Libertarian. Enjoys politics, technology, music, food and drink.
Michael Gove has written a blog, preaching to the converted, over at ConservativeHome. I recognised most of the rhetoric from his usual speeches and debates, but there were a few points hidden amongst the rest of the piece that I didn’t realise. Without trying to sound like the Daily Mail too much, I was shocked and annoyed by the few strands of detail that our National Curriculum actually has in it. William Wilberforce and Olaudah Equiano are the only two historical figures who are named as a requirement in secondary school history. Geography, to quote Gove directly, “mentions no countries apart from the UK, no continents, no rivers, no oceans, no mountains and no cities – although it does mention the European Union.”
I fully support the feeling that many Conservative MPs and other right-wingers share, that British history should be taught in our schools. However I do not like their determination to have the subject added explicitly in the National Curriculum. This is because, instinctively, I accept my education as the norm whereby I was taught by a multitude of teachers (at my Grammar school) who went above and beyond the demands of the National Curriculum. They were only ever held back by the National Curriculum. The sense I have is that many teachers at schools, the places I read about where subjects are only taught to pass exams, stretch themselves only as far as to meet the measly demands of the National Curriculum.
Wilberforce and Equiano are not the two most important names in history, the sheer notion that only two figures are essential enough to be mentioned is ridiculous. Quite why the European Union is mentioned in Geography syllabus is bizarre. Yet I still do not accept, like many Conservatives, that they way to fix it is by adding our own demands onto this failed Thatcherite concept . Labour have had their fun destroying the National Curriculum, it is our job to fix it. Michael Gove says that he wants to revolutionise our education system, but what is he actually going to do to make our Curriculum the best in the world?
Gove lists a selection of absurdities in our National Curriculum, but it will not be fixed by adding more requirements to it. He talks of reform “on every front,” he is right, and something needs to be done about our exams very soon. The National Curriculum will only account for so much, if exams let our students only read a few acts of Macbeth and gain an English Literature qualification. The National Curriculum will only account for so much if we have teachers only teaching that which is necessary.
We need to phase out GCSEs and move towards IGCSEs and only then will our education system be liberated to do what it is there for: to teach. Education fails in so many of our schools because it only teaches students to gain a ‘C’ in our worthless GCSE examinations. The education I received was not the best by any stretch of the imagination, but it was clearly better than most. I believe Gove when he says he wants to improve education across the board. Free schools and the English Baccalaureate are a fantastic start, but we need to see more. Michael Gove needs to follow in the footsteps of Andrew Lansley and start a radical shakeup of our education system.
To end, I will quote his closing line. Poetic rhetoric like this rarely features in right-wing political thought, but it is natural here. It is all very well dreaming of our future, but we need action now. “The future lies in elevating our sights, raising aspiration, and daring to imagine the new heights our children might scale, which is why we need to step up the pace of reform, not slow down.”