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March 25, 2007

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Andrew Zalotocky

Another logical flaw in that attitude is that it assumes that another two years in school are somehow vital to whether a sixteen-year-old realises his or her "potential". But some people don't have any aptitude for academic work, and wouldn't gain from the extra schooling. Some people just don't learn well in a formal academic setting. Others are stuck in failing schools where they've got little chance of learning anything anyway. They'd be better off out.

dearieme

"mushy anti-egalitarian drivel": but is that better or worse than the the Left's being murderous, resentful, hate-fuelled drivel?

Fabian Tassano

I agree New Labour's idea of "developing potential" is crude and simplistic, and largely equates with getting pieces of paper that may well be worthless.

What I find much more disturbing is how little resistance there is to the idea that the state has a legitimate role in developing people's "potential" irrespective of their own wishes.

I don't myself believe the Left's rhetoric that it has genuine sympathy with "men and women of talent" failed by the system. It seems prepared to tolerate exceptions only on its own terms.

yellerKat

How very odd. I left school at 16 because I'd finished it. What do they propose to do with early achievers now?

Jim Denham

Congratulations! That's the best analysis of New Labour's obsession with the rich and powerful. And the explanation of it as Marxism without the analysis/ctitique of capitalism, had never occured to me bewfore - but now you mention it it's obvious. Brilliant! Can I use it over at "Shiraz Socialist"?

Kevin Carson

The purpose of schools is to turn them into *skilled* drones.

Bob B

I'm not noted as a cheerleader for New Leader but in this case I think its diagnosis is correct even if the proposed remedy of criminalising those youth who drop out from training and education at 16 is heavyhanded and will likely backfire.

When David Miliband was school standards minister back in 2002, he described as "a national shame" the numbers of teenagers who drop out of education when it ceases to be compulsory at the age of 16 and said he was appalled by the UK's low ranking in comparisons made by the OECD with other affluent, industrialised countries:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/education/2238424.stm

The foreseeable consequences were assessed last year in an accessible piece in The Economist for 26 August 2006 - Britain is unusually well-endowed low-skilled young people compared with other European countries:
http://www.economist.com/world/britain/displaystory.cfm?story_id=7843638

Gary Becker is a better guide IMO to the analytics of markets for education and training than Karl Marx but I fear that our peculiar national problem is due to deeply embedded cultural factors, namely an abiding aversion to education among male yoof in Labour heartlands, an aversion noted by George Orwell in the 1930s in his book on poverty in the north of England: The Road to Wigan Pier (1937), chp.7:

"And again, take the working-class attitude towards 'education'. How different it is from ours, and how immensely sounder! Working people often have a vague reverence for learning in others, but where 'education' touches their own lives they see through it and reject it by a healthy instinct. The time was when I used to lament over quite imaginary pictures of lads of fourteen dragged protesting from their lessons and set to work at dismal jobs. It seemed to me dreadful that the doom of a 'job' should descend upon anyone at fourteen. Of course I know now that there is not one working-class boy in a thousand who does not pine for the day when he will leave school. He wants to be doing real work, not wasting his time on ridiculous rubbish like history and geography. To the working class, the notion of staying at school till you are nearly grown-up seems merely contemptible and unmanly."
http://www.george-orwell.org/The_Road_to_Wigan_Pier/6.html

Last autumn, the Institute for Public Policy Research, the Blairite think-tank, concluded:

"Britain's teenagers are among the most badly behaved in Europe, a study by a think-tank has suggested. On every indicator of bad behaviour - drugs, drink, violence, promiscuity - the UK was at or near the top . ."
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/6108302.stm

That's our sad and distinctive national legacy after very nearly 10 years of Blairism in government - on the evidence.

Fabian Tassano

If you want to change the attitude culture about education, you might try (a) abolishing state schools, especially comprehensives, which are enough to put anyone off education for life, (b) persuading the il-liberal elite (e.g. BBC) that their cod-proletarianism is not doing the working class any favours.

Calling forced incarceration in schools, with the threat of imprisonment, "heavy-handed" strikes me as a case of praising with faint damnation.

Bob B

At present only c. 7 (seven) per cent of school pupils attend non-maintained schools, according to official statistics, but it would be misleading to condemn all maintained schools as failing. Why not look to see which schools by Local Education Authority (LEA) produced the best overall performance in the GCSE exams last year?

The BBC helpfully posted a table in January showing the 148 LEAs in England ranked on the basis of their schools' achievements in the proportion of students achieving the Level 2 threshold - equivalent to at least five GCSEs at grades A*-C - including English and maths GCSEs (the EM column).
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/education/6250433.stm

Unfortunately, there are no corresponding league tables for Wales and Scotland.

It happens that the London borough where I live has consistently appeared at or close to the top of such league tables for the last ten years or so. Why would I have wanted to send my son to a private (non-maintained, fee-paying) school when the maintained boys school down the road achieved better average A-Level results than Eton last year - as did two other local maintained schools? Several other local maintained secondary schools also did fairly well in their A-levels although not quite as well as Eton.
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/education/4626134.stm

Besides:

"The UK's most expensive private schools are producing pupils who achieve the worst grades at university, according to research. An eight-year study of graduates' results by researchers at the University of Warwick suggests that the more parents pay in school fees, the less chance their children have of getting a good degree."
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/education/2552523.stm

Not much of a recommendation, is it? In my experience, part of the problem is also with some Labour heartland councils which have long regarded encouraging low education standards in local maintained schools as a means of entrenching Labour control of the local councils on the tried-and-tested formula:

Low education standards -> uncertain job prospects for local residents -> vote Labour

My guess is that Blair realised that back in 1997, which is why he announced his priority of: Education, Education, Education. At least, that was another good intention.

el Tom

Perhaps you have mischaracterised this a litte?

New Labour is classic social-democratic mush, true, aimed at stemming the tide of markets, often in quite self contradictory ways... perhaps in this case, it sees those dropping out of education and training as negative effects of capitalism, but is so weak that it refuses to change the problem from the cause, and chooses to remedy the effect.

With regards to 'human potential' in Marxism, it reminds me much more of 'early' Marx, think Philosophic and Economical Manuscripts... in my view a more powerful narrative than a purely teleological and non ethical view of historical development.

Matt Munro

I was always under the impression that Marxism denied the very existence of human nature, modelling the self as being entirely constructed by the social environemnt, through the mechanisms of cultural immersion.
From a practical point of view the biggest problem with education being enforced till 18 is that the abso set, instead of leaving at 18 for a job in the local factory, will now have 2 more years in which to disrupt the education of the more able.

Matt Munro

"Some people just don't learn well in a formal academic setting".

Yes, they are the ones that used to be called "stupid". There's nothing wrong with being stupid but can we stop pussyfooting around it and pretending that people can't learn becasue they have "school phobia", are bored, don't get on with the teacher or don't find the subject intersting. If you have a brain you can learn anything to a meaningfull level.
People who aren't academically able used to be able to train for skilled/technical work at colleges and on apprentiships. Nowadays many would earn better money than their university educated cohorts, most of whom will end up with a huge debt and a "career" peering into a VDU in some labrythine government beurocracy.
This is the irony of nulabs education policy - plumbers are earning more than lawyers so we must er produce more lawyers ??

Katherine

"comprehensives, which are enough to put anyone off education for life". What? My how anecdote becomes evidence.

I went to a comprehensive and it most certainly did not put me off education for life. So stop with the ridiculous "this was my experience therefore it must be everyone else's" generalisations please.

Shuggy

"If you have a brain you can learn anything to a meaningfull level."

*****Insert obvious joke here*****

"There's nothing wrong with being stupid but can we stop pussyfooting around it and pretending that people can't learn becasue they have "school phobia", are bored, don't get on with the teacher or don't find the subject intersting."

Yes but there are other reasons for otherwise intelligent children failing to achieve what they are capable of while they are at school - these ranging from the mundane to the heartbreaking. The problem with these proposals is that whatever the reason, it is unlikely in the extreme that a further two years of compulsory education will achieve what the first 11 have failed to do.

"I went to a comprehensive and it most certainly did not put me off education for life. So stop with the ridiculous "this was my experience therefore it must be everyone else's" generalisations please."

Second that - although I'd be interested to know if the gentleman did attend a comprehensive. If so - or maybe it's just my impression - that this would be a comparatively rare thing in the blogosphere. I've often been struck by the way in which the marginal propensity to comment on the state of our comprehensives tends to be in inverse proportion to the commentators experience of them.

"Which goes to show that when the Left abandons Marxism, it becomes just mushy anti-egalitarian drivel."

It doesn't show anything of the kind. So it's only the Marxist left that is egalitarian? That isn't right.

Fabian Tassano

I said comprehensives are "enough to put anyone off education for life", not that they did put everyone off. A few of us survive the experience with our intellectual drives intact. Yes I did attend one (two actually), further details here:

http://inversions-and-deceptions.blogspot.com/2007/01/comprehensives-worse-than-prison.html

I thought we were talking about people who don't want to continue school after 16, and the possible reasons for that, not people like us who did.

tibblets

"Which goes to show that when the Left abandons Marxism, it becomes just mushy anti-egalitarian drivel."

This seems like a strange thing to say as you're not a Marxist by any stretch of the imagination.

Matt Munro

"I thought we were talking about people who don't want to continue school after 16, and the possible reasons for that, not people like us who did."

Apart from the obvious one (lacking the academic ability) I read somewhere that the biggest single correlation is with parental aspiration i.e parents who aspire that their children acheive "middlesclassdom" are far more likley to have kids that go university than those who don't.

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