The qualified mind

I know two people, one in their 40s, and one in their 50s. One has just finished, and the other is in the process, of teacher training. A two year, part time course, and, if successful, will result in a certificate to teach. You might think that it is good for people at that age, who are still keen to apply themselves, to pursue educational studies. But the thing is, they have both been teaching for around twenty years.

The question is: will this training improve their teaching skills, or will it just help them apply a more rigid form to the final outcome for those they teach? I believe the latter. And I know both these candidates. This extra training will further nullify their belief in the education system, and restrict their freedom to teach.

It may be that teacher training will improve the technique of even the mature teacher. But it also facilitates the regimentation of the thinking process to a “conveyer belt” mentality, so keenly sought by education chiefs these days.

This is to certify…

Our educational institutions are being strangled by bureaucracy, number counting, phony qualifications, tired teachers, which produces confused students. One of the most pitiful scenarios of the academic year is to watch both teacher and student prepare for exam time, especially the children of the well-to-do who attend private school, whose back-breaking bag of books further alienates these children from social education, and uses their leisure time to reinforce the syndrome of competition. So much time, faith, emotion and belief in this system, is not only counter productive in encouraging values other than what is certificate worthy, it is also one of the greatest achievements of the totalitarian state.

We need to keep this in mind when assessing the quality of our education system. Through it’s teaching, in the last two or three hundred years, it has wiped out so many cultures, has needed vast armies to enforce its values, and is still lauded as one of the West’s greatest human achievements.

Britain lost its Empire, but we lost none of the ideas which helped us to achieve it. The main one has been our education system, which still thrives not so much in the colonisation of countries, but in the colonisation of our minds.

John Locke, whose views on private property, were soon enough accepted by the state, also formed some principals concerning children’s education:

“An educational program aimed at training children when and how to collect satisfactory evidence, appraise the probabilities of propositions on such evidence, and place levels of confidence in those propositions proportioned to their probability on that evidence.”1.

Far from educators adopting the principals of John Locke on education, written some three hundred years ago, today’s educators are still not anywhere near the idea that children should question, appraise,or place levels of confidence in what they are taught. There are some choices in education, but only within the narrow restriction of the curriculum, and only then by the effort of committed teachers, who are not yet either exhausted by bureaucracy, or non-teaching duties, and who do not fear for their job.

Carrot and stick

State Education has mainly become a question of resources. Shortage of space, not enough teaching staff, discipline problems, output tables, allocation of funding, the “public sector”,the “private sector”. Parents are constantly reminded that these are the problems of the education system, and if these problems are attended to by government solutions, education would be fixed. But rather, if all of the above were fixed, it would only further highlight the shortcomings of the education system… what, and how our children are being taught. It is therefore important that they are not fixed.

Contrary to what the Chancellor of the Exchequer claims, we are a very rich country and could afford to give each and every child the first class education our Prime Minister boasts of, but never delivers. Why? Because if we were all well educated and had no worries about our educational institutions, we might want to look at and change other things. We might want to look at housing, and rents, and why it cost so much of a persons time, in work, to keep a roof over their heads. We may even want to find a solution to the problem of why so much of our environment is in such a state of disrepair, while so many are unemployed. My goodness, we may even want to re-examine why those who preach to us about a “fair day’s work for a fair day’s pay”, or unemployment, are multi-millionaires and constantly rob us of our taxes.

So in order to keep the general public from worrying about such important things as the above, you need to keep them distracted by other things. There are many examples of these distractions throughout this web site but let’s look at those concerning the education establishment.

What symbolises education mustn’t be confused with what education means.

In order to maintain control of the education process (to stop a free, creative environment in schools) the state needs to keep attacking the symbols of education: school buildings, facilities, school points systems, shortage of teachers, exam results, vandalism and so on. While the parents of students worry, and are distracted by these things, they will be far less worried about what their children are actually learning. Meanwhile, if government is under pressure on education policy (especially about what is being taught) they simply dole out to those who shout loudest a new school, some new computers, a swimming pool or what ever is needed to quell the insurgents, and still maintain authority on what is being taught to our children. They maintain the status quo, which in turn, creates the inequality in education (and society) that parents are concerned about in the first place.

Of course the problems mentioned above are important- shortage of facilities, and so forth. The point I am trying to make is: In a country as rich as ours these things could easily be resolved with some effort, and allocation of staff and funding, but they are NOT resolved. They are useful tools of distraction and division. The education system wants to encourage (discourage?) parents, students, and communities that education is competitive, and in order to do well you must adhere to the “rules of the game” – or fail.

Doing “really well” at school

School points ratings are meaningless as a measure of quality of learning since they only measure the values implemented by the school. If you condition a child through education to believe black is white, and then assess the child on these results which you have engineered, the results are not those of education, but of brainwashing. Schools reward conformity to certain ways of thinking, and as mentioned above, If you conform to the rules you will be rewarded. If you don’t you will not receive the stamp of approval. Creativity does not fit in well into this atmosphere, nor does any conflicting idea of what education means.On the whole:

“Schools are designed on the assumption that there is a secret to everything in life; that the quality of life depends on knowing that secret; that that secret can be known only in orderly successions; and that only teachers can properly reveal these secrets. An individual with a schooled mind conceives of the world as a pyramid of classified packages accessible only to those who carry the proper tags. New educational institutions would break apart this pyramid. Their purpose must be to facilitate access for the learner: to allow him to look into the windows of the control room or the parliament, if he cannot get in by the door. Moreover, such new institutions should be channels to which the learner would have access without credentials or pedigree – public spaces in which peers and elders outside his immediate horizon would become available.”

Ivon Illich

The power to dream

Children are being smothered in the one-dimensional reward system of education; their creative urge is being curtailed by meaningless curriculum or excess “education”. It is no wonder most of them give up on education when leaving school, apart from joining another institution which will certify their progress. The meaning of education needs to be wrenched from the hands of those who are deemed to be its judges, and should be recognized once more as something much more useful than a piece of paper that will find the lucky a job – something that will expand the mind to the wider universe of human progress;that will create sleepless nights by the wonder of the next days ideas rather than the fear of the next days worries and drudgery. Let us educate our children in the pleasures of the mind and the gift of giving rather than the value of possessions and competition. Does this sound too far fetched? Just take a good look around at what we have, and think of what could be, because – one of the beauties of free education is the power to visualise the possibility of a better world.


Myth of exams

1. The Cambridge dictionary of philosophy. John Locke in Some Thoughts Concerning Education (1693)