Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The ‘Progressive’ Education Revolution

“You might think nowadays that there had been some great discovery in the field of education in the 1930s and 1940s, a discovery which somehow led all teachers to the conclusion that rigour in exams, selection and discipline were counter-productive. No such discovery was made, yet the educational experts were convinced, by the early 1960s, that all of these things had to go. Why, if not for educational reasons?

If you look now at prophetic documents of the comprehensive revolution, such as Margaret (Postgate) Cole’s pamphlet ‘What is a Comprehensive School?’…what she is really concerned about is actually nothing to do with education, and all to do with class and society…Her real purpose is revealed in bold type: ‘We believe strongly that in a modern democratic community, it is important, both socially and educationally, that children of all types shall learn to live with one another in youth’…Seldom has the comprehensive ideal’s real purpose, a revolutionary social one, been so neatly and combatively set out. Now, after more than half a century of experience, its supporters would be hard put to deny that its Tory critics saw the future far more clearly than they did. And yet, interestingly enough, there has been no retreat from the comprehensive fetish in any significant part of the education industry.

Further evidence of the political, anti-hierarchy attitudes behind education reform can be found in the tragic Plowden report of 1967, which gave its blessing to self-styled ‘progressive’ methods in the primary schools…In the years since Bridget Plowden’s report encouraged the spread of discovery learning, and began a bonfire of old-fashioned desks and blackboards, children in this country have changed completely. Many cannot read, write or count. Many more can only do these things badly. Standards of behaviour, of self-control, of ability to respond to authority, or concentrate on any task, have sunk.

It is painful now to read Plowden’s soppy, Pollyanna words. She and her committee, just like Margaret Cole, had a purpose that they believed was more important than education. After all, there was nothing really wrong with the nation’s primary schools when her committee began their work, except in the small minority which had already adopted progressive methods. As Plowden herself says: ‘English primary education has long had a high reputation. We heard repeatedly that English infant schools are the admiration of the world.’ Who could say that now?

‘…We believe however, that the primary schools, as in so much else, should
lead [my italics] public opinion, rather than follow it.

This is the joy of being a progressive. Whenever your views are rejected by experience, common sense and tradition, it is because you are ahead of the rest of the population, never because you are eccentric or wrong or just plain arrogant, or because they are not convinced by your arguments.

In the Economist of 20 June 1998, the magazine’s education correspondent recalls: One day almost 30 years ago, when the Economist’s education correspondent was a primary school pupil, he walked into his classroom to find that it had changed. Instead of facing the front in rows, the desks had been bunched together in groups. From then on, the teacher spent less time talking to the whole class, and pupils spent more time, alone or in groups, pursuing projects such as ‘communication through the ages’ at their own pace”.
The Abolition of Britain, Peter Hitchens.

Fifty years or so later, the consequences are abundantly, disastrously, clear.

…the concept of sitting pupils in rows of desks facing the teacher is widely considered too didactic. Now, most primary schoolchildren sit at tables scattered about the classroom, as I saw for myself when I sat in on one class for a week in the East End of London.

On my table, the three children giggled, kicked each other and chatted. Their attention lay on what was immediately in front of them: themselves. Somewhere on the periphery of our vision, the teacher walked about, struggling to keep order. Somewhere else, behind our heads, hung a white board with work upon it, gleefully ignored by my table.

When I blamed the children's poor discipline and concentration on the layout, the teacher looked at me with horror.

'The pupils are working together, directing their own learning,' she said emphatically.

The educational establishment emphasises what ought to work; it doesn't investigate or accept the evidence of what actually works.

As one science teacher in the East End told me: 'I'm instructed to put into place initiatives for which there's no educational evidence whatsoever.'

Another complained: 'Education is an evangelical movement - evidence has nothing to do with it.'

Children are now expected, for example, to be 'independent learners' in charge of their own education. ('Why do teachers keep asking me what I want to learn? How am I supposed to know?' one boy asked me in exasperation.)

This approach has a disastrous effect on the academic achievement of boys from poor backgrounds. Yet faced with a pupil who's incapable of directing his own learning, teachers and psychologists question what's wrong with the child, not what's wrong with the teaching.

The school regulator, Ofsted, has proved remarkably toothless - indeed, two of its own inspectors are so disillusioned that they risked their jobs to talk to me. Instead of concentrating on the basics, they said, they have to check that schools are complying with the latest educational ideology and Government initiative.

Both inspectors have been shocked by the low standard of writing, even in good schools - which one of them blamed squarely on poor marking (never to be done in red ink).

Many teachers, they noted, had stopped correcting children's grammar, spelling and speech at all, for fear of discouraging them.

In any case, the inspector continued, teachers at some of the schools she visits are poor at spelling and grammar themselves. Examining the work of one form, she found the teacher had made numerous spelling mistakes and marked one essay with the comment: 'You need more stuff.'
Reference

School-teaching has for many years been the profession of last resort for the academic loser. What high-flying graduate becomes a school teacher nowadays, if they have any alternative? It is only third-class academic trash who end up as teachers now, because the profession is so devalued that no-one else wants to do it. The other major group is young women who ‘want to work with children’, and have little regard for academia. Most of the men have been driven out by an organised campaign of hysteria over largely-imaginary paedophiles. The very profession charged with promoting academic values among the young can itself only recruit from the academic dregs.

More than half of primary teachers 'are unable to name three poets' Reference

The Government, as we constantly hear, is on a mission to improve our schools. How? Well, this year, the emphasis is on promoting healthy eating and 'community cohesion'. Indeed, every single school I visited had material on these two topics prominently displayed on their noticeboards. What a pity that some of their pupils were unable to read it.

One of the inspectors told me: 'I spend more time looking in children's lunchboxes than testing their literacy.' Someone, she said despairingly, needs to make children sit down, work hard and learn to concentrate.

Bright boys from chaotic backgrounds are almost totally dependent on their teachers for that first step to a different life. Yet, shockingly, some teachers saw their educational and social status not as a cause of inspiration to their pupils, but of shame.

'My main focus is not to offend my pupils,' said one. 'I don't want to push my middle-class values on them.'


What perversity possesses the minds of these sad mediocrities? Despite their stated reluctance to impose their middle-class values on to the children by teaching them to spell, that is exactly what they are doing, by imposing every passing middle-class ideological fad, regardless of the total lack of evidence. Healthy eating? Community cohesion? It doesn’t stop there.

I've accidentally stumbled upon a vast empire of pseudoscience being peddled in hundreds of state schools up and down the country. I'll lower you in gently. It's called Brain Gym, and it's a string of very complicated exercises for kids to do which "enhance the experience of whole brain learning". Firstly, they're very keen on water. "Drink a glass of water before Brain Gym activities. As it is a major component of blood, water is vital for transporting oxygen to the brain." Heaven forbid that your blood should dry out.
Reference

The whole ‘progressive education’ movement is itself nothing but a middle-class Left-wing fad, and it is being foisted onto working-class parents and children whether they like it or not, with catastrophic consequences.

The peculiar Left-wing fetish that all authority is always tyrannical, has led teachers to deny their own authority in the classroom. Yet children need authority. The power vacuum left by ineffectual adults gives rise to gang violence. If children feel that adults will not protect them, then they have to protect themselves.

Cecil and Nathan, both aged 13, told me that, at their inner-city London comprehensive, they were usually either afraid or on edge.

When bigger boys arrive at school with knives, they aren't searched.

When boys fight, 'the teachers just wait and watch,' they said. 'They don't intervene because they don't really care about us.'

The majority of the teachers at this school are women - a quarter of them quite young and scared, according to Cecil and Nathan. One teacher had been beaten up and another stalked by pupils.

Even the male teachers offered little safety. Nathan and Cecil recalled an older boy walking into their class and punching another in the face. 'There was blood everywhere.'

The male teacher, fearful of disciplinary action if he touched the assailant, told three of the bigger boys to pull him off.

In the topsy-turvy world of the state-school system, it's obviously quite all right to use 13-year-olds to break up a fight.

At Cecil and Nathan's comprehensive, where there is no after-school sport, there are regular fights between boys from rival schools and gangs.

All three boys said the police were rarely called - and then usually only the day after a fight. 'The teachers are scared,' said David with contempt.

Shockingly, both these inner-city schools were passed as 'satisfactory' in their last Ofsted inspection reports.

In fact, Ofsted has branded nearly half the schools in the country 'satisfactory' or worse - so the scale of the problem is clear.

Last year, classroom disruption was running at record levels, with schools sending home 2,200 children every day.

More than 200,000 were expelled or suspended the year before for violent, threatening or aggressive behaviour directed at teachers or other pupils.

It is, of course, extremely hard to learn - or teach - in this kind of environment.

Tuggy Tug said he hardly bothered to turn up at school any more. 'The teachers don't even try - they only care about the wage at the end of the year,' he said dismissively.
'You can sit on the desk with your shoes off, your socks hanging out, on the phone, doin' your ting [drug dealing] and the teachers won't give a toss.'

Too many schools are displaying a similar indifference to the wellbeing of their pupils.

As well as failing to teach them how to read and write properly, they are failing to protect boys from low-income families, to socialise them and to open up the world to the brightest.

The result is that more and more of these boys are joining violent gangs - and they are likely to remain in them. After all, as Mash remarked, what are they qualified for other than 'drug dealing and robbing'?

It is not hard to give teenage boys what they need to grow into successful men. It's not hard to steer them away from crime. The worst crime of all is that we are turning large numbers of potentially decent young men into misfits and criminals.

The link between illiteracy and delinquency is beyond doubt: when 14-year-old boys such as Darren and his friends can no longer keep up in class, they misbehave and often drop out.

‘A black car mechanic in his 50s, from Brixton, told me: 'Back in the Caribbean, we were taught the three Rs, but that's gone out of the window. After that, everything breaks down.'

This was certainly true of the dozens of teenagers I met.

By 14, the majority of them were involved in crime and drugs - turning up to school only to sell drugs or stolen goods. For them, illiteracy had already turned into a life sentence on the edges of society.

Call centres, and other service sector jobs, demand personal and social skills that are alien to most of the boys I met.

Unlike their middle-class counterparts, they have never been taught the basics, such as shaking hands, speaking clearly or looking a grown-up in the eye.

One teacher in a London inner- city school told me he considered this 'a massively serious issue'. He went on: 'I have really gifted black boys who can't communicate. You see them struggling. It's quite often the reason they get really upset and frustrated.' Yet he thought it ' patronising' to try to correct them.

Despite the Government's Literacy Hour and a massive increase in spending on schools, a third of all 14-year-olds have a reading age of 11 or below. One in five has a reading age of nine.

This is an extraordinarily high level of failure. After all, learning to read is a routine business managed by countries a lot poorer than ours. Cuba, Estonia, Poland and Barbados, for example, all boast higher literacy rates than ours, despite spending far less on education.

We wouldn't accept it if one in three everyday hospital operations ended in failure - so why do we accept it in our schools?

Certainly, for the majority of the boys I interviewed, school was part of the problem and not the solution. Most, such as Darren and his friends, hadn't been taught to read and write properly at primary school and were at best semi-literate.

For such boys, their lives are all but finished before they have really begun. The effect on society is devastating, too: feral gangs roam our streets and many people are scared to leave their homes. How has this been allowed to happen? Reference

Last week, I took part in a discussion on Woman's Hour with Christine Blower of the National Union of Teachers and with the deputy head of a former sink school. Ms Blower seemed anxious to play down the problems her members face, but she did accept that teaching is the second most stressful job in the country.

In an extraordinary admission of defeat, Ms Blower said she didn't think teaching should be seen any longer as a career for life. In other words, like a tour of duty in Afghanistan, teachers can take their life in their hands for a few years in the war zone that is modern state education.

The deputy head, meanwhile, talked about turning round an inner London school. And how had this miracle been achieved? Oh, by insisting pupils wore uniform and sending them home if they didn't. By the formidable headmaster standing at the local station and eyeballing any pupils who dared to be uncivil. By laying down rules and - now here's a radical idea - punishing those who broke them.

This new approach is called 'modern strict'. It sounds suspiciously like 'old strict'. That was a pedagogic approach that worked pretty well in our schools for, ooh, about 430 years, until the educational establishment opted for the view that children, not teachers, know best.
Reference

Sir Terry Leahy, Tesco's chief executive and a member of Gordon Brown's Business Council For Britain, put it bluntly: 'Too many children have been leaving school after 11 or 13 years of compulsory education without the basic skills to get on in life and hold down a job.'
Reference

The Confederation of British Industry recently identified 'serious failings' in school leavers' ability.

It is also claimed that some companies have had to give teenagers remedial English and maths lessons because they have such a poor grasp of the three Rs.


The problem extends into university life too. One of my friends is a university lecturer. He recently told me that in the average batch of first-year assignments, one third of them are written in sms txt msg language. Cn u biliv it? One third of university entrants can only write text messages. That is deeply shocking. But that is what our dumbed-down, socialist-feminist education system is now producing.

One CBI study found that 52 per cent of employers are dissatisfied with the basic literacy of school leavers and 50 per cent with their basic numeracy.

A similar amount said some teenagers are 'unable to function in the workplace', claiming they cannot make simple calculations in their heads, speak in an articulate manner or understand written instructions.
Reference

(Business leaders) believed a lack of basic skills amongst school leavers and new graduates will contribute to a significant fall in the country's competitiveness. Reference

The Left care nothing for national sovereignty or competitiveness. Our country will be less competitive? Isn’t that a good thing?

The fact that these Left-wing activists choose to call themselves ‘progressive’ and ‘liberal’ is deeply misleading, because the naming tends to forestall criticism, no doubt deliberately; who wants to be thought illiberal, or opposed to progress? However this is a ruse which must be exposed and its sting removed. The fact is that these people are neither progressive nor liberal. Destroying something that works perfectly well is not progress. Foisting irrational policies onto a population which does not want them is not liberal; it is exactly the reverse.

The post-1968, feminist-dominated, middle-class political Left has brought the education system to its knees. There are signs that the new incoming administration will tackle the problem head-on.

“We should applaud the Tories’ schools spokesman Michael Gove, whose passionate performance at last week’s Tory party conference suggested that at long last here was a politician who does understand not simply that education standards and expectations are shockingly low, but why.

...he showed that he also understood and was prepared to tackle many of the warped cultural assumptions that were causing so many schools to fail.

This entails, as he suggested, nothing less than taking on the entire education establishment.

Gove intends to break the power of university-based teacher training courses, which fill prospective teachers’ heads with ideological mumbojumbo, by expanding the Teach First scheme, which recruits the highest performing graduates into teaching.
In a further inspired move, he proposes developing a Troops to Teachers programme, to get Army professionals into the classroom, where they can provide discipline and leadership.

Gove has understood that the root of the problem lies in a bunch of destructive and positively anti-education ideas which — astoundingly — have become the entrenched orthodoxy in the education world.

Unless the power of this establishment is broken and its ideology defeated, there is no possibility of any meaningful reform.
Reference

Even if Cameron’s government does a spectacularly good job, it will take at least a generation for our nation to recover from the effects of the educational disaster engineered by the feminist-dominated Left.

1 comment:

frankfisher said...

I wouldn';t expect much from Cameron. Thatch didn't *touch* education. And Dave seems just as committed to destroying our country as Labour.