Training the Public Mind
My argument is that in Britain formal education is well down the road to forming a training mechanism to serve only fiscal and business concerns and interests. That the education “authority” discourages a holistic approach to knowledge, and an egalitarian notion of society, and that, technology in the main is used to enforce this procedure. The encouragement of self-enlightenment is being replaced by “entertainment” by government agents and business that are in the process of re-educating the public into a state of consumptive conformity. Does this sound a bit strong? Or is it because the process has been so normalized that we are numb to it and don’t even notice
Technology V Content
I attended a workshop on teaching citizenship in schools at a teacher training college in Glasgow. One of the guest speakers was a head teacher from a Glasgow school. As she started here talk her eyes glanced between the audience and a laptop computer on a desk in front of her. The laptop was connected to a back projector above her head. In her hand she manipulated a mouse that controlled the images on the screen. As she got into her talk a tacky soundtrack of music emitted from the speakers. The MC who had introduced the speaker came rushing from the side of the hall and apologized profusely for the interference – believing the noise to be audio bleed from another IT led project in a different part of the building. He soon ran scurrying to hide behind a column as the speaker assured him that the noise was part of her presentation.
The mouse is the message
The speaker continued pressing her mouse buttons and eyeing her laptop. Her voice a monotone, interjected with ‘excellence’, greatest challenge’, ‘vision, ‘Way forward’ and language more akin to a sales person going through a hackneyed routine. Speaking, distracting, and in the not saying very much of use. This was a speaker who was chosen for her ‘inspirational’ qualities, speaking to newly trained teachers about to step out into the world of education.
Visual imagery is a powerful tool but works equally well as distraction and padding for mediocrity disguised as dynamic. The bit I found most disturbing was when the speaker introduced a pupil to give a perspective on the proceedings, ‘straight from the horses mouth as it were’ A school girl appeared complete in uniform, took the mouse from the her teachers hand and preceded in the same monotonous manner. Could this give some clue to the classroom revolution about to hit our schools after McCrone?
The guessing game
Another example of unclear thinking; Glasgow Herald, Thurs. June 1 00. Headline “Executive to count the cost of a classroom revolution”. ” The Scottish executive has come under immediate pressure to guarantee the funding of the most radical review of the teaching profession in a generation” runs the opening paragraph. And continues “with the results of the McCrone Committee into teachers pay, which proposes, Salary packages costing £190 million, More administration and support staff £45 million, wage increases from 13% to 19% and a rise of £2000 for the starting salary. Said Professor McCrone who chaired the committee.
Our objective should be to have an education service second to none. To achieve this we need high quality, trained, professional and motivated teachers whose role is valued by society and who are adequately rewarded”. After the rhetoric of salary packages, motivated teachers, extra training, and the promise of millions being put into the system, We could ask And how will these teachers be motivated? A paragraph in the piece starts:
“There was also a price for the teachers to pay. They are being asked to sweep away conditions of service and agree to more flexible work arrangements, a streamlined promotion system, new pay bargaining mechanism and a working year extended by five days”.
This paragraph and another sentence in the article which reads “the ultimate aim is to deliver higher standards and better education for our children. Are all that should interest teachers and anyone interested in the quality of our education” First. For the McCrone committee to come up with figures of £190 million of investment in education, wage increase percentages etc. They surely must know what ‘flexible’ hoops teachers will have to jump through to earn their 13.9 % to 19% wage rise.
In other words, to make any sense of these promises and what they mean for teachers, and education, we have to know what “more flexible working arrangements”; “a streamlined promotion system”, “a new pay bargaining mechanism” mean.
What ever else is meant by these ambiguities, one thing can be certain, they will have to fit in with mister Blunkets ideas for the classroom revolution and here, there is no ambiguity. Laptops are cheaper than teachers and they don’t speak back. And while our government invests more and more to training in I.T. skills and less in indigenous unique traditional skills that surround our community. The Flight to India awaits.