor as long as it is governed by politics and politicians far more concerned with winning votes, and using children as pawns to do so, than the development of the young.

Until we make education politics-free and bring it back to a humane level – i.e. the development and nurture of human beings and all their idiosyncrasies and needs – it will continue to worsen until we have squeezed all the good professionals out of it and squeezed the last droplet of enthusiasm for learning out of our children.

It’s time to stop using education as a means to produce vote fodder through a prescriptive process akin to factory farming. And start educating in a broad experiential way that heralds what it is to be diversely human, academia being only a very small part.

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