Education, Education, Edukayshun...

Ketamine: Just one drug of choice for the modern youth
I'm currently studying (again) a course, one day a week, for teaching adults in the lifelong learning sector. On the course, I've learned some pretty staggering statistics about the percentages of British people who leave school unable to read or write.

It is worth noting that, according to one report, half of the arrested looters from last years riots were unable to read or write. Another report suggests that 1 in 4 children of school leaving age in London cannot read or write. Both of my course tutors claim that we are moving towards a society in which, much like a previous age (a dark age, perhaps) the ability to read and write will be the privilege of an elite.

The inability or incompetence of State schooling to provide children and teenagers with a basic ability to read and write has created, in turn, a whole voluntary sector industry of adult teachers in literacy and numeracy. The Government often throws its hands up in the air, acknowledging the truth of the matter and tub-thumping that 'things must improve'. There are even sanctions against schools who don't 'perfom'.

Michael Gove, two days ago, asked for schools to return to 'traditional values' in, for example, numeracy, so that after all the advice from pedagogists and educational specialists, the thinkers in the social sciences, the answer to giving children basic numeracy is repetition of multiplications or 'times tables'. He's also asking whether Latin and Greek could be taught from the age of 7. I find Gove's insistence that after all the 'progressive' attempts within State education that, in fact, our forebears were right all along intriguing. However, Gove's new ideals for modern State education for a more traditional, strict interpretation of reading, writing and maths (+Latin) to create a properly educated youth may not work.

Teachers (usually portrayed as rabid lefties) have come in for a great deal of flak for quite some time. Teachers do a hard job, are weighed down by reams of paperwork, are paid not very well and are derided in the national press as being responsible for the terrible state of modern education. Government gets blamed too and so, too, do parents. But if children are not learning to read and write at school, then could it be that there is, in fact, something also wrong with the nation's children?

I'd posit that there is something deeply wrong. For instance, Gove wants schools to return to 'traditional values' in education, even Latin, which I find fascinating. Will a return to 'traditional values' in educational matters work, however, if the children aren't taught 'traditional values' in general? Damian Thompson has a new book out called The Fix, in which he suggests that in the US, children are actually snorting their ADHD tablets for hyperactivity and impulsive behaviour. Concentration levels in the classroom seems to be a big problem generally, as well as behaviour and classroom management. In the press, we hear reports of children becoming alcoholics. We hear of children as young as 12 and 11 claiming, upon investigation as to why they were having sex at such a young age, that they were merely "bored".

Worryingly, if children develop a problem with drugs, they're not encouraged to talk to their parents about it. They're encouraged to 'Talk to Frank' - that is - the Government which gives us a hint of the dystopia to come. Is there a possibility, just the feintest chance, that the sweated-brows of teachers, ministers and Ofsted inspectors desperately searching for the 'right kind of education' to get the nation's kids reading, writing and adding up again is all in vain because the nation's children are too busy shagging, 'sexting', sexually experimenting, getting pregnant once, twice, thrice, and aborting all three, getting smashed on alcohol, watching porn, learning how to use people, abuse people and getting high on drugs to be interested in Latin, Greek, Shakespeare and algebra?

Hey! It's just a theory! Or is that theorem?

You know, if I had not got embroiled in a 'very intense relationship' at University, didn't 'go along with the crowd', didn't dabble with this or that, if I hadn't spent so much time getting absurdly drunk with friends on a very regular basis, sleep with different people of different genders and generally live what one might call a 'hedonistic lifestyle', maybe, just maybe, I'd have got a first in Politics, rather than a 2:1. I had a couple of friends who did an incredible amount of ecstasy at University. Two of them were very intelligent and yet they got a third. Could there be a link? Upon learning of his third, I heard one say, "Yeah, I probably could have got a 2:1 or maybe a first, but all I wanted to do was take drugs." He's doing very well in life now, so I hear - better than me. Well paid job, marriage, family, kids, house, but maybe, just maybe it was a good thing educationally speaking that he wasn't doing what he was doing at Uni, and I wasn't doing what I was doing at Uni, at the age of 11, 12, 13, 14, 15.

Of course, Government and schools are trying to deal with the fallout of the drug-taking, sex-addicted, sexting, pornography-watching modern child. It's called PSHE. It's about raising 'awareness' of 'issues'. Posters about the dangers of drugs are everywhere in schools. Posters about the dangers of alcohol are everywhere in schools. Posters about the need for kids to 'wear condoms' are often seen. Posters about how to top up your 'C-Card' are dotted about. Why, I wonder, did Tony Blair's mission of "education, education, education" become a case of "education, education, edukayshun"? And don't tell me its because teachers have been teaching phonetics.

"Things can only get better"...Yeah, right! How many neighbourhoods have to get burnt down before Government, schools and society realises that actually, our morality matters because it is actually our morality that informs everything we do - even how or indeed whether we study or learn. Michael Gove wants a return to 'traditional values', eh? Well, Michael, I know you're not going to like this, but why not consider sticking one of these (see below) in every classroom, keep those RE lessons and get the kids reciting the Rosary for 25 minutes at the beginning of every day. You can't say we can't go "back" now, because, after all, you want 'traditional values'. Oh and why not consider having the prayers in Latin too...

...because if children do not know what is right and what is wrong, the difference between the two and why, then you may just as well leave them in the classroom with a Scrabble board, two kilos of cocaine, some porn mags, a crate of super strength premium lager, a gallon or two of petrol and a box of matches because, let's face it: they're going to do it one day anyway....

Tottenham, London, United Kingdom: Summer 2011

At least if you teach them traditional morality, Mr Gove, and they still come out illiterate, then they might at least think twice about torching buildings because as far as I can see, most of those kids treat drugs, sex and buildings as the same thing: recreation. Gosh...what have schools been teaching them for all these years?


Anonymous said…
Perfectly expressed, as I have come to expect.
Mr Xanadu said…
Good Points, very well said!!
Richard Collins said…
Well the Catholic Schools certainly haven't been teaching them the Catholic Faith.
Good post, thanks Laurence.
Lynda said…
The best thing the Government can do for our children's moral, intellectual, social, physical and spiritual education is to keep out of it and support their natural educators and moral authorities - parents, community and Church - in providing that education and protecting them from evils such as pornography and sexual abuse.
Michael Petek said…
I don't think there's much chance of getting the kids to recite the Hail Mary.

In these days of political correctness,the prayer would have to be changed to:

"Blessed art thou among persons . . ." and

"Holy Mary, Progenitor 2 of God . ."