Congratulations, Michael Gove!
Be honest, you weren’t expecting to see that headline, were you? Mr Gove, Minister (or “Mini-stirrer” if you prefer) for Education in the UK government has managed to unite 100 academics in a way I would have never thought possible. Check out the link…
A frequent problem encountered in education is that everyone’s been in it and therefore feels they have expert knowledge. Now, I’ve been a patient but that doesn’t make me a doctor. I’ve watched my car getting fixed but that doesn’t make me a mechanic. But everyone has been to school, including Michael Gove. So he feels that he’s an expert.
His recipe for education is that children need to know (and be able to recite) endless lists of “facts” before they can understand a concept. In Gove’s world, learning facts reinforces the learning of concepts. I’ll gently put aside the difficulties this approach faces with abstract concepts….. I would dearly love to see his evidence for this. I suspect there is none. His ideology is, I’m guessing, based on his own experiences at school, which I doubt overlap much with the experiences of the majority of teenagers this century. Still, he’s been a pupil, so now he’s an expert. An expert is his on eyes at least. To the rest of us, he’s only an expert in his own ideology.
And what an ideology. One example: after consulting about a new history curriculum, Gove and his ideological pals re-wrote a draft curriculum such that one of the advisors Gove himself brought in to revamp the curriculum did not recognise it. The new proposals include the idea that children as young as six should understand democracy, civilisation and nation. No-one with knowledge of teaching six year olds is doing anything but laugh at this thought. Hell, I’ve hit my half century without being entirely happy with the way any of those three things are working.
I can’t list the monarchs of England (let alone Britain) in chronological order and have never been able to. This probably makes me a dangerous retard in Gove’s view but I’ve struggled past this inadequacy to earn a degree (and later a teaching qualification) and to perform at reasonably high levels in a number of industries before entering teaching. What helped me to do that? Thinking skills. Problem-solving skills. Creative skills. Collaborative skills. Analytical skills. Not rote learning. Got that, Michael? NOT ROTE LEARNING!
But Mr Gove cares not one whit about what teachers and educational academics think. His attitude appears to be that all we are interested in is defending the status quo. The idea that any of us might have the best interests of pupils at heart seems never even to have crossed his mind: if we disagree with him we are simply stubborn refuseniks who stand in the way of progress because we can. Well, Mr Gove, the education system in the UK is not perfect and outcomes for students could undoubtedly be improved. But your proposals (curricular and otherwise) will not do that. Teachers (OK, maybe not all teachers but a good chunk of them) will continue to work for what they believe is best for their pupils, whether this is at odds with your ideologically driven changes or not. And their knowledge and experience has value. And they should be listened to. Because your pals appear to favour ideology over pupils very single time. And that, Mr Gove, is a dangerous and offensive position to take.